Is your condition ichthyosis? Ichthyosis is the term for severe, persistent problems with dry skin that almost always start in childhood or infancy. Ichthyosis can be genetic (inherited) or can develop later in life. In a large majority of people with the disease, the cause is related to one or more genetic mutations. Medicines that promote shedding of skin flakes, such as those that contain lactic acid or other "alpha-hydroxy acids." could help.