What Causes the Skin to Peel From Fingertips?

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.

Peeling skin can make hands unattractive. (Image: Zhenikeyev/iStock/GettyImages)

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.

Finger Sucking

Peeling skin on fingers 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.

Allergies

Not to be confused with irritants like solvents and detergents, allergens are items that do not typically produce a reaction in most other people. According to the Mayo Clinic, nickel (often from costume jewelry) is one known allergen that can cause contact dermatitis; irritated skin that can begin peeling.

Latex (commonly used in surgical gloves) is another common skin allergen. People allergic to latex should avoid latex gloves and other products that contain this substance.

Eczema

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 may take months for eczema on the hands to clear, and it isn't unusual for this condition to interfere with normal activities. To prevent eczema on the hands, the AAD suggests protecting the hands from harsh soaps and cleansers and also wearing gloves in cold weather. Using a hand moisturizer regularly may be another way to keep peeling under control.

Keratosis Pilaris

According to the AAD, keratosis pilaris is an inherited condition that may affect up to 40 percent of Americans. With keratosis pilaris, the skin may develop a rough, sandpaper-like texture and can become itchy during cold weather and in climates with very low humidity.

The AAD also recommends using ointments containing lactic acid or urea, or using topical retinoids to treat these symptoms. The online Keratosis Pilaris Community reports that treatments as varied as sun tanning, laser treatments and avoiding certain foods can clear a flare-up.

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