30 May 2016

Ecdysis. Tender soles.

I was reading about how angry snakes get when they shed their skin. One animal carer said he observed a skin-shedding snake to lose most of its vision and wouldn't let anyone near him.

The process is called Ecdysis. Ecdysis is a necessary process for growth and movement, and happens to snakes, lizards, turtles and iguanas. These animals go off food, and they're very sensitive to touch during and after the shed. And I expect dinosaurs experienced ecdysis too. Imagine how angry they'd get during a shed?!

Every year and a half or so, my body undergoes a big shed, not just the daily shed. Sometimes it's fully body but usually it is limited to my feet and hands. This shed often means my skin comes off in big pieces - in the shape of my hand or foot. Ouch. (I've written about the big peel here.) My appetite is still the same, of course!

People with other types of Ichthyosis shed big prices of skin more frequently than I do. I'd rather not scrub to peel because it hurts - it thins the skin and leaves it burning. So many different variations, symptoms and treatments for this condition!

Right now my feet are shedding. It's a slow process - it's been happening for about a month. Each time I arch my foot or take a step, I am acutely aware of my skin. My feet tingle as the old skin comes away, making room for the new skin.

The old skin stretches and shrinks. It's like milk skin. Strudel pastry. Thinly rolled pizza dough, before it's been topped and baked. Though not delicious, because it's on my feet.

The new skin is initially soft and supple, but it's a long wait. By the time I lose the thick layer, the new layer is almost as hard as the old layer was.

I don't know what it's like to have skin that isn't painful or scaly. I do know that when my body is comfortable, I can't feel specific organs like I can feel my skin. I asked Adam this question - whether he can feel his skin? He said he knows his skin is present, but it doesn't feel a certain way. It just is. He said he notices his skin is there when it peels.

I feel so aware of my skin - the way it shrinks and tears, and flickers with itches. The way it cracks and bleeds and flakes. The way it stretches over my face in the morning, making me hide away from the world. I'm embarrassed at the way powders all over my work chair - screaming "Property of Carly" - and no, black wasn't the idea colour for a piece of reasonable adjustment equipment. I'm 10 times more embarrassed when it falls below me in the work bathroom, like talcum powder. And it flings all over the shower walls when I wash my body. I wipe it down so it doesn't gross others out. Skin, hey?

When I'm relaxed, my feet are curled inwards, like they're emerging from being bound. There's daintiness in them, but no beauty. They're like half peeled potatoes.

Occasionally I give them a salt bath, and then gently bandage them - breastfeeding pads below thickly applied antiseptic cream cushion my tender soles. And I am a tender soul during this ecdysis.

I wonder what I can do to speed up this shedding process - the fastest way with minimal pain and infection? Can I induce the rebirth of new skin? I have friends who are doing this feet shed voluntarily - putting bags over their feet, then waiting until smooth skin appears. But this is my life, involuntarily. I probably won't use Milky Foot or a pumice like my mum did to smooth her feet in the 80s, or a power tool. I'll just wait, in intermittent pain.

The beauty industry saying we need smooth feet - with all sorts of products on the market to buff, polish, moisturise and preen them so we can confidently wear sandals. Just as well I've mastered the art of pretty dresses, stockings, cute bunny socks and enclosed shoes, then! Fashion makes me happy when I feel like an angry dinosaur bursting out of its skin.

This post is for Ichthyosis awareness month. I realise it's way more information about the medical side of things than I usually share. For more about Ichthyosis, click here.


  1. Ouch. No I don't feel my skin either although it drives me mad when it is dry and sometimes I can't sleep until i have sanded my heels.

  2. I don't deal with all of what you do but I have psoriasis and it's particularly bad in winter and when under stress, both of which are happening now. Small or large patches of skin a little similar to yours can come up, the skin on top sheds too early and the skin underneath is red and raw. It mostly happens on my scalp, behind my ears and on my face, elbows and in my armpits. It's most painful on my face. I'm always aware of what my skin is doing, whether it's been good or if it's playing up.


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