If you have peeling skin, it’s a sign that your skin is healing from some type of damage. Sunburns, allergies and skin diseases cause skin to peel. Treatments for cancer, acne and aging can also cause peeling skin. Picking at peeling skin can lead to infection. A dermatologist can determine the cause and suggest an appropriate treatment.
Peeling skin happens when your body sheds some of your skin’s outer layer called the epidermis. The peeling or flaking process is your skin’s way of recovering or healing from some type of damage. The damage may be from environmental elements, skin conditions, allergies, infections or certain diseases and treatments. The medical term for peeling skin is desquamation.
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The part of peeling skin that you see is your epidermis. This is the outermost layer of your skin and also the thinnest layer. Even though your epidermis is thin, it plays an important role in protecting your body against bacteria and germs. It also makes new skin cells to replace the thousands of cells that die off every day.
Peeling skin may be:
Peeling skin can be the result of:
A dermatologist, a medical doctor who specializes in skin conditions, can determine what’s causing your skin to peel. Your healthcare provider will assess your symptoms and ask about your medical and family histories. You should provide the names and dosages of any medications, vitamins and supplements that you take.
You may get tests to diagnose or rule out conditions that cause peeling skin. These tests may include:
Treatments for peeling skin vary depending on the underlying cause. You may need:
You should let peeling skin slough off naturally. The peeling is part of your skin’s natural healing process. Picking at or pulling off peeling skin can create an opening that lets in bacteria. This increases your risk of infection.
If you have peeling skin, these actions may help:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Having skin that peels can make you self-conscious about your appearance. There are many causes of peeling skin, which is why it’s important to see your healthcare provider. They can evaluate your symptoms and perform tests (if needed) to determine the underlying cause. This ensures you start the right treatment to stop your skin from peeling. Don’t pick at skin that’s peeling, as it interferes with your skin’s healing process and puts you at risk for infection. Your healthcare provider can recommend gentle skin products that ease and prevent peeling skin.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/15/2022.
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