Is this cause for concern?
If the skin on your fingertips is peeling, it likely isn’t cause for concern. This common occurrence is often the result of environmental irritants or other controllable factors.
In some cases, peeling fingertips can result from an underlying condition. If your fingertips aren’t responding to home treatment or your symptoms worsen, see your doctor. They can help determine what’s causing your fingers to peel and recommend options for treatment.
Keep reading to learn more.
Environmental factors are external forces that you may or may not be able to control. Weather is an example of an environmental factor. Although you can’t change the weather, you can control how much you expose yourself to the elements.
Keep reading to learn how environmental factors such as this can affect your skin and what you can do about it.
Oftentimes, dry skin is the cause of peeling fingertips. Dry skin is typically more prevalent during the winter months. You may also be more susceptible to dry skin if you bathe or shower in hot water.
Sometimes, harsh ingredients in soap or other toiletries can cause dryness.
Other symptoms may include:
- red or ashy skin
- skin that feels tight or stretched
Treatment may be as simple as using a gentle soap and following with a hand moisturizer. You should also avoid using hot water to wash your hands.
Excessive handwashing may result in fingertip peeling. Washing your hands with soap frequently can wear away the lipid barrier on your skin’s surface. This can cause the soap to absorb into more sensitive layers of skin, leading to irritation and peeling.
Hot water, neglecting to use a moisturizer on the hands after washing, and using irritating paper towels can also affect the skin.
To keep your fingertips from peeling, make sure to wash your hands only when necessary and to use gentle products. You should only wash your hands when they look dirty, before eating, and after using the bathroom.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be an option for cleaning your hands when there isn’t visible dirt making it necessary to wash them.
Using products with harsh chemicals
Certain chemicals added to moisturizers, soaps, shampoos, and other beauty products may cause skin irritation that results in peeling fingertips.
Common irritants include:
- antibacterial ointments
- preservatives like formaldehyde
- cocamidopropyl betaine
Your body may not react to all of these chemicals. A patch test performed by your doctor may be necessary to determine your body’s reaction to a certain substance.
The best rule of thumb to avoid harsh chemicals is to look for products marketed for sensitive skin. These products typically are typically free of fragrance and other irritants.
Prolonged exposure to the sun may cause you to get a sunburn. Sunburns can cause your skin to feel warm and tender to the touch. Your skin will likely be red or pink in color. Peeling skin is a common symptom a few days after the initial sunburn.
Sunburns can be very bothersome and may take a few days or even a week to heal. During the course of healing, you can treat the burn by applying cold compresses and moisturizer to the affected areas. You may find an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever also helps ease your symptoms.
Regularly wearing and reapplying sunscreen is the only way to avoid sunburn.
Reaction to cold and hot weather
Dry climates and winter temperatures can cause dry, cracked, and peeling skin.
Prevent dry skin by:
- using a humidifier when the heat is on
- using a gentle skin moisturizer or a thick ointment after bathing
- wearing loose-fitting, breathable clothing
- avoiding hot baths and showers
Peeling fingertips can also develop during the summer months. This may be due to excessive sweating or as a result of irritants found in bug sprays and sunscreen.
Finger- or thumb-sucking may be the cause of dry and peeling skin in children. It isn’t unusual for an infant or toddler to suck their thumb. Many children grow out of this habit naturally, while some require a little more intervention.
If your child is sucking on their thumb or fingers to the point where there’s cracking or peeling, talk to their pediatrician. They can guide you on next steps.
Underlying medical conditions
Sometimes, peeling fingertips are a sign of an underlying medical condition. Keep reading to learn which conditions are associated with peeling fingertips.
The skin on your fingertips may peel if you’re allergic to something you’ve come into contact with.
For example, you may be exposed to nickel while wearing inexpensive jewelry. This allergy will cause red and itchy skin. The skin will then blister and finally peel.
Latex allergies are another possibility. The reaction to latex can vary and may cause anaphylactic shock, which requires immediate medical treatment. More mild reactions can result in itching, peeling, and swelling.
If your symptoms worsen or persist for more than a day or two, see your doctor.
Niacin deficiency or vitamin A toxicity
Getting too little or too much of certain vitamins may cause your skin to peel.
Although pellagra typically results from a poor diet, it may also be caused by other underlying conditions. Niacin supplementation is the only way to restore your level of vitamin B-3. Talk to your doctor about whether supplements are safe for you and what dosage to take.
If you’re getting too much vitamin A, it can cause irritated skin and cracked fingernails.
Other symptoms include:
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, see your doctor. They can diagnose what’s causing your symptoms and provide you with guidance on what to do next.
General inflammation on the skin (atopic dermatitis) may also cause hand eczema to develop.
Hand eczema appears as irritated skin that may:
- look red
- be tender to the touch
Although exposure to certain chemicals or substances can cause hand eczema, your genes may also play a role.
It’s important to treat hand eczema by using gentle soaps and other cleansers, avoiding hot water, and moisturizing frequently. If you know what your eczema triggers are, avoid them or wear gloves whenever they must be handled.
If you’ve never experienced these symptoms before, see your doctor. They can make a diagnosis and give you guidance on what to do next.
Peeling on your fingertips may be a symptom of psoriasis. Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that can appear as silvery plaques or other lesions on the skin. There are many available treatments for psoriasis on the hands, such as tar, salicylic acid, corticosteroids, and calcipotriene.
If you’ve already received a psoriasis diagnosis, you should continue with your treatment plan. But if you’ve never experienced symptoms like this before, you should see your doctor. They can determine whether psoriasis is causing your symptoms and work with you on a treatment plan.
Exfoliative keratolysis often occurs in the summer months. This condition can cause blisters, which will eventually peel. This will result in skin that looks red and feels dry and cracked. Irritating soaps and cleansers can cause the condition to get worse.
Although using moisturizer can be beneficial, more advanced skin therapies may be necessary to fully ease your symptoms. Talk to your doctor to learn more about what options are available to you.
Kawasaki disease is a rare condition that primarily affects children under the age of 5. It occurs over the course of several weeks, and symptoms appear in three different stages. The first stage is characterized by a high fever that lasts for five or more days. Peeling fingertips are often characteristic of the middle stage of this condition. Redness and swelling of the palms and soles of the feet usually happen in the late stage.
If your child is experiencing these symptoms, see your doctor for immediate medical attention.
When to see your doctor
There are many reasons your fingertips may be peeling. Mild symptoms may be best treated with time, home remedies, and OTC creams or moisturizers.
See your doctor right away if you’re also experiencing severe symptoms, such as intense pain or difficulty breathing. You may have a serious medical issue that requires immediate treatment.
You should also see your doctor if the peeling doesn’t improve within a week. Your doctor can help determine what’s causing your symptoms and develop an appropriate treatment plan.