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ELI5: why is dry skin itchy? What specifically causes dry skin to be itchy? |TTI

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  1. I think it’s because when your skin is dry, it’s more thin due to the lack of moisture. This means that your nerve endings under the skin are more exposed than usual thus making your skin more sensitive. Sensitivity and stimulation of the nerve endings leads and itching and the subsquent relief/pleasure from scratching, respectively.

  2. We don’t know yet. What we do know, is that at least with mouse models, the itch is NOT immunological, but does follow keratinocyte cornification (which, in a way is thickening). Dry skin has damaged lipid barriers, and it appears that the damaged waterproofing subjects keratinocytes to hypotonic stimulation. This causes them to try to repair the damaged barrier by dividing and forming a thicker cornified layer. Something happens during the cornification process and and natural ligands of itch receptors are released. What these ligands are and if they come directly from keratinocytes is still not known.

    http://www.jneurosci.org/content/33/22/9283

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