What Your Peeling Skin Is Trying to Tell You
Got peeling skin? Find out what could be causing it.
One of the most common causes of skin peeling is plain ol’ dry skin. You might be naturally prone to dry skin, and cold, windy weather won’t help. Love your skin by using gentle cleansers and moisturizing well—your skin will love you back. Check out these other helpful tips on how to avoid dry skin.
Painful sunburn actually kills off the top layer of skin, which is why a few days later your skin will start to peel. So remember to use sunscreen and don’t stay too long in the sun. Don’t forget the delicate spot most people skip when applying sunscreen.
Common allergic reactions
Allergies are another frequent cause of skin peeling. Maybe you ate something which didn’t agree with you or used a new cosmetic or laundry soap. You may just have a mild irritation or rash, but a more serious reaction might make your skin peel. According to Rebecca Braxt, MD, MBA, FAAD, of Baxt CosMedical New Jersey, peeling skin can also result from an ordinary infection like a cold. “You’ve got a bad cold and a cough, and all of a sudden people get rashy and peely,” she says.
Our skin has lots of bacteria on it, but sometimes those very microbes can cause an infection that might make your skin peel. One of the most common, a staphylococcal infection, usually starts with single sore, but spreads easily. The skin gets tender and looks like wrinkled paper consistency. In severe cases (usually in babies or young children), all the skin can be lost, so a staph infection is best treated promptly with antibiotics for around a week. Find out the signs of an infected cut you should never ignore.
Fungal or yeast infection
These infections are some of the most easily spread, because they thrive in warm damp conditions and are very contagious, making them easy to pick up in public areas like swimming pools. OTC treatment is often effective, but some infections may need stronger prescription medication to banish it completely. Find out how to prevent yeast infections.
Despite its name, ringworm (tinea corporis) is a common fungal infection—no worms involved! It starts as a red itchy ring on skin, which spread if not treated, and can lead to skin peeling. It’s passed on by skin-to-skin contact.
Results of cancer therapy
Some people suffer an adverse reaction after treatment for cancer, especially following radiation therapy. Peeling skin can be treated with corticosteroids from your physician, which will help you avoid picking up a secondary infection while your immune system is low.
Eczema causes red, itchy, and scaly skin, usually in the creases of the body like the elbows and knees, which can also weep and peel. Treatment for eczema includes corticosteroid creams and moisturizers, to help manage this chronic condition. Our eczema facts will tell you more.
Psoriasis also causes thickened, scaly skin that is itchy and painful that can affect the entire body. It’s also linked to other health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression. Avoid these foods that can make psoriasis worse.
A burn in your mouth
There may be an obvious cause for peeling skin in your mouth, such as eating something caustic or accidentally scalding the inside of your mouth with a hot drink. Like other burns, this can make the skin peel, leaving painful sores in the mouth. A mild saline mouthwash may help treat minor injuries, but in serious cases go to the ER, as a swollen throat can be life-threatening.
This can look similar to eczema and some other scalp conditions that cause skin peeling; it causes cradle cap in babies. Seborrheic dermatits can be caused by a genetic tendency, stress, yeast that’s already present on skin, and more. Some people are more prone to developing seborrheic dermatitis, such as those with acne or epilepsy, and those recovering from a heart attack or stroke. It can also be found on other areas of body. This condition may clear on its own, or try OTC dandruff shampoo. There are several more reasons why your scalp might be itchy.
Simply having your hands in water for too long, or excessive hand washing, can be a common cause of skin peeling on hands. Allergic reactions to products like soap, household detergents, or cosmetics, can also have an effect. See what products dermatologists avoid using on their hands.
Feet are most commonly prone to fungal, mold, or yeast infections. Mark Hinkes, DPM, a podiatrist, explains, “When you put your foot into a closed shoe, it really acts like a cooker, because it’s a warm dark moist area and so it actually cooks your foot.” One of the most common causes of peeling skin on feet is athlete’s foot—tinea pedis. This unpleasant infection can also spread to toenails and hands. It’s passed on in damp humid conditions such as showers, swimming pools, locker rooms, and shared exercise mats. Although persistent, it’s not usually serious unless you have an underlying condition like diabetes or a lowered immune system. But Dr. Hinkes recommends visiting your podiatrist to find the exact problem.
Conditions like hyperhidrosis, which causes excessive sweating, can lead to foot skin peeling. The constant wetness around the feet can result in trench foot, a disease so called because it was rife in the trenches of the First World War. It begins with reddened, tingling feet, which change in color and develop blisters which eventually burst and peel. It can be very serious if left untreated, even resulting in amputation. Good foot hygiene is important in preventing this condition. “Take antibacterial soap and a soft toothbrush to scrub in between the toes,” says Dr. Hinkes. “Rinsing and drying is very important. I recommend using a hairdryer on the cool setting to make sure your foot gets dry.” Find out what else your sweat reveals about your health.
The moist warmth of the groin makes it the perfect breeding ground for yeast and fungal infections, including jock itch. Causing itchy, red, ring-shaped patches on the genitals, inner thigh, and buttocks, this condition is more common in men, especially those who are sporty and active (hence its name). Keep the area clean and dry and avoid tight jeans and underwear which can make the problem worse. Topical antifungals usually work well, but repeated infections might indicate a weakened immune system or diabetes, so get checked if it keeps reappearing. Next up, here’s how to ID 14 of the most common skin rashes.