Several types of skin symptoms typically occur in ectodermal dysplasias. However, these skin conditions and their severity can vary according to the type of ectodermal dysplasia affecting you or your family. To give you an idea of what those symptoms might be, we outlined the most commonly experienced skin symptoms of ectodermal dysplasias.

Appearance at Birth

At birth, the skin symptoms of ectodermal dysplasias could be:

  • dry
  • cracked
  • pale
  • thin with prominent blood vessels

  • lax around the eyes
  • thick on the palms and soles
  • peeling

In infants affected by hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia (HED), the skin of the hands, feet, and, sometimes the entire body, may have more than the usual redness and peel, revealing normal-looking skin underneath. This rare skin disease symptom can lead to an early diagnosis of ectodermal dysplasia.

Lax Skin Around Eyes

Peeling Skin

However, these skin symptoms are similar to those that occur in babies born one to two weeks after their due dates, considered “post-mature”. There isn’t a simple way to tell these conditions apart at birth. If an infant is not post-mature, and especially if you have a relative who has been diagnosed with HED, the possibility of ectodermal dysplasia should be explored. You can consult with a pediatric dermatologist or medical geneticist to help diagnose your child.


Although the following two symptoms may be common in infants and toddlers, children with ectodermal dysplasias may experience more extreme cases or more often than is considered normal.

Diaper Rash

Diaper rash is a common problem for children in diapers. Most often, this skin condition is caused by irritation from urine and stools, moisture and overgrowth of germs (bacteria or yeast).


Many young children have scaly scalp, most often called “cradle cap” or seborrhea. This skin symptom has a variety of causes, including a reaction to a type of normal skin yeast.

Any Age

The following skin symptoms of ectodermal dysplasias can be experienced and used for a diagnosis at any age.

Skin Coloring

  • Pale and thin
  • Darkened around the eyes or on the elbows, palms, and soles

With time, the skin of children with HED (characterized by decreased or absent sweat glands) may be shiny, dry and appear thin, with visible bluish underlying blood vessels.

Skin Coloring Around Eyes

Skin Coloring on Chest

Dry Skin

The skin may be dry, scaly and easily irritated. The dryness is primarily caused by genetically defective or absent skin surface proteins that help trap moisture on the skin’s surface. The oil and sweat glands may also be poorly developed or absent. External factors like weather and excessive soaping can make these symptoms worse.

Dry Skin on Hands

Dry Skin on Feet

Skin Infections and Skin Erosions

Most people with ectodermal dysplasia do not experience frequent skin infections. However, the skin on the scalp, hands and feet in ankyloblepharon-ectodermal defects-cleft lip and/or palate (AEC) syndrome and ectrodactyly-ectodermal dysplasia-clefting (EEC) syndrome may become red, weepy, crusty and somewhat swollen.

Skin Erosion on Head

Skin Erosion on Arm


People with HED are at higher risk for a more bothersome form of red, scaly and itchy dry skin, called eczema. It may cause a burning sensation or itch that interferes with sleep. Certain areas of the body are also more likely to have eczema, such as the neck, face, hands, feet, crook of the elbows and backs of the knees. Eczema is common in people without ectodermal dysplasia, too, and its treatment is much the same for everyone.

Eczema in Children

Eczema in Adults

Enlarged Facial Oil Glands

Enlarged Facial Oil Glands

As males affected by HED grow older, they may develop small, flesh-colored bumps on the face, usually around the eyes and on the upper cheeks. These are enlarged oil (“sebaceous”) glands.

Sun Safety

Individuals affected by ectodermal dysplasia are often prone to sunburn, but they can tolerate outdoor activities with the routine use of commonly available sun protection products.

Sun Safety

Small or Absent Nipples

In both males and females affected by HED, nipples may be small or absent. Females who are either affected by or are carriers of ectodermal dysplasia may also have underdeveloped breasts or breasts that are very unequal in size.

Skin symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and cause those with ectodermal dysplasias to be self-conscious. However, there are treatments available to relieve many of these symptoms.

To view this information in a PDF format, download our Skin Symptoms Guide.

Download the Guide