CausesBy Mayo Clinic staff
Your skin is exposed constantly to environmental elements, such as sun, wind, heat, dryness or excessive humidity, that can irritate and damage it. Repeated irritation can lead to skin peeling.
Less frequently, skin peeling — often accompanied by itching — results from a disease or condition, which may start someplace other than your skin. Sometimes, reaction to a medication can cause skin peeling. Conditions that may cause skin peeling include:
- Allergic reactions. You can develop a rash on your skin and eventually peel from repeated contact with something to which you're allergic, such as certain fabrics, latex, detergents or cosmetics. Less commonly, a food to which you're allergic may lead to skin peeling.
- Infections. Some types of staph and other infections plus fungal infections, including ringworm, athlete's foot and jock itch, can cause the skin to peel.
- Immune system disorders. Certain conditions — such as a group of rare skin disorders (pemphigus) and toxic shock syndrome — can cause skin to peel.
- Certain types of cancer. Some types of cancer, such as adult non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, can cause a skin rash that can eventually lead to peeling skin. Some cancer treatments also can affect the skin in ways that lead to peeling.
Specific diseases and conditions that can cause peeling skin include:
- Athlete's foot
- Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
- Contact dermatitis
- Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
- Dry skin
- Jock itch
- Kawasaki disease
- Ringworm (body)
- Ringworm (scalp)
- Scarlet fever
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Side effect of medications
- Staph infections
- Stevens-Johnson syndrome
- Toxic shock syndrome
Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.
- Hand and foot dermatitis. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec10/ch114/ch114e.html. Accessed Jan. 25, 2010.
- Habif T. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010.
- Atopic dermatitis. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec10/ch114/ch114b.html. Accessed Jan. 25, 2010.
- Exfoliative dermatitis. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec10/ch114/ch114d.html. Accessed Jan. 25, 2010.
- Tips to remember: Allergic skin conditions. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. http://www.aaaai.org/patients/publicedmat/tips/allergicskinconditions.stm. Accessed Feb. 11, 2010.
- General information about mycosis fungoides and the Sézary syndrome. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/mycosisfungoides. Accessed Feb. 11, 2010.
- Karakayli G, et al. Exfoliative dermatitis. American Family Physician. 1999;59:625.
- Information from your family doctor: What can I do for dry, itchy skin? American Family Physician. 2003;68:1145.
- Dermatophytoses. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec10/ch120/ch120c.html. Accessed Jan. 28, 2010.
- Harnden A, et al. Kawasaki disease. British Medical Journal. 2009;338:b1514.
- Streptococcal and enterococcal infections. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec14/ch171/ch171d.html. Accessed Jan. 28, 2010.
- Schwartz RA. Seborrheic dermatitis: An overview. American Family Physician. 2006;74:125.
- Painter D, et al. Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome. Emergency Nurse. 2007;14:20.
- Parrillo SJ. Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis. Current Allergy and Asthma Reports. 2007;7:243.
- Sunburn. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec10/ch115/ch115d.html. Accessed Jan. 25, 2010.