How is peeling skin diagnosed?

Your physician or other healthcare professional will conduct a physical examination. He or she will ask questions about:

  • Your medical history, including any illnesses and medical treatments, and the medications or dietary supplements you take
  • How long your skin has been peeling, how extensive the peeling is and whether it occurs in a specific area or all over the body
  • If you have been exposed to any new substances, foods or potential allergens

Other tests may be required if the doctor suspects that you have an infection or another underlying condition.

How is peeling skin treated?

The treatment will depend on the underlying condition. Peeling that follows skin damage is a natural process. It is important to allow the skin to heal and never attempt to remove or peel the skin. First, your doctor will determine if the cause is an infection or underlying medical condition and treat that accordingly. Prescription or over-the-counter topical medications such as thick creams and ointments like petroleum jelly (Vaseline®) are better than lotions and may provide relief from symptoms such as dryness, itching or redness.

You may be able to care for minor (first-degree) skin burns at home if you:

  • Cool the burned area by immersing it in cool water or applying a cold compress for up to 10 minutes.
  • Apply petroleum jelly (not antibiotics) to the burn 2 or 3 times each day.
  • Cover the burn with a nonstick sterile bandage.
  • Avoid exposure to sunlight, even after the skin heals, by wearing protective clothing if going outdoors and a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen.

What are the complications of peeling skin?

Complications may vary according to the underlying cause or condition. Some of the major problems may include:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Dehydration if a significant amount of skin is involved

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/21/2018.


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