How To Get Rid Of Peeling Skin Effectively (2023)

Peeling skin, also known as desquamation, occurs when the outer layer of your skin is shed as damage to your skin heals. It can be caused by external events, such as a burn, or internal causes, such as a reaction to medication or an autoimmune disease.

In some cases, treatment may be simple and involves over-the-counter (OTC) or home remedies. Peeling skin could also be a sign of an underlying health condition that requires treatment.

How To Get Rid Of Peeling Skin Effectively (1)

Causes of Skin Peeling

When the skin peels, it is usually a part of the healing process after it has been damaged. There are many different causes of this damage, including:

  • Sunburns: This is the most common type of burn, and it's caused by exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning beds.
  • Skin irritation: Skin irritation can occur when the skin is chafed, or rubbed against other skin, clothing, or shoes for prolonged periods of time.
  • Chemical burns: Household cleaners and some beauty products can lead to chemical burns that can peel.
  • Thermal burns: Thermal burns occur when the skin comes into direct contact with a hot liquid, a hot surface, or fire.
  • Acne treatments: Some types of acne treatments, like those containing retinoids, can cause the skin to peel.
  • Chemical peels: Chemical peels have retinol that helps treat scarring or wrinkles by inducing the upper layer of skin to peel off.
  • Eczema: Otherwise known as atopic dermatitis, eczema can cause the skin to become red and peel. Another type of eczema called dyshidrotic eczema can cause blisters and scales on different parts of the body.
  • Edema: Edema is swelling of the skin that can arise if a person has a blood clot or is suffering from heart failure. As the skin swelling decreases, the top layer of skin will peel.
  • Radiation and chemotherapy: These cancer treatments can lead to skin peeling.
  • Contact dermatitis: In some cases, being exposed to certain allergens or irritants, such as perfume or prolonged water exposure, can cause the skin to peel. Exposure to cold and dry air can also cause peeling.
  • Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome: This infectious disease is caused by various strains of the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria and can cause the skin to peel.
  • Toxic shock syndrome: Toxic shock syndrome is a life-threatening bacterial infection that occurs when specific pathogens get into the body and release toxins.
  • Peeling skin syndrome: This condition is considered a genetic disorder and causes the skin to peel all over the body or only on the hands and feet.
  • Viral infections: Different viral infections like measles and mono can cause a rash.

When to See a Doctor

Peeling skin isn’t always serious, but it can be. Symptoms that should prompt you to see your doctor include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Swelling or pain on the skin
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Blisters or hives
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Vision changes
  • Pain in your joints

Treat Underlying Conditions First

If your skin is peeling and you are unsure of the cause, see a doctor in order to help rule out serious health conditions.

The health condition that is causing the skin to peel should be treated first before trying remedies that may do harm. For example, there are no available treatments for peeling skin syndrome, and using home remedies may make the peeling even worse.

How to Get Rid of Peeling Skin

Getting rid of peeling skin depends on what is causing it. For example, if your skin is peeling after you get a sunburn, the best thing you can do is to leave it alone. If the injury is superficial and not serious, there are a few things you can do to help the skin heal.

Pat Skin Dry After Bathing

After you shower or bathe, pat your skin dry gently as opposed to rubbing it. This is because harsh rubbing with a towel can make peeling skin worse. It can also dry the skin further, causing it to become even more flaky.

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated can help keep your skin moisturized, which can reduce peeling overall. When the skin isn’t dry, it is less likely to peel further following skin damage.

How to Keep Your Skin Hydrated (and Why It’s Important)

Apply Moisturizer

As soon as you exit the bath or shower, the water on your skin begins to evaporate and your skin dries. This is why you should apply moisturizer right after bathing, when the skin is still damp. This will help lock in the moisture and prevent your skin from drying out. Since dry skin can cause a damaged area to peel more, it’s important to stay moisturized as best as you can.

Use a Gentle Exfoliant

In some cases, a gentle exfoliant can help remove the dead skin cells that are flaking off. However, this should not be done to sunburned skin since it can make the burn worse and prolong the healing period.

What Is Dead Skin?

(Video) How to STOP PEELING SKIN| Dr Dray

Try a Humidifier

Using a humidifier can help with mild skin peeling if it's caused by dry skin. This is because humidifiers add moisture back into the air, which can help relieve dryness of the skin.

The 6 Best Humidifiers for Dry Skin


Peeling skin is a sign that your skin is healing after it's been damaged. The damage can be a result of external or internal factors. Peeling skin caused by external factors like sunburn will typically heal on its own without interventions, but peeling skin caused by an underlying condition needs to be looked at and treated by a doctor.

A Word From Verywell

Peeling skin can be unsightly and irritating to cope with, but it is often not a sign of a serious condition. The good news is that if peeling skin is caused by sunburn, it will heal on its own.

For those who have peeling skin due to an underlying health condition, getting a prompt diagnosis and treatment is vital to recovery. Many conditions that can cause peeling skin will also present with other symptoms. A healthcare professional will be able to assess the cause and help you feel better.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can COVID cause skin peeling?

    In children, COVID-19 had been linked to cases where the skin on the hands and feet begins peeling. This is a rare symptom and seems to be most common among children with mild COVID.

    Learn More:Guide to Coronavirus

  • Why are my feet peeling?

    One of the most common causes of peeling feet is athlete’s foot, a condition in which a fungus grows on the skin, causing cracking, peeling, and flaking skin. Athlete’s foot is curable with over-the-counter and prescriptions treatments. However, there are other causes for peeling and foot rashes. Talk to a healthcare provider about any unusual changes in your skin.

    Learn More:Treatments for Athlete's Foot

    (Video) Heal Dry Peeling Skin On Hands | Works FAST! | Chris Gibson
  • How can I stop a sunburn from peeling?

    Your body needs to shed the damaged skin, so you can’t stop the peeling, but you can relieve the pain and help your skin heal. Moisturize the area with aloe vera or a soy-based skin moisturizer. Avoid petroleum or oil-based skin products that will make the sunburn worse. Stay hydrated and use ibuprofen or aspirin to relieve pain.

    Learn More:Over-the-Counter Sunburn Relief

  • How can I stop peeling and flaking from psoriasis?

    Different treatments work for different people. At-home moisturizer treatments you can try include tea tree oil, coconut oil, or aloe vera products. Soaking in a tub with colloidal oatmeal, Dead Sea salts, or a baking soda bath can also help. Wearing soft fabrics can ease skin irritation and reduce flaking and peeling.

    Learn More:Psoriasis Overview

    (Video) 8 Best Ways to Get Rid Of Peeling Skin on Face

11 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Cleveland Clinic. Peeling skin.

  2. Kwakman JJM, Elshot YS, Punt CJA, Koopman M. Management of cytotoxic chemotherapy-induced hand-foot syndrome. Oncol Rev. 2020 May 13;14(1):442. doi:10.4081/oncol.2020.442

  3. Gossack-Keenan KL, Kam AJ. Toxic Shock Syndrome: Still a Timely Diagnosis. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2020 Mar;36(3):e163-e165. doi:10.1097/PEC.0000000000001310

  4. Singhal AK, Yadav DK, Soni B, Arya S. A Case of Peeling Skin Syndrome. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2017 May-Jun;8(3):208-210. doi:10.4103/idoj.IDOJ_118_16

  5. The Skin Cancer Foundation. Why Does My Skin Peel When I Get Sunburned and What Should I Do About It?

  6. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Dermatologists top tips for relieving dry skin.

  7. Akdeniz M, Tomova-Simitchieva T, Dobos G, Blume-Peytavi U, Kottner J. Does dietary fluid intake affect skin hydration in healthy humans? A systematic literature review. Skin Res Technol. 2018 Aug;24(3):459-465. doi:10.1111/srt.12454

  8. Andina‐Martínez D, Villaizán‐Perez C, Pavo‐García MR, et al. Acral peeling as the sole skin manifestation of COVID‐19 in children. Pediatr Dermatol. 2021;38(3):664-666. doi:10.1111/pde.14599

  9. MedlinePlus. Athlete’s Foot.

    (Video) Do Chemical Peels Really Make A Difference?

  10. Skin Cancer Foundation. Why Does My Skin Peel When I Get Sunburned, and What Should I Do About It?

  11. Creaky Joints. Tired of Dealing with Psoriasis Skin Flakes? Get These Dermatologists’ Tips for Coping.

How To Get Rid Of Peeling Skin Effectively (2)

By Angelica Bottaro
Angelica Bottaro is a professional freelance writer with over 5 years of experience. She has been educated in both psychology and journalism, and her dual education has given her the research and writing skills needed to deliver sound and engaging content in the health space.

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How To Get Rid Of Peeling Skin Effectively? ›

Exfoliate your face to get rid of skin that's peeling, but do it the right way. If your skin is peeling, avoid using a cleanser with alpha hydroxy acids, alcohol, or perfume. Try using lukewarm water and a soft washcloth or shower mitt to gently rub the skin on your face and loosen any skin that's flaking.

How do you get rid of peeling skin fast? ›

Exfoliate your face to get rid of skin that's peeling, but do it the right way. If your skin is peeling, avoid using a cleanser with alpha hydroxy acids, alcohol, or perfume. Try using lukewarm water and a soft washcloth or shower mitt to gently rub the skin on your face and loosen any skin that's flaking.

How long does peeling skin take to clear? ›

"The skin begins to exfoliate itself by getting rid of all the burnt and damaged cells," explains Candice Miele, PCA SKIN Peel Ambassador and celebrity esthetician. Once it starts, it'll typically resolve itself within a week.

Is it better to leave peeling skin? ›

“Pulling off the dead skin is counterproductive, as is any form of exfoliation,” said Stacy Chimento, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology. Granted, leaving it alone may be easier said than done.

How does peeling go away? ›

Your body needs to shed the damaged skin, so you can't stop the peeling, but you can relieve the pain and help your skin heal. Moisturize the area with aloe vera or a soy-based skin moisturizer.

How do you fix peeling overnight? ›

Apply moisturizer that's rich with shea butter or ceramides. Do not worry about massaging it in completely. It is ok for there to be a layer of lotion on your skin. After applying the night moisturizer, it is also generally recommended to use a face oil to lock the moisturizer and properly hydrate your skin.

How long will peeling last? ›

Peeling usually lasts 3-5 days, depending on the actual peel treatment. Use of gentle cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen is important, as it will enhance the healing process and results. Normal activity may be resumed after the peel, however strenuous exercise and heavy sweating should be avoided for 2-3 days.


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