Seeing skin peeling on your fingers can be alarming. If itching, burning or pain accompanies this symptom, it could be caused by an allergy or common skin condition like eczema. If peeling is the only symptom, it’s possible that finger sucking or spending too much time in water is the cause. If the problem persists for several days or is chronic, a dermatologist can diagnose the condition and prescribe a treatment or medication.
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Peeling skin on digits is not uncommon to see on babies and toddlers who self-soothe with finger sucking, according to Alan Rockoff, a dermatologist from Brookline, Massachusetts. For children who have this condition, the skin will begin peeling from the top of the finger to about halfway down—typically the part of the finger that spends the most time in the child’s moist mouth. The condition will clear once the child stops sucking his finger, but until then, it could be a recurring problem. The child, however, most likely feels no discomfort.
Not to be confused with irritants like solvents and detergents, allergens are items that do not typically produce a reaction in most other people. Nickel from jewelry is one known allergen that can irritate skin and cause peeling. Latex (rubber products) is another common skin allergen. People allergic to latex should avoid rubber gloves and even some shoes.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) describes eczema as “the itch that rashes.” It is characterized by peeling, patchy, red, scaly skin. Hand eczema can be caused by chemical irritants, trauma and handling paper. For those who have chronic hand eczema, doing these things can exacerbate their condition and the likelihood of developing other skin problems is increased.
It can take months for hand eczema to clear and it is not unusual for it to interfere with normal activities. The AAD recommends protecting hands against soaps and cleansers and wear gloves in cold weather. A dermatologist can recommend a product to keep hands moisturized.
Keratosis pilaris is an inherited condition that affects about 40 percent of Americans, according to the AAD. Skin can develop a texture like sandpaper and can be itchy during cold weather and in climates with low humidity, like Arizona. The AAD recommends using ointments containing lactic acid or urea, or using topical retinoids. The online Keratosis Pilaris Community reports that treatments as varied as sun tanning, laser treatments and avoiding certain foods can clear a flare-up.