Scaling skin is the loss of the outer layer of the epidermis in large, scale-like flakes.

Alternative Names

Desquamation, dropping of scales, exfoliating, flaking skin, peeling skin, scaly skin,


The medical term for scaling skin, desquamation, comes from the Latin desquamare, meaning "to scrape scales off a fish." If you have seen or performed this activity, you understand what scaling skin is. The outer layer of skin becomes dry and flaky and peels away from the body in large pieces with the appearance of scales.

Associated Diagnoses

  • Actinic keratosis
  • Allergic eczema
  • Skin ulcers
  • Athlete’s foot
  • Ingrown toenail
  • Dermatitis
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Hypoparathyroidism
  • Icthyosis vulgaris
  • Ringworm
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Kawasaki disease
  • Seborrheic eczema
  • Allergic reaction
  • Drug reaction
  • Stasis dermatitis
  • Toxic shock syndrome

Find an dermatologist or a rheumatologist near you.


The diagnosis is made based on the appearance of the skin, the history of exposure to any irritating or allergenic substances, and any accompanying symptoms. Treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms and the cause of scaling skin. A referral to a dermatologist may be indicated for specialized treatment.

Call your provider if:

Scaling skin is accompanied by signs of severe allergic reaction (hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, itching), nausea and vomiting, severe weakness, or high fever. If the skin is blistering suddenly or severely, see your doctor.

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