If the skin on your hand is peeling, it's a sign something's not right. Either this skin was damaged, or -- less commonly -- it's a sign of a drug reaction or an underlying health problem. The symptoms that accompany the peeling will help you or your doctor figure out the cause. Read on to sort through some of the conditions that lead to peeling skin on the hands.
Many environmental factors can lead to skin damage, either via burns, irritation or allergies. Sunburn, for instance, commonly causes skin peeling as the burn heals. Contact dermatitis of the hand, caused by allergens or irritants, can also lead to peeling as the new skin cells grow underneath the damaged, dead skin. Often called eczema, dermatitis can affect hands that are submersed in water frequently, exposed to sweaty or wet conditions inside gloves, and from allergy or irritation caused by detergents, cleaning products, cement, solvents or other harsh chemicals. Symptoms of dermatitis are varied, but often include an itchy rash with scaly, red and swollen skin.
Skin infections on the hand can also lead to skin peeling. Tinea manuum, or ringworm, is a fungal infection that can affect one or both hands, and is characterized by an inflamed rash that often has raised borders. It frequently causes peeling and mild itching on the palm. Other fungal or bacterial infections of the skin can also lead to skin peeling, along with redness, warmth, and pain -- although most of these do not exclusively affect the hands.
Other Skin Conditions
Psoriasis is a common skin condition which can occur on the fingers, palm or other areas of the hand. This inflammatory disorder affects the life cycle of skin cells, causing cells build up rapidly on the surface of the skin, and leading to scaly, red, dry, itchy skin. Another skin condition that can cause the skin on the hands to peel is exfoliative keratolysis, which is characterized by air-filled blisters and peeling skin on the hands, fingers and feet. This condition is more common in hot weather or with excessive sweating or friction.
Less commonly, peeling skin can be related to more serious medical conditions or medication side effects, however is most of these conditions the peeling is not typically limited to the hands. If you have skin peeling for an unknown reason, if the peeling is not resolving with home care or if your symptoms are worsening, see your doctor. Also see your doctor right away if you have any signs of infection, such as redness, pus, warmth or pain.
Reviewed by Kay Peck, MPH RD