Most people have experienced peeling skin after suffering from a sunburn, but skin can also peel as a result of dryness, irritation or due to a medical condition. While you can't stop damaged skin from shedding once it starts, some simple steps can help hydrate the skin, prevent irritation and support healing.
Skin peels for a reason, so it's important to understand the cause. Sometimes the cause is obvious -- a sunburn, for instance. Sometimes an infection, medication or allergy is the cause. But if you have no idea why your skin is peeling, or if you have skin blisters or severe irritation, consult your doctor or dermatologist before any home treatment.
While you may be tempted to remove the peeling skin as quickly as possible, this should not be the priority. Premature removal can cause irritation, pain and risk infection. It's important to allow time for the new skin underneath to heal.
Moisten and soothe the injured or severely dry skin by placing a cool compress on the skin, or taking a bath or a shower. If the area needs to be cleaned, use mild soap. Pat dry with a towel and avoid rubbing.
Hydrated skin is more smooth, soft and less likely to peel and crack. Moisturize dry and peeling skin using an intensive moisturizing cream, lotion or ointment that contains ingredients such as aloe. The skin underneath the area that is peeling will be tender so it's important to keep this area moist and protected from the sun.
If your skin is recovering from a burn, rash or allergic reaction, seek advice from your doctor about proper skin care. Your doctor may recommend an antibiotic ointment or hydrocortisone cream. If you have very dry skin, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a lotion with urea or lactic acid -- ingredients which help the skin hold water.