PAMPLONA, SPAIN. Ichthyosis is a condition in which the skin is dry, rough, and scaly. It is caused by a fault in the control mechanism, which governs the deposition of keratin (a fibrous protein) in the skin, and is often present at birth (congenital). Ichthyosis can be ameliorated somewhat by the use of emollient creams, bath oils and ointments, but the condition is usually an ongoing problem. Medical doctors at the University Clinic of Navarra, School of Medicine now report the successful treatment of ichthyosis with a water-in-oil (silicone) emulsion containing 10 per cent of N-acetylcysteine (NAC). Their patient, a 33-year-old woman, had large patches of dark, scaly skin on her limbs, trunk, scalp, and neck and had been treated with conventional therapies without success. She was instructed to apply the NAC emulsion to one of her forearms and a placebo emulsion (without the NAC) to the other forearm twice a day. Five weeks later the skin on the arm treated with the NAC emulsion was essentially free of scales and roughness while no change was observed on the arm that had received the placebo treatment. The researchers conclude that a NAC-containing water-in-silicone emulsion may be useful in the treatment of hyperproliferative skin disorders and point out that NAC is hypoallergenic, non-toxic, and rarely has any side effects.
Redondo, Pedro and Bauza, Ana. Topical N-acetylcysteine for lamellar ichthyosis. The Lancet, Vol. 354, November 27, 1999, p. 1880 (research letter)