Lichenification refers to areas of hard, thickened skin. It generally results from continual rubbing or itching but may result from an underlying condition.

There are two main types of lichenification, each with different underlying causes.

Keep reading for more information about this issue and how to treat it.

Lichenification is a term to describe hard, thickened areas of skin. These areas usually form due to repeated rubbing or scratching.

There are two main types of lichenification: primary and secondary.

Primary lichenification results mainly from behavior — continual scratching or rubbing.

When an underlying medical condition is responsible for the lichenification, healthcare professionals classify it as secondary lichenification.

They may classify these hardened areas as “secondary lesions.”

Primary lichenification results from behavior: continual itching or rubbing. A doctor may diagnose lichen simplex chronicus. Another name for this is neurodermatitis.

If a separate health issue causes lichenification, the person has secondary lichenification.

Some possible causes of secondary lichenification include:

  • xerosis, which is the medical name for dry skin
  • atopic dermatitis, which is a common synonym for eczema
  • psoriasis
  • psoriasiform dermatoses, a group of disorders that are like psoriasis
  • vegetative growths
  • infective eczematous dermatitis
  • porokeratosis
  • pityriasis rubra pilaris
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • anxiety

Lichenification can occur on different areas of the skin, depending on the type and the cause of the issue.

Primary lichenification most commonly appears on the:

  • head, particularly the scalp
  • neck
  • arms
  • genitals

However, primary or secondary lichenification can develop anywhere within reach, including the:

  • thighs
  • abdomen
  • flanks
  • face
  • lower legs
  • chest

The affected areas often develop a darker color, and the medical term for this is hyperpigmentation.

Over time, small papules may appear, giving the skin a bumpy texture.

Also, areas of lichenification are typically irregular in shape.

A doctor may recommend more than one type of treatment for lichenification, depending on the cause. Over-the-counter or prescription medication, home care, and speaking with a therapist may each have benefits.

For people with secondary lichenification, it is essential to treat the underlying cause, such as eczema or psoriasis.

A person may be able to use over-the-counter products, including moisturizers, to reduce itchiness and prevent rubbing or scratching.

Medications that may help include:

  • antihistamine creams or pills
  • fluticasone propionate creams
  • corticosteroid creams or injections
  • antianxiety medications

It is also important to practice home care, which may include:

  • keeping affected areas covered
  • wearing gloves
  • keeping the nails cut short
  • avoiding triggers for itchiness, such as wool clothing
  • taking oatmeal baths
  • reducing stress whenever possible
  • using cool compresses
  • using moisturizers and storing them in the fridge

A doctor may also recommend other treatments, such as light therapy or psychotherapy, depending on the cause of the lichenification.

Lichenification refers to hard, rough patches of skin that result from repeated rubbing or itching.

Lichen simplex chronicus is the medical name for this issue. Another name for it is neurodermatitis.

It may result from other conditions, such as eczema or anxiety.

A doctor can typically diagnose lichenification with a physical examination.

Once the doctor diagnoses the issue, they will ask about other symptoms to determine the underlying cause.

If the cause is difficult to identify, the doctor may order additional tests, such as a skin biopsy.

Lichenification refers to a thickened, hardened area of skin. It may have a bumpy texture and be darker than surrounding skin.

The issue occurs because of repeated rubbing or scratching, and it can result from a range of underlying health problems, including skin and mental health conditions.

Treatment for lichenification focuses on helping the area of skin heal and preventing the scratching or rubbing. Doing so will involve addressing any underlying issue.