Skin Peeling: Causes And Treatments

Medically reviewed by Daniela Burchhardt, MD
Written by Anjali Sayee

Skin peeling can be a tough issue to handle. While most cases of skin peeling are caused due to sun exposure or dryness, the condition may also have a serious underlying cause. Skin peeling can be quite disconcerting and may even hurt one’s self image. In this article, we discuss the causes of skin peeling and its symptoms and the home remedies that may help with the treatment. Keep reading to know if you need to consult a doctor immediately.

What Is Skin Peeling

Skin peeling is the loss of the outer layer of skin. It may be caused by a rare genetic condition, direct skin damage, or other underlying skin disorders. It may appear across the body or just on a few parts. Based on the cause, it may be treated with different medications, topical creams, and ointments.

Your skin contains cells called corneocytes that are joined by an intercellular matrix (1). Skin peeling happens when the cohesive forces joining these corneocytes loosen up.

Skin peeling is known to affect people and children of all ages. It may be inflammatory or non-inflammatory (2). Non-inflammatory skin peeling is caused mainly due to a cosmetic problem, while inflammatory skin peeling is often seen with atopy (genetic tendency to develop allergies). Skin peeling may also manifest as dry flakes or scales.

Your skin might be peeling off due to various reasons. Keep reading to know them.

Causes Of Skin Peeling

  • Water Retention: The outermost layer of the skin retains water and offers barrier protection. When there is a reduction in water levels, the skin becomes dry and begins to peel.
  • Corneocytes: An increase in the production of corneocytes may cause desquamation (3). As the corneocytes pile on the skin, they begin to peel or scale away.
  • Age: As you age, your skin ages too. Aged skin does not retain water and may become dry.
  • Medical Conditions: Skin peeling might be a rare hereditary autosomal recessive disorder if noticed right from birth (4), (5). This peeling disorder is characterized by skin peeling, blistering, redness, and itching. It might also be an acral skin peeling disorder (3). A recent study showed that frontline health workers handling coronavirus cases also showed signs of desquamation (6).
  • Mechanical Factors: Research shows that exposure to water, heat, and sweat might cause the skin to peel as well (5). Too much UV radiation exposure may also lead the skin to severe dryness, redness, and peeling. Sometimes, humidity and winters can cause the skin to go dry and lead to flaking and desquamation. Here are some disorders that cause skin peeling:
    • Athlete’s foot
    • Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
    • Contact dermatitis
    • Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
    • Dry skin
    • Hyperhidrosis
    • Jock itch
    • Kawasaki disease
    • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
    • Pemphigus
    • Psoriasis
    • Ringworm (body)
    • Ringworm (scalp)
    • Scarlet fever
    • Seborrheic dermatitis
    • Staph infections
    • Stevens-Johnson syndrome
    • Sunburn
    • Toxic shock syndrome
  • Cosmetic Products: The use of skin-lightening products may cause skin peeling, itching, and even acne (7).
  • Allergic Reactions: Allergic reactions caused by contact dermatitis, eczema, or adverse reactions to drugs may cause the skin to peel.
  • Nutrient Deficiencies: A deficiency in some nutrients, including essential fatty acids, may cause desquamation. Notably, a deficiency in linoleic and α‐linolenic acids causes skin peeling or flaking along with dermatitis (8). Nutrient deficiencies also slow down wound healing.
  • Retinol Creams: Skin creams containing retinol may also cause the skin to peel off.

Here are the signs and symptoms of skin peeling you need to watch out for.

Signs And Symptoms Of Skin Peeling

  • Dry flakes
  • Scales
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Blistering
  • Burning sensations
  • Bleeding
  • Rashes
  • Swelling
  • Radiating heat
  • Dryness
  • Inflammation

When To Consult the Doctor

Note: Please do not try to treat skin peeling on your own. If you notice any inflammation, please consult a dermatologist.

  • You notice excessive peeling paired with heavy bleeding or inflammation
  • You feel disoriented along with skin peeling
  • Skin continues to peel even after treatment
  • Nausea with skin peeling
  • Heavy blistering with radiating heat paired with the peeling skin
  • Dry eyes or blurred vision
  • Hives or a high fever
  • Joint pains, swollen lymph nodes, or seizures
  • Difficulty in breathing, diarrhea, or vomiting
  • Sores and lesions
  • Skin discoloration
  • Bacterial or fungal infections

While severe skin peeling should be treated by a doctor, usual skin peeling due to dryness or sun exposure can be managed.

Here are a few tips:

Tips To Help Manage Skin Peeling

  • If the peeled skin appears as simple dry flakes with no inflammation, you can use a moisturizer or hydrator to add water to the skin.
  • Skin peeling caused by sunburn or dry skin can be dealt with with the help of over-the-counter products. Use SPF to protect your skin from UV exposure. Drink lots of water and have a healthy diet.
  • If you notice your skin peeling after using a particular product, stop use and consult your doctor.
  • If you notice your skin peeling after starting a new medication, consult your doctor for alternatives.
  • Use mild and gentle products that would work even for sensitive skin. Opt for products with fewer chemicals or harsh ingredients. You may also pick products with natural ingredients to protect your skin from photodamage.

In addition to these tips, you may also treat a less severe form of skin peeling by following these natural home remedies.

How To Naturally Reduce/Manage Skin Peeling

Note: Please do not use these ingredients without consulting your doctor.

1. Coconut Oil For Peeling Skin

Suitable For

All kinds of peeling skin.

You Will Need

Coconut oil

Time

2 minutes

Method

  1. Take a cool shower to let your skin cool.
  2. Once dry, apply the coconut oil onto your skin.
  3. Massage gently for a couple of minutes.
  4. Leave the oil on.

How Often?

Whenever your skin starts to feel aggravated.

Why This Works

Coconut oil is great for people suffering from skin conditions. The oil helps soothe the skin while also moisturizing and nourishing it. Its high content of saturated fats helps heal your skin by replenishing moisture. It also relieves itching and peeling.

2. Cocoa Butter For Peeling Skin

Suitable For

All kinds of peeling skin.

You Will Need

Cocoa Butter

Time

2 minutes

Method

  1. Take a cool shower to let your skin cool.
  2. Once dry, apply the coconut oil onto your skin.
  3. Massage gently for a couple of minutes.
  4. Leave the oil on.

How Often?

Whenever your skin starts to feel aggravated.

Why This Works

Cocoa butter is an amazing skin moisturizer. It also helps soothe aggravated and peeling skin. The butter is known to heal cracked and dry skin.

3. Sugar Scrub For Peeling Skin

Suitable For

Dry skin, sunburns, and chemical burns. Use this scrub once your skin has calmed and is starting to heal.

You Will Need

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • ½ cup coconut oil (solid)

Time

5 minutes

Method

  1. Combine the ingredients until you get a smooth mixture.
  2. Apply the mixture onto the peeling area.
  3. Massage gently in circular motions to exfoliate.
  4. Rinse with warm water.

How Often?

2-3 times a week.

Why This Works

This sugar scrub will help get rid of all the peeling, dead skin cells, leaving your skin feeling baby soft. This scrub is not recommended for people with skin conditions.

4. Oatmeal Scrub For Peeling Skin

Suitable For

Dry skin, sunburns, and chemical burns. Use this scrub once your skin has calmed down and is starting to heal.

You Will Need

  • 2 tbsp powdered oatmeal
  •  1 tbsp fine sugar
  • 1 tbsp sugar

Time

5 minutes

Method

  1. Combine the ingredients to get a coarse mixture.
  2. Apply this mixture onto the affected area.
  3. Gently massage in circular motions to help exfoliate your skin.
  4. Leave the mixture on for a couple of more minutes.
  5. Rinse off with cool water.

How Often?

2-3 times a week.

Why This Works

This exfoliating mix helps gently exfoliate your skin, revealing a fresh and healthy layer. This will help keep your skin from looking dry and can also tackle the unsightly appearance of peeling skin.

5. Olive Oil For Peeling Skin

Suitable For

All kinds of peeling/aggravated skin.

You Will Need

Olive oil

Time

5 minutes

Method

  1. Slightly warm the olive oil (unless the burn is fresh).
  2. Apply the oil onto the affected areas.
  3. Massage for a couple of minutes.
  4. Leave the oil on.

How Often?

Thrice a day.

Why This Works

Olive oil is a rich source of fatty acids that help moisturize dry skin. Its high content of antioxidants helps fight skin damage, keeping your fresh layer of skin healthy.

6. Baby Oil For Peeling Skin

Suitable For

All kinds of peeling skin.

You Will Need

Baby oil

Time

2 minutes

Method

  1. 1. Take a cool shower to let your skin cool.
  2.  Once dry, apply the baby oil onto your skin.
  3. Massage gently for a couple of minutes, and then leave the oil on.

How Often?

Whenever your skin starts to feel aggravated.

Why This Works

This soothing remedy is especially ideal for people with sensitive skin. The baby oil feels extremely soothing on your skin and is light enough to not cause more irritation. It helps soothe your skin while keeping it moisturized.

7. Vaseline For Peeling Skin

Suitable For

All kinds of peeling skin.

You Will Need

Vaseline

Time

5 minutes

Method

  1. Wash your skin with cool water and pat dry with a towel.
  2. Apply the vaseline onto the affected areas.
  3. Leave it on.

How Often?

Whenever your skin starts to feel aggravated.

Why This Works

Vaseline helps form a protective barrier around your skin that helps keep dirt, oil, and moisture in. This helps create an ideal environment that allows your skin to heal.

8. Aloe Vera For Peeling Skin

Suitable For

All kinds of peeling skin.

You Will Need

2 tbsp fresh aloe vera gel

Time

5 minutes.

Method

  1. Apply the aloe vera gel onto the affected area.
  2. Allow it to dry.
  3. Once dry, rinse off with warm water.

How Often?

Whenever your skin starts to feel aggravated.

Why This Works

Aloe vera is 99% water and has a cooling effect on your skin. It helps soothe the peeling and aggravated skin while moisturizing and nourishing it. It also helps reduce irritation, itching, and inflammation.

9. Epsom Salt For Peeling Skin

Suitable For

All kinds of peeling skin.

You Will Need

  • 1 cup Epsom salt
  • A warm bath

Time

30 minutes – 1 hour

Method

  1. Draw a warm bath and add the Epsom salt to it.
  2. Soak in the bath for 30 minutes to an hour.
  3. Pat yourself dry with a towel.

How Often?

1-2 times a day.

Why This Works

Epsom salt helps exfoliate your skin while nourishing it with minerals. It also has a soothing effect on aggravated skin and provides relief from skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

10. Glycerin For Peeling Skin

Suitable For

Dry skin, sunburns, and chemical burns.

You Will Need

  • 2 tbsp glycerin
  • 4 tbsp pure rose water
  • Spray bottle

Time

2 minutes

Method

  1. Mix the glycerin and rose water until they are well combined.
  2. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle.
  3. Spray this onto the affected areas of your skin.

How Often?

Whenever your skin starts to feel aggravated.

Why This Works

This mixture is light and helps keep your skin moisturized for long hours. It is super convenient to use as you can spray it on as and when you need it.

11. Lemon Juice For Peeling Skin

Suitable For

Peeling skin that is not inflamed/aggravated.

You Will Need

  • • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey

Time

5 minutes

Method

  1. Combine all the ingredients until you get a coarse mixture.
  2. Massage gently in circular motions for a couple of minutes.
  3. Rinse off with cool water.

How Often?

2-3 times a week.

Why This Works

Lemon juice is a potent astringent that helps get rid of dead skin cells. This helps reduce the appearance of peeling.

12. Milk For Peeling Skin

Suitable For

All kinds of peeling skin.

You Will Need

  • 1 cup ice-cold milk
  • Washcloth

Time

10 minutes

Method

  1. Refrigerate some milk until it is ice-cold but still liquid.
  2. Soak a washcloth in this cold milk.
  3. Place the washcloth over the affected area of your skin.
  4. Leave it on for 10 minutes.
  5. Wash your skin with cool water.

How Often?

Thrice a day.

Why This Works

Milk is a natural moisturizer, and its lactic acid content helps soothe irritation and itching.

13. Vitamin E Oil For Peeling Skin

Suitable For

All kinds of peeling skin.

You Will Need

Vitamin E oil capsules

Time

2 minutes

Method

  1. Poke holes in the capsules and squeeze out the oil.
  2. Apply this oil onto the affected areas.
  3. Leave it on.

How Often?

1-2 times a day.

Why This Works

Vitamin E oil is excellent for healing your skin. Not only does it soothe your skin, but it also fights off skin damage with its high antioxidant content. The oil also helps heal and fade scars.

14. Yogurt For Peeling Skin

Suitable For

All kinds of peeling skin.

You Will Need

  • 2 tbsp yogurt
  • 2 tbsp honey

Time

20 minutes

Method

  1. Combine the ingredients until you get a smooth mixture.
  2. Apply the mixture onto the affected areas.
  3. Let it dry.
  4. Rinse off with warm water.

How Often?

1-2 times a day.

Why This Works

Yogurt is one of the most soothing ingredients you could use to heal peeling skin. It has a cooling effect on the skin and also contains enzymes, minerals, and acids that assist in the healing of peeling skin.

When Is Skin Peeling Good For You

If you use too many products on your skin or are outdoors often, your skin collects dirt and product residue. This build-up eventually clogs pores. Using a chemical peel can help remove this heavy layer of dead skin cells, dirt, product residue, pollution, and skin damage. Chemical peels are also used to reduce aging signs like wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots (9). They can even reduce photodamage.

But exercise caution. Some chemical peels might not suit your skin type and can cause burning sensations, swelling, redness, severe peeling, and inflammation. If you notice any of these symptoms, stop using the chemical peel immediately and consult a doctor.

Take Away

Skin peeling might not be an easy issue to deal with. Sometimes it can be painful, but with these tips and remedies, you might be able to soothe the irritation and reduce the peeling. However, it is important to consult your doctor before trying any of the remedies listed in this post. If you have a severe case of skin peeling, these remedies might not be effective, and medical intervention is warranted.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does skin peeling take to stop?

Peeling caused by burns, chemicals, or topical treatments can take about a week to stop. It is important to remove this damaged skin to prevent any aggravation. Using the scrubs and exfoliants listed in this article will help treat the issue faster. Peeling caused by skin conditions may take days or weeks to stop unless you intervene with soothing treatments.

What are the common areas where the skin starts to peel?

Your skin can start peeling from anywhere on your body, be it your hands, your face, back, or feet. For people with psoriasis, some common spots are the inner sides of the elbows, knuckles, and areas between fingers and toes. The peeling can also start on your arms or face.

Recommended Articles

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Dry Skin, Moisturization and Corneodesmolysis
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1467-2494.2000.00001.x
  2. Peeling Skin Disorders: a Paradigm for Skin Desquamation
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022202X18320426
  3. Acral Peeling Skin Syndrome: an Underdiagnosed Skin Disorder
    https://ijdvl.com/acral-peeling-skin-syndrome-an-underdiagnosed-skin-disorder/
  4. Peeling Skin Syndrome: an Investigational Dilemma
    https://www.ijord.com/index.php/ijord/article/view/766
  5. Peeling Skin Syndrome
    https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/peeling-skin-syndrome/
  6. Skin Damage Among Health Care Workers Managing Coronavirus Disease-2019
    https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(20)30392-3/pdf
  7. Preliminary Study on the Skin Lightening Practice and Health Symptoms Among Female Students in Malaysia
    https://downloads.hindawi.com/journals/jeph/2015/591790.pdf
  8. Hair, Nails, and Skin: Differentiating Cutaneous Manifestations of Micronutrient Deficiency
    https://aspenjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ncp.10321
  9. Exfoliative Skin-Peeling, Benefits from This Procedure and Our Experience
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4720453/
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Anjali Sayee is a writer and an introvert. From studying Aeronautical Engineering and wanting to design her own airplane to writing articles on hairstyles, she has been on quite a journey. She believes that hair is one of the key factors that define a woman’s personality. To quote her, “What’s the first thing they do in the movies to show a personality change? Change the hair – because it has a life of its own.” She’s here to help you find the hairstyle you need. This bookworm is a self-professed Wholocker, a talented drummer, and an amateur photographer.