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Environmental irritants and certain skin conditions can cause your hands to peel. While some causes can be managed with home treatment, others may require medical care.
Peeling skin on a person’s hands is often caused by regular exposure to elements in their environment. It could also indicate an underlying condition.
Read on to find out the different causes of peeling skin on hands and their treatments.
Often you can easily identify and address environmental causes for peeling skin on your hands. Following are several examples.
If your hands have been overexposed to the sun, after a few hours following that exposure, the skin on the back of your hands might look red and be painful or hot to the touch.
A few days later, the top layer of the damaged skin on the back of your hands may start peeling.
Treat sunburn with moisturizers and cold compresses.
Avoid sunburn by applying (and reapplying) a brand of sunscreen that you know doesn’t irritate your skin. It should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
Heat, wind, and high or low humidity can affect the skin on your hands.
For example, the dry air in certain regions can cause the exposed skin on your hands to dry, crack, and peel.
In dry climates or in areas with cold weather, you can prevent dry skin and peeling by:
- using cool or lukewarm water (not hot) when bathing or washing your hands
- moisturizing after bathing
- using a humidifier when heating your home
Chemicals, such as fragrances found in soaps, shampoos, and moisturizers, could irritate the skin on your hands. This may result in skin peeling.
Your skin can also be irritated by antibacterial ingredients and preservatives in certain products.
Other common irritants are harsh chemicals you might be exposing your hands to in the workplace, such as adhesives, detergents, or solvents.
To stop the irritation, you must avoid contact with the irritant. This can often be done by the process of elimination: Stop using specific products or combinations of products until the irritation subsides and doesn’t return.
Washing your hands is a good practice, but overwashing them can result in irritated and peeling skin. Overwashing includes:
- washing too frequently
- using water that is too hot
- using harsh soaps
- drying with rough paper towels
- forgetting to moisturize after washing
To avoid the irritation of overwashing, avoid these practices. Moisturize after washing with a fragrance-free moisturizing cream or even plain petroleum jelly.
Peeling skin on your hands may also be a symptom of an underlying condition.
Irritation that brings on red, itchy bumps and peeling can result from direct contact between the skin on your hand and an allergen (a substance that causes an allergic reaction). This is called allergic contact dermatitis.
Allergens may be found in:
- laundry detergents
- fabric softeners
Allergic contact dermatitis can also be caused by:
- certain metals, such as nickel
- latex gloves
To stop the allergic reaction, you must identify and then avoid the allergen.
For example. if you suspect a nickel allergy may be causing your skin to peel, avoid jewelry and products containing nickel.
Typically affecting young, active adults, exfoliative keratolysis is a skin condition characterized by peeling skin on the palms of the hands and sometimes the soles of the feet.
Typically, the treatment of exfoliative keratolysis includes:
- protection from irritants such as detergents and solvents
- hand creams containing lactic acid or urea
Psoriasis is a chronic skin disorder in which skin cells multiply faster than normal. This results in red plaques, often with scaling and peeling.
If you think you have psoriasis on your hands, see your doctor or dermatologist. They might recommend:
- topical steroids
- topical retinoids
- vitamin D analogues
If the skin peeling on your hands is the result of a controllable environmental element such as over exposure to the sun or overwashing your hands, you can probably take care of it at home by
- using OTC moisturizers
- making behavioral changes
- avoiding irritants
If you aren’t sure of the cause of the skin peeling or if the condition is severe, make an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist before trying home remedies. If you don’t already have a dermatologist, you can browse doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.
You should also see your doctor if you have signs of infection, such as:
If the skin on your hands is peeling, it might be the result of regular exposure to elements in your environment, such as
- excessively low or high humidity
- chemicals in household or workplace items
It could also indicate an underlying condition, such as:
- exfoliative keratolysis
If the condition is severe or you aren’t able to determine the cause of the skin peeling, see your doctor or dermatologist.