Flaky skin, also known as scabs, occurs when the outermost layer of skin is shed as the skin heals. It can be caused by external events, such as a burn, or internal causes, such as a reaction to medication or an autoimmune disease.
In some cases, treatment may be simple and include over-the-counter (OTC) or at-home self-treatment. Flaky skin can also be a sign of an underlying health condition that needs to be treated.
Causes of peeling skin
When the skin is peeled, it is usually part of the healing process after the injury. There are different causes of this damage, including:
- Sunburn: This is the most common type of burn and it is caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning beds.
- Skin irritation: Skin irritation can occur when the skin is chapped or rubbed with other skin, clothing, or footwear for long periods of time.
- Chemical burns: Household cleaners and some beauty products can lead to chemical burns that can strip the skin.
- Heat burns: Thermal burns occur when the skin comes into direct contact with hot liquids, hot surfaces, or flames.
- Acne treatments: Some types of acne treatments, such as those containing retinoids, can cause skin to peel.
- Chemical mask: Chemical peels with retinol help treat scars or wrinkles by causing the upper layer of skin to slough off.
- Eczema: Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema can cause the skin to become red and flaky. Another type of eczema called atopic eczema can cause blisters and scabs on different parts of the body.
- Edema: Edema is swelling of the skin that can arise if a person has a blood clot or is suffering from heart failure. As the skin reduces swelling, the top layer of skin peels off.
- Radiation and chemotherapy: These cancer treatments can lead to peeling skin.
- Contact dermatitis: In some cases, exposure to certain allergens or irritants, such as perfumes, or prolonged exposure to water can cause the skin to peel. Exposure to cold and dry air can also cause peeling.
- Staphylococcal burn skin syndrome: This infectious disease is caused by different strains of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria and can cause skin to peel.
- Toxic shock syndrome: Toxic shock syndrome is a life-threatening bacterial infection that occurs when specific pathogens enter the body and release toxins.
- Skin peeling syndrome: This condition is considered an inherited disorder and causes flaky skin all over the body or just on the hands and feet.
- Viral infection: Various viral infections such as measles and mono can cause a rash.
When to see a doctor?
Flaky skin isn’t always serious, but it can happen. Symptoms that should prompt you to see a doctor include:
- Fever and chills
- Swelling or pain on the skin
- Confusion or disorientation
- Shortness of breath or shortness of breath
- Blisters or rash
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Change of vision
- Pain in your joints
Deal with the basic conditions first
If your skin is peeling for no apparent reason, see your doctor to help rule out serious health conditions.
The medical condition that causes peeling skin should be treated first before trying remedies that could be harmful. For example, there is no cure for peeling skin syndrome, and using home remedies can make peeling even worse.
How to get rid of flaky skin?
Getting rid of flaky skin depends on what’s causing it. For example, if your skin is peeling after a sunburn, the best thing you can do is leave it alone. If the wound is superficial and not serious, there are a few things you can do to help the skin heal.
Pat skin dry after bathing
After showering, pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it. This is because vigorous rubbing with a towel can make peeling skin worse. It can also dry out the skin further, causing it to become more flaky.
Keep enough water
Drinking enough water can help keep your skin hydrated, which can reduce overall flaking. When the skin is not dry, the skin is less likely to peel after the skin has been damaged.
As soon as you get out of the bath or shower, the water on your skin starts to evaporate and your skin dries out. This is why you should apply moisturizer right after you shower, while your skin is still damp. This will help lock in moisture and keep your skin from drying out. Since dry skin can cause the damaged area to flake even more, it’s important that you stay as hydrated as possible.
Use a gentle exfoliator
In some cases, gentle exfoliation can help remove dead skin cells that are sloughing off. However, do not do so on sunburned skin as it can make the burn worse and prolong healing.
Try a Humidifier
Using a humidifier can help with mild flaking if dry skin is the cause. This is because humidifiers add moisture back into the air, which can help relieve skin dryness.
Flaky skin is a sign that your skin is healing from damage. Damage can be the result of external or internal factors. Peeling skin caused by external factors such as sunburn will usually heal on its own without intervention, but flaky skin caused by an underlying condition needs to be seen and treated by a doctor.
A very good word
Flaky skin can be unsightly and uncomfortable to deal with, but it’s usually not a sign of a serious condition. The good news is that if the skin peels from a sunburn, it will heal on its own.
For people who experience peeling skin due to an underlying health condition, prompt diagnosis and treatment are critical to recovery. Many conditions that can cause peeling skin will also present with other symptoms. A health care professional will be able to assess the cause and help you feel better.
frequently asked Questions
Can COVID cause peeling skin?
In children, COVID-19 has been associated with cases where the skin of the hands and feet begins to peel. This is a rare symptom and seems to be most common in children with mild COVID.
Why are my feet peeling?
One of the most common causes of flaky feet is tinea pedis, a fungal condition that grows on the skin, causing cracked, flaky skin. Tinea capitis can be cured with over-the-counter and prescription treatments. However, there are other causes of skin flaking and rashes on the feet. Talk to your healthcare provider about any unusual changes in your skin.
How can I prevent a peeling sunburn?
Your body needs to shed the damaged skin, so you can’t stop the flaking, but you can ease the pain and help the skin heal. Moisturize the area with aloe vera or a soy-based moisturizer. Avoid products made for oily or greasy skin that will make sunburn worse. Drink enough water and take ibuprofen or aspirin for pain relief.
How can I stop peeling skin from psoriasis?
Different treatments work for different people. Moisturizing home remedies you can try include tea tree oil, coconut oil, or aloe vera products. Soaking in a tub with colloidal oatmeal, Dead Sea salt, or a bath with baking soda can also help. Wearing soft fabrics can soothe skin irritation and reduce flaking.
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