While neither pleasant or pretty, it’s completely normal for the skin on your fingertips to start peeling. In fact, controllable forces are often to blame (we are washing our hands a lot these days).
But, peeling fingertips can sometimes be a sign of a more serious or underlying condition. If you find that your symptoms are getting worse or your home remedies aren’t working, it’s time to call the doctor to discuss causes and treatment options.
What’s an environmental factor, you ask? It’s an outside force, like the weather. We can’t control it, but we can determine how we respond to it.
When it comes to our skin, environmental factors that can have an impact include:
Dry skin can equal peeling skin, including on your hands and fingertips. Dry skin is more likely to occur during the winter or if you shower on the reg with hot water. Dry skin can also be caused by the harsh ingredients found in some soaps, lotions, or other body products.
To treat dry skin, avoid using hot water when you wash your hands and try using a gentle soap, followed by a hand moisturizer.
It’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Frequent hand washing may keep COVID-19 at bay, but it’s harsh on your skin’s lipid barrier — your skin’s equivalent to The Wall in Game of Thrones.
When this barrier starts to wear away, it leaves the sensitive skin below exposed and vulnerable to irritation and peeling (and White Walkers).
Keep your skin barrier safe by only washing your hands when it’s necessary for hygiene or health. Use gentle soaps without harsh chemicals and stick to cool or lukewarm (not hot) water. Be sure to use a soft cloth or towel to pat dry and moisturize, moisturize, moisturize after washing.
Hot and cold weather
Both hot and cold weather can have a negative impact on your skin.
Dry, peeling skin can be caused by colder temps and dry climates. To limit the effects, try:
- wearing clothes that are breathable or loose-fitting
- using a humidifier to combat dry air
- taking showers and baths with cool or warm water, not hot
- applying gentle moisturizers or barrier creams after your shower or bath
Don’t let summer’s sunny disposition fool you. Excessive sweating or chemicals found in sunscreens and bug sprays can lead to irritated, peeling skin.
Sunburn can give you that pink, red lobster je nais se quoi, while making your skin warm or sensitive to contact. It may even hurt. Another not-so-fun effect of sunburn is skin peeling, which can occur a few days into the healing process.
Using a cold compress or lotion on your sunburnt bits can help ease discomfort, or you can try taking an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever. Your sunburn should heal within a week’s time. Should it take longer, it might be time to see your healthcare provider.
To beat the burn before it begins, limit sun exposure and make a habit of wearing sunscreen and reapplying as often as needed.
Products with harsh chemicals
Some beauty products contain chemicals and ingredients that can irritate your skin and cause peeling fingertips. These include:
- preservatives (like formaldehyde)
- cocamidopropyl betaine
- antibacterial ointments
Try switching to products made for sensitive skin — these are often gentler and don’t contain harsh irritants.
Not sure if your favorite lotion or shampoo is betraying you? Talk to your doctor. They can perform a patch test to determine if one or several of these (or other) chemicals may be causing irritation.
And always be sure to wear gloves when handling harsh cleaning products in your home. Being tough on dirt and grime, means they’re also tough on your skin!
Finger or thumb sucking
The old adage about small children putting anything and everything in their mouths is true — including fingers.
Too much finger or thumb sucking, can lead to skin cracking or peeling. If this comforting habit is becoming a problem for you or your child, it’s a good idea to have a chat with your pediatrician or try some of these helpful tips.
Peeling fingertips can also indicate an underlying medical condition, such as:
Ah, allergies. They aren’t just seasonal. Coming into contact with something you’re allergic to may cause a reaction. These can range in severity.
A latex allergy, can cause itching, peeling, or even swelling. In more severe cases, latex exposure can cause anaphylactic shock. If you begin to experience anaphylaxis, call 911 or seek medical care ASAP.
Certain metals in jewelry can also cause a skin reaction. Aside from leaving a lovely green band around your finger, a ring containing nickel may trigger an allergy. Your skin may get red, itchy, and may blister and peel.
If symptoms worsen or last more than a couple days, it’s time to talk to your doctor.
When you come into contact with an allergen, you may also develop a rash known as contact dermatitis. Symptoms may appear immediately, or they can pop up a few days later.
Along with the red, itchy rash, other symptoms include:
- scaly or cracked skin
If you find the rash is hurting your sleep, or if it’s particularly large, or located on your face or nether bits, it’s best to call your doctor.
Hand eczema can be a result of atopic dermatitis caused by contact with certain substances or good ole genetics.
Along with causing general irritation and discomfort, hand eczema can also make your skin:
If you know what triggers your eczema — great! Avoiding those triggers should keep the itching and peeling away. If you don’t, make an appointment with your doctor or allergist to get to the root of the cause.
No matter the trigger, treat your skin with care: Use gentle soaps, avoid hot water, and moisturize often!
On top of making your skin feel like it’s burning, this condition causes fluid-filled blisters to form on the sides of your fingers and palms of your hands. Blisters may also develop on the soles of your feet and can take several weeks to heal.
The cause of dyshidrotic eczema is unknown. But, you’re at a higher risk if you:
- are in your 20s, 30s, or 40s
- already have eczema
- have allergies
- sweat a lot
- are a smoker
- are exposed to an irritant
Dyshidrotic eczema is a long-term condition, and symptoms can occur again over time. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing symptoms. They can make a diagnosis and determine treatment options, such as:
- oral steroids
- anti-inflammatory ointments
Peeling fingertips can also be a sign psoriasis, a chronic skin condition that presents as silvery plaques or skin lesions.
If you suspect psoriasis is a possible cause, you’ll need to see a doctor for personalized care. Psoriasis is often treated with:
- salicylic acid
- tar soap
Exfoliative keratolysis (say that 10x fast!) is a condition that can cause blisters. These blisters will eventually peel, causing skin to become red, dry, and cracked.
If you experience exfoliative keratolysis, avoid harsh soaps and other cleansers, as they may worsen your symptoms. Moisturizer can help, but it’s best to talk to your doctor to discuss your options.
Acral peeling skin syndrome
Acral peeling skin syndrome is a rare condition that usually begins at birth or in early childhood.
This disorder causes the top layer of your skin to peel, most often on the hands and feet. While the peeling is painless, the exposed layer of skin can become red and itchy.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for acral peeling skin syndrome, but remedies, such as emollients, can be used to help prevent skin damage and reduce peeling.
Niacin deficiency or vitamin A toxicity
Sometimes peeling skin is your body’s way of telling you that you’re getting too much or too little of something in your diet.
Low levels of vitamin B-3 — or niacin — can lead to a condition called pellagra. Pellagra can cause dermatitis, diarrhea, or even dementia. Taking niacin supplements can boost vitamin B-3 levels. It’s always important to discuss proper dosage and supplement type with your doctor first.
On the flip side, high levels of vitamin A can also cause irritation. Aside from cracked fingernails or peeling skin, too much vitamin A can lead to:
Kawasaki disease is rare and generally impacts kids under 5 years of age. It occurs in three stages over several weeks.
A high fever lasting 5 or more days generally represents the first stage. The second stage often includes skin peeling, including the fingertips. In the final stage, the palms and soles of the feet will likely experience redness and swelling.
See your doctor right away if your child exhibits these symptoms.
Peeling on your fingertips is often the result of environmental factors and can be treated with simple OTC products or pain relievers, home remedies, or by switching out harsh beauty products for gentler versions (we’re looking at you, scented soaps and lotions!).
Time is also a great remedy, and you may need to just wait it out. If the peeling doesn’t show signs of improvement within a week or it gets worse, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor.
It’s also critical to see your doctor if symptoms become severe, as this may be a sign of a more serious condition.