Fitness instructor’s painful ‘fish scale’ skin caused by inherited genetic disease

Brittany Mickens, 31, said it wasn't until she was 18 that she finally learned what caused her skin to form a thick scale-like texture.

A fitness instructor in Virginia who struggled with painful skin issues throughout her childhood and adolescent years said it wasn’t until she turned 18 that she learned why her skin had a thick, scale-like texture.

“I was misdiagnosed as a child and was told that I had really bad eczema,” Brittany Mickens, 31, told MDW Features. “When I was first born I was rushed to a nearby children’s hospital in Washington D.C. because they didn’t know what was wrong with me, and eventually I was told I wouldn’t live past a year.”


But when Mickens headed to college, she saw a new dermatologist who diagnosed her with ichthyosis, which according to the American Academy of Dermatology is a group of skin diseases that causes extremely dry, thick and scaly skin that often takes on the appearance of fish scales.

Mickens said her mother instilled a strong sense of self-love in her from a young age which helped her cope with the stares she often gets.

Mickens said her mother instilled a strong sense of self-love in her from a young age which helped her cope with the stares she often gets. (MDW Features)

While there are over 20 different types of the disease, the most common is ichthyosis volgaris, which typically begins in childhood. Mild cases of the disease are often chalked up to dry skin, but if twice daily moisturizer fails to address the problem, patients are encouraged to seek the help of a dermatologist.

Children with the disease typically inherit it through a gene from one or both parents, even if the parent themselves had no symptoms.


Mickens told MDW Features that she would often get stares because the medications prescribed to treat her misdiagnoses would only work for a few weeks at a time, but her mother instilled a strong will of self-love in her from a young age.

“She would often make me look in the mirror and repeat ‘I love you, you are beautiful,’ over and over again,” Mickens told MDW Features. “And one day I finally realized what she was doing, and I am so grateful for her making me do that.”

After visiting dermatologists up to eight times a year throughout most of her life, Mickens has turned to a combination of shea butter, essential oils, gold bond ultimate radiance renewal and cocoa butter Vaseline to protect her skin, as well as a nighttime addition of Jamaican black castor oil.

“I absolutely love me some me,” she told MDW Features. “I am grateful to be me. The way I feel about myself keeps my attitude positive and want to inspire others.”