Dry skin and impairment of barrier function associated with itch - New insights

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69 Scopus citations


Itch is a common symptom in dry skin related to inflammatory skin diseases, normal aging, and systemic diseases such as chronic renal failure, and HIV However, correlations between itch and objective measures of barrier function and skin dryness such as skin hydration and transepidermal water loss have been rarely found. Recent experimental evidence indicates that damage to the stratum corneum with acetone/ether and water elicits a scratching response in mice and rats. These responses correlate to the number of PGP 9.5 immunoreactive fibers in the epidermis and to FOS-like immunoreactivity in the spinal cord. Other neuromediators involved in the pathogenesis of itch in dry skin are nerve growth factor (NGF), muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, and opiates. Serine proteases such as tryptase and their respective proteinase-activating receptor 2 (PAR2), recently found in both skin and nerves of patients with atopic eczema, suggest that these molecules may have a role in itch in dry skin. This has also been exemplified in the itchy and hyperkeratotic phenotype of the stratum corneum chymotryptic enzyme (SCCE) transgenic mouse model, which is over-expressing a serine protease. Developing inhibitors to these neuropeptides and mediators may be an attractive strategy for anti-itch treatment. The significant progress made in development of moisturizers may have an additional benefit in reducing the itch associated with dry skin. Formulating topical combination therapies containing moisturizers and antipruritics can significantly reduce the itch associated with dry skin. This paper will review the current clinical knowledge on the association between dry skin and itch and the recent advances in understanding the pathophysiology of this problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalInternational journal of cosmetic science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Itch
  • Neuropeptides
  • Serine protease
  • Stratum corneum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Aging
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Dermatology
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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