Peeling fingertips usually aren’t a cause for concern. This often results from environmental irritants or causes like dry skin. Sometimes, however, peeling fingertips be caused by an underlying condition.
If your peeling fingertips aren’t responding to home treatment or your symptoms worsen, see a doctor.
They can help determine what’s causing the skin on your fingers to peel and recommend options for treatment.
The following images show what peeling skin on the fingertips could look like in light and dark skin tones. Keep reading to learn more about what can cause it and how you can prevent or treat it.
Environmental factors are external forces 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.
Some such environmental factors can contribute to peeling fingertips. These include:
Dry or sweaty skin
Oftentimes, dry skin is the cause of peeling fingertips. It’s 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:
Other times peeling fingertips can also develop during the summer months due to excessive sweating.
You can prevent dry skin by:
- using a humidifier when the heat is on
- wearing loose-fitting, breathable clothing
The treatment for dry skin may be as simple as using a gentle soap and following with a hand moisturizer.
To treat peeling skin caused by dry or humid weather conditions:
- use a gentle skin moisturizer or a thick ointment after bathing
- avoid hot baths and showers
Instead of lotion, the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA) recommends using an ointment or cream that contains ingredients like jojoba oil, dimethicone, or glycerin.
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.
This type of reaction
Hot water, neglecting to use a moisturizer on the hands after washing, and using irritating paper towels can also affect your skin.
To keep your fingertips from peeling, make sure to wash your hands with gentle products.
However, do not refrain from washing your hands because they are peeling. Handwashing is the most effective way to reduce the spread of germs, such as the influenza virus or SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.
According to the
- before and after eating
- before, during, and after preparing food
- after touching garbage
- after sneezing, blowing your nose, or coughing
- after touching an animal, animal food, or animal feces
- after using the bathroom
Just make sure to use moisturizer after washing them.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be an option for cleaning your hands when there isn’t visible dirt making it necessary to wash them. That said, alcohol can dry out the skin, which might not be a good option if you want to prevent peeling fingertips.
That said, while hand hygiene is important for preventing the spread of germs, there are cases when handwashing can become obsessive and interfere with your daily life. If you feel like this might be your situation, then you may want to talk with your doctor. You may be displaying signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Prolonged exposure to the sun may cause you to get sunburn. Sunburns can cause your skin to feel warm and tender to the touch. Your skin will likely be discolored. 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. Regularly wearing and reapplying sunscreen is the only way to avoid sunburn.
In rare cases, your fingertips could also itch and peel several days after the surrounding hand area was sunburnt. This is called Hell’s itch.
During the course of healing, you can treat sunburn by applying cold compresses and moisturizer to the affected areas.
You may find that an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) also helps ease your symptoms.
In cases of Hell’s itch, you may be treated with benzodiazepines and antihistamines, but due to the rarity of this condition, there isn’t a lot of literature on the treatments.
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 with a pediatrician. They can guide you on the next steps.
Sometimes, peeling fingertips are a sign of an underlying medical condition. Keep reading to learn which conditions are associated with peeling fingertips.
Certain chemicals added to moisturizers, soaps, shampoos, and other beauty products may cause skin irritation that results in peeling fingertips. This is known as contact dermatitis.
- antibacterial ointments
- preservatives like formaldehyde
- cocamidopropyl betaine
Your body may not react to all of these chemicals. A patch test performed by a 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 are typically free of fragrance and other irritants.
If you visit a dermatologist, they can also generate a list of safe products for you to use based on a database by the American Contact Dermatitis Society (ACDS).
You can also look for products that are safe for conditions like eczema on the website of the National Eczema Association (NEA).
The skin on your fingertips may also peel if you’re allergic to something.
For example, you may be exposed to nickel while wearing inexpensive jewelry. This allergy will cause discolored 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.
Other allergies that can cause peeling fingertips include:
- acrylic in artificial nails
- foods or plants
- certain medications
If your symptoms worsen or persist for more than a day or two, see a doctor.
The treatment depends on the type of allergy.
In general, you should avoid touching or wearing items on your hands that may trigger your allergies, such as inexpensive jewelry or latex gloves.
You should also use protective gloves when doing any activity that might expose you to an allergen. You can use a moisturizer or zinc-based ointment to relieve irritated areas.
In some cases, you may need to use medicated ointments such as hydrocortisone or calcineurin inhibitors such as tacrolimus (Astagraf XL, Envarsus XR, Prograf, Protopic).
Niacin deficiency or vitamin A toxicity
Getting too little or too much of certain vitamins may cause your skin to peel, including on the fingertips.
Pellagra is a condition that results from a lack of vitamin B-3 (niacin) in the diet. It can lead to dermatitis, as well as diarrhea, and even dementia.
Although pellagra typically results from a poor diet, it
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 a doctor. They can diagnose what’s causing your symptoms and provide you with guidance on what to do next.
For a niacin deficiency, niacin supplementation is the only way to restore your level of vitamin B-3. Talk with a doctor about whether supplements are safe for you and how much to take.
The dry skin and other symptoms associated with vitamin A toxicity usually go away about 1 to 4 weeks after you stop taking high-dose vitamin A supplements.
General inflammation on the skin (atopic dermatitis) may also cause hand eczema to develop.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, appears as irritated skin that may:
- look discolored
- be tender to the touch
Although exposure to certain chemicals or substances can cause hand eczema, your genes may also play a role.
If you’ve never experienced these symptoms before, see a doctor. They can make a diagnosis and give you guidance on what to do next.
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.
Peeling on your fingertips may be a symptom of psoriasis, a chronic skin condition that can appear as silvery plaques or other lesions on the skin.
If you’ve never experienced symptoms like this before, you should see a doctor. They can determine whether psoriasis is causing your symptoms and work with you on a treatment plan.
There are many available treatments for psoriasis on the hands, such as:
If you’ve already received a psoriasis diagnosis, you should continue with your 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 discolored and feels dry and cracked.
Irritating soaps and cleansers can cause the condition to get worse.
Corticostreoids do not improve the peeling skin caused by exfoliative keratolysis. Instead, emollient hand lotions may help.
Other treatments include oral retinoid acitretin (Soriatane) or a type of phototherapy called photochemotherapy, which exposes the skin to ultraviolet radiation.
Talk with a 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 5 or more days. In the middle stage, swelling and peeling of the skin on the hands could lead to peeling fingertips. Discoloration and swelling of the palms and soles of the feet usually happen in the late stage.
If your child is experiencing these symptoms, to prevent heart damage, see a doctor for immediate medical attention.
Kawasaki disease is mainly treated with aspirin and antibodies (intravenous immunoglobulin or IVIG).
Although aspirin is not recommended for children under 16 years of age because it increases the risk of Reye’s syndrome, a doctor may prescribe it for a child to relieve the pain, fever, and inflammation associated with Kawasaki disease.
To reduce the risk of heart problems and help fight the disease, IVIG may be injected into a vein. A child’s symptoms will usually improve within 36 hours after this treatment. If the fever isn’t reduced, a second dose of IVIG may be administered.
Acral peeling skin syndrome
Acral peeling skin syndrome is a rare genetic condition that may cause peeling fingertips. It doesn’t have a cure, but the symptoms are usually mild.
In addition to peeling skin, you may also experience some redness and itchiness. Symptoms tend to flare up if you’re exposed to humidity or experience skin trauma like a cut.
Acral peeling skin syndrome doesn’t require treatment unless you develop blistering, which can be treated by a doctor to prevent an infection. Using a moisturizer on your skin can also help.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease
Hand foot and mouth disease is a viral illness that can
More commonly, it causes a rash on the body, as well as painful blisters in the mouth and throat that can make it hard to eat and drink.
Since it is a viral illness, hand, foot, and mount disease usually goes away within
If it causes fever, an over-the-counter fever reducer like Tylenol can help. Drinking plenty of liquids is also important for staying hydrated.
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 a 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 a doctor if the peeling doesn’t improve within a week. A doctor can help determine what’s causing your symptoms and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
The following are the answers to some common questions about peeling fingers.
How do I fix the peeling skin on my fingers?
Using a moisturizer may help trap the moisture on your fingers and reduce peeling.
Don’t wash your hands more often than necessary. Avoid using hot water and soaps, or other products that contain harsh chemicals.
Using sunscreen may help prevent sunburn and subsequent skin peeling.
What disease causes fingers to peel?
Skin conditions such as hand eczema, dyshidrotic eczema, or psoriasis may cause your fingers to peel.
Kawasaki disease, which is rare but serious and affects children younger than 5 years old, may also cause peeling, as well as hand, foot, and mouth disease.
Why are my fingers peeling all of a sudden?
Sudden finger peeling may be due to various reasons, such as contact with chemicals or an allergen or weather conditions, such as low humidity.
Ongoing finger peeling may result from a skin condition like hand eczema or psoriasis.
Why are my fingers peeling in the summer?
When the weather is hot, your hands may sweat more, which may irritate your skin and cause peeling.
Peeling fingers during the summertime may also be the result of a sunburn. Your body sheds the damaged skin as the sunburn heals.