Everyone's skin sheds — it's just not that noticeable. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, the human body sheds 30,000 to 40,000 skin cells each day.
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However, when the skin is severely dry or has been damaged from burns, skin disorders or infections, larger pieces of dead skin may peel off. Removing this skin manually, by peeling or tearing, can increase your risk of bleeding or infection. So to get rid of peeling skin, patience is required.
Your best bet is to shower or bathe regularly to hasten the natural shedding process, and to keep skin moist to prevent dryness and to hide the peeling while you wait for your skin to recover.
Step 1: Assess Your Skin
If you have peeling skin, the first step is to determine the cause, and seek medical care if indicated. Home treatment is reasonable, for example, if the peeling is simply due to dry skin or from a recent, minor sunburn.
However, if you have suffered a more severe burn, or if the skin peeling is accompanied by redness, swelling, fever, drainage or discomfort, see a doctor before attempting home treatment.
Step 2: Keep It Hydrated
Each time you bathe or shower, some of your dead skin cells — and patches of peeling skin — will slough off. Not all of this peeling skin falls off easily, however, as the skin underneath needs to fully heal first.
To remove the patches that are ready, spend several minutes in a lukewarm bath or shower, and gently clean skin with a mild cleanser. Avoid long, hot showers or baths, as these can strip the skin of natural oils and cause more dryness and irritation. Pat your skin dry with a towel and avoid rubbing, which can further damage the skin.
Step 3: Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
Generously apply moisturizer to your skin at least twice daily, and within a few minutes of finishing every bath and shower. Not only will this help keep your skin moist, but this practice will reduce irritation and itchiness, and make your peeling skin less noticeable. Many moisturizing creams, ointments, lotions and oils have emollient properties, which rehydrate the top layer of the skin, and reduce water loss through the skin.
Step 4: Manage Underlying Conditions
If your peeling skin is related to eczema, which is an inflammation or irritation of the skin, or psoriasis, a skin condition that causes itchy, scaly skin patches, seek medical advice so you have an effective management strategy. Removal of known triggers or irritating substances, and the use of topical ointments and medications are common ways to manage the symptoms from these conditions.
Reviewed by Kay Peck, MPH RD
- American Academy of Dermatology: Atopic Dermatitis: Diagnosis and Treatment
- American Academy of Dermatology: Dry Skin: Diagnosis and Treatment
- American Academy of Dermatology: How Skin Grows
- Dermatology Research and Practice: Management of Patients with Atopic Dermatitis: The Role of Emollient Therapy
- National Organization for Rare Disorders: Peeling Skin Syndrome