Peeling skin: 9 main causes and what to do

Peeling skin can be caused by dry skin, contact allergy, sunburn, psoriasis or atopic dermatitis, causing symptoms such as flaky skin, red patches or itching, for example.

In most cases, peeling skin can be prevented through measures such as moisturizing the skin well with moisturizing creams, using hygiene products suitable for the skin type and controlling sun exposure.

However, if symptoms last more than a week or if the flaking becomes very uncomfortable, it is recommended to see a dermatologist to identify the cause and begin the most appropriate treatment.

9 Causes of Peeling Skin

The main causes of peeling skin are:

1. Dry skin

Dry skin, scientifically known as xeroderma, occurs when the sebaceous glands and sweat glands begin to produce less oily matter and sweat than normal, which causes the skin to become drier and eventually peel.

What to do : It is recommended to drink the recommended amount of water per day, avoid taking baths with very hot water, use neutral or glycerated soap and moisturize the skin with creams suitable for the skin type.

2. Sunburn

Sunburn occurs when you are exposed to the sun for too long without any type of sun protection, which allows UV radiation to be absorbed by the skin. When this happens, the UV rays cause destruction of the layers of the skin, leaving it red and flaky.

Generally, sunburn is more common in areas that are constantly exposed to the sun, such as the face, arms or back, for example.

What to do : It is important to take a cold shower and apply creams suitable for post-sun exposure, as they help to relieve discomfort and promote skin healing. Understand how sunburn is treated .

3. Contact allergy

Contact allergy, also known as contact dermatitis, occurs when the skin comes into direct contact with an allergenic substance, such as perfumes, cosmetics or cleaning products.

This type of allergy can cause symptoms such as redness, itching, sores and bumps on the skin, which can appear immediately or up to 12 hours after contact, depending on the type of product to which the person was exposed.

What to do : It is recommended to avoid contact with the allergenic product, wash the skin with cold water and neutral pH soap and take an antihistamine, as prescribed by your doctor. If the allergy occurs frequently, it is possible to carry out some allergy tests to check which substances cause the symptoms and adapt the treatment. See when it is recommended to carry out the allergy test .

4. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes pink or reddish plaques covered with white scales on the skin. The size of the lesions varies and can appear anywhere on the body, however, the most common locations are the elbows, knees and scalp.

One of the characteristics of psoriasis is flaking skin, which is sometimes accompanied by itching.

The intensity of the disease’s symptoms can vary depending on the climate and some factors such as stress and alcohol consumption.

What to do : psoriasis treatment should be prescribed by a dermatologist and is usually done with creams or gels to apply to the skin, as well as taking medication or treating it with ultraviolet rays. Learn more about what psoriasis is and how it is treated. Learn more about what psoriasis is and how it should be treated .

5. Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory disease that causes dry skin due to difficulty retaining water and insufficient production of oil by the sebaceous glands, which makes the skin more prone to flaking.

Atopic dermatitis causes intense itching of the skin and is mainly located on the elbows, knees, wrists, backs of the hands, feet and genital region.

This disease can appear in childhood and generally tends to decrease until adolescence, and may appear again in adulthood.

What to do : Proper skin hygiene and hydration are important to keep the skin as hydrated as possible. In some cases, it may be necessary to consult a dermatologist to begin a more appropriate treatment with the use of emollient creams and medications applied to the skin. Find out how to identify atopic dermatitis .

6. Seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a disease characterized by flaking of the skin, mainly in areas where there are more sebaceous glands, such as the head and upper torso.

When it appears on the scalp, seborrheic dermatitis is commonly called “dandruff”, but it can appear in other areas with hair, such as the beard, eyebrows or in areas with folds, such as the armpits, groin or ears.

The flaking caused by seborrheic dermatitis is usually oily and tends to be more frequent in situations of stress and changes in the weather. In addition, it can be accompanied by symptoms such as redness of the skin and itching.

What to do : Seborrheic dermatitis has no cure, however, there are some precautions to reduce skin flaking and itching, such as applying a repairing cream to the skin, using shampoo suitable for the skin type, adequate skin hygiene and wearing light and airy clothing. In severe cases, it is necessary to consult a dermatologist to begin a more appropriate treatment that may be done with corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone or dexamethasone, for example. Understand better what seborrheic dermatitis is and how to treat it .

7. Fungal infection

Fungal infection can be caused by several types of fungi and is transmissible between people both through direct contact and through contaminated objects, especially if there is heat and humidity.

Fungal infections usually cause the skin to peel, which may be accompanied by cracks and itching. They are most common in warm, humid areas such as the toes, armpits, groin, or other skin folds. Sweating can also make the itching worse, increasing discomfort.

What to do : Treatment should be done with antifungal creams, prescribed by your doctor. It is also important to take some precautions to reduce body moisture and control the infection, such as drying your body well after bathing or sweating, wearing airy clothes and avoiding sharing personal hygiene items. See how to identify a fungal skin infection and how to treat it .

8. Cutaneous lupus erythematosus

Cutaneous lupus erythematosus is characterized by red lesions with a brown border and flaking of the skin. These lesions are usually located in areas most exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears or scalp.

What to do : Treatment for this disease should include daily care to control sun exposure, such as wearing a hat, long-sleeved clothing and applying sunscreen. In more severe cases, it is recommended to consult a dermatologist to recommend a more specific treatment, such as the use of corticosteroid creams or other medications. Learn more about lupus, its symptoms and treatment .

9. Skin cancer

Although it is rarer, peeling can also be a sign of skin cancer, especially in people who spend a lot of time exposed to the sun without any type of sun protection.

In addition to flaking, skin cancer can also cause spots, which are usually asymmetrical, with irregular edges, with more than one color and larger than 1 cm. Learn more about how to identify the signs of skin cancer .

What to do : Treatment for the disease depends on the type and stage of cancer and may require surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Generally, the earlier treatment is started, the greater the chances of a cure.

Abbas Jahangir

I am a researcher and writer with a background in food and nutritional science. I am the founder of, our reputable online platform offering scientifically-backed articles on health, food, nutrition, kitchen tips, recipes, diet, and fitness. With a commitment to providing accurate and reliable information, we strive to empower our readers to make informed decisions about their health and lifestyle choices. Join us on's journey toward a healthier and happier lifestyle.

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