Peeling Skin

The skin consists of three layers – the epidermis or the outer layer, the dermis or the middle layer and the hypodermis or the innermost later. Not many people realize that every 28 days, the outer layer or epidermis of the skin is completely replaced. This replacement can be further affected by external factors such as exposure to the sun, friction and hydration.

Peeling skin is therefore a largely a temporary problem and sorts itself in a few days as the new epidermis surfaces. In some cases however there may be excessive peeling on the face, fingers and other parts of the body. This can be generally attributed to overexposure to the sun, where sunburn causes the skin to peel. Sunburn over heats the top layer of the skin causing it to dry and peel. This may cause some discomfort, but is rarely a cause for worry. In a few cases, peeling skin could be the result of an infection or a reaction to certain medications. This is referred to as Peeling Skin Syndrome and requires medical attention and treatment as it could also signify the presence of another disease or disorder with the immune system.

Symptoms of Peeling Skin

Peeling skin itself is a symptom, and is typically not a condition in itself. In some cases, skin may thicken and flake as well. When the extremities such as the hands and feet are affected, itching and rashes could accompany peeling skin.

Peeling skin can also lead to scaly and inflamed areas of the skin. If care is not taken to prevent scratching, peeling skin could lead to further skin infections.

If you have any of the following symptoms in addition to peeling skin, contact your doctor immediately as it may indicate a more serious medical condition:

  • Constant fatigue
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • General ill health
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Peeling skin does not improve with over-the-counter lotions and creams
  • Severe rash or inflammation of the skin that does not respond to medication

Causes of Peeling Skin

Peeling skin can be a symptom of a number of medical conditions or skin disorders. Some of these include:

  • Excessive perspiration
  • Overexposure to the sun and extreme weather conditions
  • Skin rashes
  • Allergies or irritations to the skin caused by chemicals
  • Broken blisters or wounds on the skin can lead to peeling during the healing process
  • Skin infections
  • Disorders of the immune system
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Peeling skin syndrome (caused by genetics)
  • Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN) is a rare disease that causes the skin to peel
  • Athlete’s foot
  • Eczema
  • Kawasaki disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Ringworm
  • Dermatitis caused by excessive production of dandruff
  • Toxic Shock Syndrome
  • Side effects of certain medications
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome
  • Fungal infection

Remedies for Peeling Skin

As peeling skin isn’t necessarily indicative of some serious health condition, but is more likely caused by dry skin or damage, it may be best to first try treating the problem at home. Natural remedies for peeling skin can be quite helpful, as they pose little to no risk of side effects. They also require little effort and almost no expense, as they can be prepared using basic cooking ingredients. Unfortunately, not all of these home remedies are subjected to rigorous scientific testing, so the results could vary. If you’re a skeptic and would prefer to use tested methods, you could stick to over the counter lotions and creams, whilst trying out some natural ingredients such as fruit packs to soothe inflamed and dry skin:

  • Grate raw cucumber and apply to the affected areas. This natural remedy is said to be especially effective for peeling skin on the delicate areas of the face. A regular face pack of grated cucumber also prevents dryness.
  • Apply fresh mint juice on the areas of peeling skin. Do this every night before sleeping for the best results. Mint is said to cure other skin disorders such as eczema and dermatitis as well as act as a natural moisturizer. Whether or not it works as desired, it certainly does feel extremely soothing and refreshing!
  • Break a vitamin E capsule and apply the liquid onto the peeling skin. Vitamin E is essential for healthy skin. In case the area is too large, try a lotion with vitamin-E as the primary ingredient. Alternatively vitamin E oil can also be used liberally on your skin to prevent dryness and flaking.
  • Place a slice of cool watermelon on sunburned skin for immediate relief. The malic acid in watermelon aids healing and has a much-needed cooling effect on burned skin.
  • Other sunburn peeling remedies include using Aloe Vera as a natural healing agent. Aloe Vera-based creams are available at all drugstores and are relatively inexpensive as well. Aloe Vera ensures nourished skin year round.
  • Dilute vinegar or apple cider vinegar in water and apply this solution to the areas of peeling and sunburned skin. Do not use vinegar undiluted as this could result in severe skin burn.
  • For sunburned skin on your face, mash four apricots and apply to the face for about fifteen minutes. Wash this pack off with warm water and pat dry. This helps lessen redness and irritation as well.
  • Have a warm bath with two cups of baking soda added to it. Baking soda helps neutralize any skin infections and prevents irritation and redness.
  • Make a pot of black tea or camomile tea and cool down and strain before applying to the affected areas. The tannins in these teas stop skin damage and reduce inflammation.
  • Use a cold compress on sunburned or severely peeling skin. This will speed up the healing process and reduce discomfort.

Diet for Peeling Skin

There is a direct link between your diet and the health of your skin. A healthy balanced diet translates into skin that is smooth, supple and nourished. In case peeling skin is affecting you due to sunburn or any other reason, there are several changes you can make to your daily diet to help speed up the recovery process. These include:

  • Ensure that your diet consists of a healthy mix of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. A diet that is poor in nutritional value could lead to rashes and make your skin more susceptible to other disorders.
  • One of the causes of peeling skin may be vitamin or mineral deficiency. Increase your intake of foods rich in vitamins A, B, and C as well as those items high in iron and iodine. For example, butter, fish, and eggs are great sources of vitamin A. Meat, whole grains, cheese, and milk are chock full of vitamin B and citrus fruits and certain vegetables are rich in vitamin C. Iron-rich foods include nuts, lentils, cereals and meat. You can also take these in form of capsules or supplements but only do so under the supervision of your doctor as an excess of any vitamin or mineral could have adverse effects as well.
  • Drink at least two liters of water a day as well as fresh fruit and vegetable juices and other low-calorie drinks. This keeps the skin moisturized from within. Fruit juices also help build immunity and prevent allergic reactions.
  • Cucumber is an important addition to any diet for healthy skin. Eat raw cucumber or add it to a salad. You could also apply slices of raw cucumber to the affected areas of peeling skin for fast relief from pain.
  • Limit your intake for fiber-rich foods as these encourage the body to eliminate waste. Too much elimination could dehydrate the body and cause peeling skin.

Suggestion for Peeling Skin

Some other suggestions for peeling skin include:

  • Avoid cutting any skin that is flaking and peeling
  • Keep your skin moisturized at all times especially during cold weather.
  • Soaking in a warm bath with oatmeal added to it is an excellent way to soothe sunburn and peeling skin
  • Keep hydrated. Drink a minimum of 8 to 10 glasses of water a day and replenish on lost fluids when out in the sun and perspiring.
  • Always use a sunscreen when exposed to the sun and stay out of the sun during the peak hours of 11 to 2am.
  • Stop using soaps and shampoos that are harsh. Gentle baby or herbal soaps should be used instead.
  • Stop picking at peeling skin or scratching excessively. This can cause irreparable damage and scarring to the skin.
  • Try to not take baths that are too warm or hot as this can strip the skin of natural emollients.
  • Keep your bedroom cool and take a painkiller if the inflammation of sunburn is causing too much pain.


  1. Karen E. Burke, Chapter 8 - Prevention and Treatment of Aging Skin with Topical Antioxidants, In: Nava Dayan, Editor(s), Skin Aging Handbook, William Andrew Publishing, Norwich, NY, 2009, Pages 149-176, ISBN 9780815515845, 10.1016/B978-0-8155-1584-5.50012-0.
  2. T Reynolds, A.C Dweck, Aloe vera leaf gel: a review update, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 68, Issues 1–3, 15 December 1999, Pages 3-37, ISSN 0378-8741, 10.1016/S0378-8741(99)00085-9.

Peeling Skin Treatments - more information
Peeling Skin - Frequently asked questions
4 Peeling Skin remedies suggested by our users
Zinc for peeling skin
suggested by [unspecified] on Monday, February 18, 2008

For peeling skin in the mouth, try Zinc tablets daily or thrice a week if you have poor digestion

Natural exfoliant
suggested by Corina on Monday, January 21, 2008

Whenever I notice skin peeling especially on delicate areas such as my face, I mix olive oil and table salt together to form a sort of paste and rub this on the area. The salt helps to scrub the flakes off while disinfecting the area and the olive oil is a great moisturizer! I don't advise using this mixture if the skin is cracked though, as the salt may cause some discomfort.

Sun Exposure Peel
suggested by [unspecified] on Wednesday, August 15, 2007

If your skin is ready to peel due to too much sun exposure, Cut a piece of watermelon(cold) and rub it on the skin.

EFAs in the diet
suggested by [unspecified] on Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Essential fatty acids. Eat more: avocado, flax seed oil or crushed/ground flax seed or flax seed cereal, olive oil. They all make the skin more moisturized from the inside out.