Have you observed recurring scaly patches on your skin? While they may seem harmless at the outset, ignoring such lesions can lead to aggravation, permanent scarring and hyperpigmentation.
A variety of internal conditions and infections can lead to scaly skin in different parts of the body. If diagnosed early, these cutaneous manifestations can be easily treated with herbal remedies that ensure complete recovery without harmful side effects.
So read on to know the many causes of scaly skin and how to best treat them with natural, homemade and Ayurvedic remedies.
Our Ayurvedic Doctor Speaks
“The pathological factors of skin problems comprise all the three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha along with four Dushyas: Skin, Muscles, Blood and Lymph. Any skin anomaly when observed should thus be taken seriously, and treated urgently.”
Dr. Zeel Gandhi (Bachelor Of Ayurveda, Medicine & Surgery), Chief Ayurvedic Doctor, Vedix
What Is Meant By Scaly Skin?
The upper layer of your skin is made up of hard, brick-like cells called corneocytes. These form the epidermal barrier, which is the first line of defense that protects the body from microbial invasions. However, certain skin infections, dehydration, immune dysfunctions or other medical conditions can affect the natural exfoliation and renewal process of your skin.
This can cause flaking, peeling or a build-up of dead skin cells on the body, giving it a scale-like appearance also referred to as scaly skin. According to Ayurveda, scaling skin is classified under Kushtha rogas (skin diseases) which are mainly a result of Vata, Pitta and Kapha imbalance.
Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix says that, “The pathological factors of skin problems comprise all the three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha along with four Dushyas: Skin, Muscles, Blood and Lymph. Any skin anomaly when observed should thus be taken seriously, and treated urgently.”
Signs & Symptoms Of Scaly Skin Or Scaly Patches
1. Peeling of the upper epidermal layer or flaky skin
2. Thickened epidermal layer
3. Skin rash
4. Hardened red or silvery scaly patches
6. Itchiness/ pruritus
8. Localized pain
9. Pus-filled or mildly bleeding lesions
The ABCDE cancer checklist allows you to deduce if your scaly patch is cancerous. Melanoma lesions are usually Asymmetrical, have irregular Borders, are multi-Coloured, have a large Diameter and Evolve with time.
15 Causes Of Scaly Skin Or Scaly Patches
This is a chronic condition caused by a hyperactive immune system that accelerates your skin cell turnover rate. This leads to thick scaly patches in various parts of the body such as the knees, palms, elbows, face, nails and back.
People with psoriasis are often at risk of developing psoriatic arthritis, an inflammatory, painful disease affecting the joints. The 5 types of psoriasis that cause scaly skin in different areas of the body are
- Plaque psoriasis
- Guttate psoriasis
- Pustular psoriasis
- Inverse psoriasis
- Erythrodermic psoriasis
2. Dermatophyte Infections
These groups of skin infections are caused by various types of fungi including Trichophyton rubrum which is responsible for athlete’s foot and ringworm. These fungi are dependent on keratin for their survival and proliferation and thus affect the superficial layers of the skin, nails and hair.
3. Actinic Keratosis
Also known as solar keratosis, this condition is caused by excess sun exposure over a long period of time. It is characterized by dark, scaly patches or spots on photodamaged skin.
While the scaly lesions of actinic keratosis  may be initially benign, they have the potential to develop into cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer).
Extremely dry, itchy and scaling skin is medically referred to as xerosis. Low sebum production and skin barrier dysfunction leading to excessive transepidermal water loss are the main causes of this condition. While xerosis  can affect anyone, it is more common amongst aged people.
Eczema is a chronic inflammatory condition of the skin that is also known as atopic dermatitis. It causes dry, inflamed, scaly patches that are quite itchy in nature. Skin affected by eczema is often prone to environmental damages and infections.
6. Pityriasis Rosea
Pityriasis rosea is a rash that is thought to be caused by a viral infection. It usually begins with a scaly patch with a raised border and dented center, known as a herald patch. It then progresses to a pruritic rash with red, scaly lesions that expand along the langer lines of the body. Symptoms such as nausea, headache, fever, joint pain etc may accompany the condition which often lasts around 2 weeks.
7. Lichen Planus
This is suspected to be an autoimmune inflammatory disorder that affects the skin and the mucous membranes. Lichen planus  presents itself as flat, purple, scaly skin patches that are usually itchy and painful.
8. Kawasaki Syndrome
Also known as Kawasaki disease, the condition begins with a red, scaly rash along with a long-lasting fever, swollen lymph nodes, strawberry tongue and red eyes. This can soon progress to coronary artery aneurysm. Kawasaki syndrome usually affects children below 5 years and according to research, it is more predominant in males than in females.
9. Exfoliative Dermatitis
Dry, scaly skin and crusting lesions are a common symptom of exfoliative dermatitis that causes inflammation all over your skin surface. Also known as erythroderma, the condition can be triggered by certain drugs, pre-existing skin conditions or malignancies.
10. Palmoplantar Keratoderma
This is a rare group of skin diseases that affects the palms and soles of the feet. The condition may be hereditary and result due to a genetic mutation or it may be acquired. It is characterized by keratin deformity which leads to thick, dry, scaly patches that may unite to form painful calluses.
11. Pityriasis Rubra Pilaris
The name Pityriasis Rubra refers to the scaly red patches that characterize the condition. It is a rare skin disease that affects both the cutaneous layer and the hair follicles causing widespread inflammation, thickening of nails and loss of hair.
This is an inflammatory, red rash that occurs in areas of the skin that are frequently exposed to friction, heat and moisture. Intertrigo lesions may weep fluid and later dry up to form dry scaly patches.
Triggered by a niacin deficiency, this condition shows skin manifestations that appear similar to an acute sunburn. Inflamed, red lesions are seen to peel, causing scaly skin and depressed patches. Pellagra can also be caused by tryptophan deficiency. Other symptoms include weakness, inflammation in the mucous membranes, diarrhea and confusion.
14. Flegel’s Disease
A rare dermatoses of unknown origin, Flegel’s disease  causes small, red, scaly papules, especially in the lower legs. A result of hyperkeratosis, this condition may take a long time to heal.
15. Scarlet Fever
Caused by the group A streptococcus bacteria, scarlet fever causes a red, itchy, scaly rash all over the body. Its other symptoms include fever and sore throat. Once the condition begins to subside, scaling skin is observed on the fingertips and toes.
16. Seborrheic Dermatitis
A condition of the skin that is usually caused by a proliferation of Malassezia yeast. Seborrheic dermatitis leads to itchy, scaly skin which is commonly referred to as dandruff. Other factors that can trigger the condition are- genetics, hormonal imbalances and a state of inflammation in the body.
17. Perforating Skin Disorders
These skin diseases disrupt the epidermal barrier through their act of burrowing or perforating into the skin. A variety of internal disorders such as diabetes mellitus may trigger these conditions. Significant symptoms of perforating skin disorders are atrophic papules with silver, scaly skin. Kyrle’s disease , elastosis perforans serpiginosa and perforating folliculitis are common examples of skin diseases classified under this group.
How To Treat Scaly Skin According To Symptoms?
“The first step to treating skin diseases in Ayurveda is Shodhan or detoxification. This is achieved via panchakarma therapies. The next step is restorative treatment. Internal medicines help balance the doshas and restore homeostasis,” adds Dr Zeel.
Most treatments of scaly skin are focused on reducing inflammation and infection, wound healing, cell renewal and prevention of scars and hyperpigmentation.
A. For Mild Symptoms
1. Natural Remedies
For scaly skin occurring due to dehydration or dry skin, moisturizing with a good moisturizer that suits your skin type is a simple remedy. Moisturizers help rebuild the epidermal barrier, seal in essential moisture and prevent unwanted transepidermal water loss. Emollients in moisturizers improve skin texture and repair scaly skin patches.
For rashes with scaly skin, ice rubs can help ease skin irritation and burning sensations. Rubbing an ice cube on your skin can also reduce inflammation and redness.
To get rid of annoying black scaly patches on your skin, use a gentle exfoliator. Exfoliation with natural ingredients can help remove the upper damaged layer and aid in wound healing.
Avoid Hot Baths
Hot water baths can worsen a scaly skin condition. Cool or at least lukewarm water is more suitable for skin that is dry and peeling.
To gain maximum benefits from your moisturizer, apply it on damp skin. This aids your moisturizer’s ability to penetrate deep into your skin and repair it from the inside.
2. Home Remedies
Oatmeal, Milk And Honey
This perfect combination of natural ingredients can easily treat mild symptoms of scaly skin. Apart from gently exfoliating dry scaly patches, according to studies, oatmeal’s anti-inflammatory properties alleviate swelling, redness and skin irritations.
This makes it a great remedy for inflammatory skin conditions. Milk and honey moisturize your skin and reduce peeling and flaking. Honey further prevents skin infections and accelerates wound healing.
How To Use
Mix 2 tablespoons of colloidal oatmeal with 2-3 tablespoons of raw milk and 1 tablespoon of manuka honey. Mix well and apply on your scaly skin. Massage gently and wash off after 20 to 30 minutes.
The primary phytoconstituent in garlic, Allicin , is a powerful antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal compound. Its presence makes garlic a potent remedy for scaly skin caused by fungal and bacterial skin infections.
How To Use
Crush garlic cloves with a mortar and pestle and apply on the scaly patches on your skin. Wash off after half an hour.
Avocado’s amazing moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties can greatly benefit scaly skin.
How To Use
Peel, de-seed and mash a ripe avocado. Apply it on your dry, scaly patches and wash off after an hour.
Shea Butter/ Ghee/ Coconut Cream
All these natural ingredients are known for their moisturizing and skin-soothing properties. Applying shea butter/ ghee/ coconut cream can be especially beneficial for scaly skin caused by inflammatory conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
How To Use
Apply the above-mentioned ingredients and gently massage onto the affected skin areas. You can use these as natural moisturizers and leave them on your skin or wash them off after an hour.
3. Ayurvedic Remedies
Curcumin in turmeric is a known antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Thus, mild scaly skin occurring from infections or inflammatory conditions can be treated with the application of turmeric. Being a ‘varnya’ (skin-brightening) herb, turmeric also helps prevent the appearance of scars and marks in the affected areas.
How To Use
You can either apply raw turmeric paste or mix dry turmeric powder with sufficient milk, ghee or coconut oil and apply on the scaly patches of your skin. Wash off after 30 to 40 minutes.
Aloe Vera & Neem
Both aloe vera and neem are known for their antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and skin brightening properties. These ancient herbs help balance the vata and pitta doshas which are primarily responsible for scaly patches on the skin.
How To Use
Powder about 15 to 20 fresh neem leaves. Add 1-2 tablespoons of aloe vera gel to this and apply on the scaly patches. Wash off after 1 hour.
The ancient Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha  is used to treat a variety of vata-induced Kushtha rogas (skin diseases). Scaly patches caused by psoriasis and other auto-immune conditions can be treated with this herb owing to its immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory abilities.
How To Use
Take 1-2 tablespoons of ashwagandha and add sufficient amount of milk, water or coconut oil to prepare a paste. Apply on the affected areas and wash off.
A tridosha balancing herb with powerful antimicrobial and skin healing properties, triphala is used to heal a variety of skin conditions. Dry scaly skin caused by rashes, infection and eczema can be holistically cured with the help of this herb.
How To Use
2 tablespoons of triphala powder can be mixed with water or sesame oil and applied on the scaly patches. Wash off after 30 to 40 minutes.
Guduchi is a potent Rasayana drug, known for its antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, wound healing and immunomodulating  properties. It can be effectively used to treat scaly patches on the skin caused by conditions that are triggered by diabetes and immune dysfunctions.
How To Use
Guduchi leaf and stem paste can be directly applied on the scaly skin patches on your legs, face and other affected areas. You can also mix 1-2 tablespoons of guduchi powder with water/ honey or coconut oil and apply on the scaly lesions.
B. For Severe Symptoms
1. Natural Remedies
Choose a good hydrating, vitamin E enriched carrier oil and massage the dry scaly patches on your face, legs and hands twice a day till the condition improves.
Choose Soft Fabric
Certain rashes are aggravated by friction, heat and sweat. For quick healing of such conditions that cause scaly skin, avoid tight clothes and rough fabric. Opt for fabric that allows your skin to breathe and doesn’t cause unwanted friction.
Use Chemical-Free Products
Severe scaly skin symptoms can benefit from the use of herbal products. Avoid harsh chemical-laden skincare products that can further aggravate an already existing scaly skin condition.
Face And Body Mists
Mist the scaly patches frequently whenever they feel dry. Keeping the skin hydrated will help aid the healing process and prevent further scaling or peeling of the skin.
2. Home Remedies
Ginger has natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This helps reduce severe cases of skin inflammation that causes scaly patches on the skin.
How To Use
Blend fresh ginger into a paste. Add a teaspoon of honey to it and apply on your dry scaly skin. Wash off after 30 minutes.
Oregon grape  is a medicinal herb that has been part of traditional Chinese treatments for various internal and external skin conditions. Ointments or oils containing extracts of this herb have shown to improve scaly skin conditions related to psoriasis.
How To Use
Apply the oregon grape extract twice daily on your dry scaly patches for quick healing.
Pumpkin oil  is a rich source of antioxidants such as tocopherols, amino acids and various other phytochemicals that act as anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial agents. Pumpkin oil extracted from the seeds and flesh of the fruit has shown a significant reduction of chronic eczema symptoms such as brown scaly patches on the skin, itchiness, redness and others.
How To Use
Mix pumpkin oil and almond oil in equal parts and apply on the areas with itchy scaly skin. Massage gently and leave it on for 30 minutes to 1 hour and wash off.
Chamomile is a popular herb widely used in skincare for its various skin benefits. Its ability to inhibit proinflammatory cytokines  along with its antioxidant properties make it an apt remedy for scaly skin caused by rashes and dermatitis.
How To Use
Chamomile tea can be brewed, cooled and directly applied on the scaly patches. However, if you are using chamomile essential oil, add 4-5 drops of it to 10 ml of any carrier oil of your choice and apply. Wash off after 30 minutes. Chamomile is also available in the form of creams which are safe for direct use.
3. Ayurvedic Remedies
Shilajit is a black sticky resin that comes from various mountain rocks including the Himalayas. It is known to possess almost magical skin rejuvenating and healing abilities.
Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties help treat scaly skin occurring from conditions such as eczema, skin allergies and infections. Its potency is further enhanced when combined with other Ayurvedic herbs.
How To Use
You can add a pinch of pure shilajit to your moisturizer, body oil or cream and apply over the scaly patches. Wash off after an hour.
Bakuchi, Khadira And Manjistha
Each of these herbs have powerful Raktashodhak (blood purifying) and healing properties and are thus used to treat various skin conditions like eczema, fungal infections, itchiness, scaly patches on the skin, dermatitis and rashes.
How To Use
Mix 1 tablespoon each of bakuchi, khadira and manjistha powders. Add sufficient amounts of honey, milk or coconut oil to make a paste and apply on the white scaly patches on your skin. Leave it on for an hour and wash off.
This is an age-old Ayurvedic medicine for various skin and internal disorders. It contains powerful therapeutic herbs such as triphala, guduchi, patola, nimba etc that balance all three doshas in your body. It may be used as part of the panchakarma therapy or as a solo formulation to cure scaly skin conditions caused by eczema, ulcers and infections.
How To Use
Gently massage the ghrita directly onto the scaly patches. Wash off after 30 to 40 minutes.
The Ayurvedic Panchakarma therapy detoxifies the body and helps in the treatment of various skin conditions including scaly skin. The 5 methods of purification included in it are,
- Vamana (vomiting),
- Virechana (purgation),
- Nasya (detoxification through the nasal cavity),
- Anuvaasan Basti (oil enema),
- Niruha Basti (decoction enema).
According to a study, scaly patches, redness, itchiness and other symptoms of plaque psoriasis in a patient were well managed with the administration of the panchakarma therapy.
Potential Complications Of Scaly Skin
- Scaling skin is an indication of dehydration or a damaged epidermal barrier. If not addressed, scaling skin can cause itchiness, irritation and inflammation.
- Scaling skin can also make you more susceptible to infections as the impaired skin barrier will not be able to protect you from microbial invasions.
- Certain scaly patches can be precancerous growths such as in the case of actinic keratosis.
- Scaly skin or a scaly rash can indicate the onset of a more severe internal condition.
When To Consult A Dermatologist About Scaly Skin?
Dry scaly skin may not require immediate medical attention and can be treated at home with homemade and herbal therapies. However, if it is becoming a recurrent problem, or the scaly patch changes colour/ grows in size or the scaly lesions begin to spread or get aggravated, then consult your dermatologist immediately.
The Last Word
Scaling skin is a general symptom that can be triggered by various skin conditions. While remedies like moisturizing may provide temporary relief, it is important to know the root cause of the problem for a holistic solution. Thus it is advisable to consult your Ayurvedic doctor for a better understanding of your dosha levels and prakriti to chalk out the perfect remedy and skin care that can resolve your skin issues once and for all.Know Your Dosha Now
1. Dermatophyte Infection - What Is It, Causes, Signs And Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, And More
2. Actinic Keratosis Warning Signs, 2022 January
3. Xerosis: A Dysfunction Of The Epidermal Barrier, 2008 November
4. Oral Lichen Planus: An Update On Etiology, Pathogenesis, Clinical Presentation, Diagnosis And Management, 2015 May- June
5. Hyperkeratosis Lenticularis Perstans (Flegel’s Disease) - Successful Treatment With Topical Corticosteroids, 2008 November
6. Kyrle’s Disease In A Patient Of Diabetes Mellitus And Chronic Renal Failure On Dialysis, 2015 April- June
7. Garlic, From Remedy To Stimulant: Evaluation Of Antifungal Potential Reveals Diversity In Phytoalexin Allicin Content Among Garlic Cultivars; Allicin Containing Aqueous Garlic Extracts Trigger Antioxidants In Cucumber, 2016 August
8. Super Critical Fluid Extracted Fatty Acids From Withania Somnifera Seeds Repair Psoriasis-Like Skin Lesions And Attenuate Pro-Inflammatory Cytokines (TNF-α And IL-6) Release, 2020 January
9. The Concept And Practice Of Immunomodulation In Ayurveda And The Role Of Rasayanas As Immunomodulators, 1999 October
10. A Report On Three Recent Clinical Trials Using Mahonia Aquifolium 10% Topical Cream And A Review Of The Worldwide Clinical Experience With Mahonia Aquifolium For The Treatment Of Plaque Psoriasis, 2005 September- October
11. Efficacy Of Pumpkin Ointment In Treatment Of Chronic Hand Eczema: A Randomized, Active-Controlled, Double Blind Clinical Trial, 2020 July
12. Chamomile, An Anti-Inflammatory Agent Inhibits Inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase Expression By Blocking RelA/p65 Activity, 2010 December
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