Skin Peeling on Hands

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Skin peeling on the hands is typically caused by dry skin or exposure to environmental elements like chemicals or the sun. In other cases, the skin on your hands can peel because of an underlying health condition.

This article discusses the causes, treatments, and possible complications of skin peeling on the hands.

Man moisturizing hands

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Symptoms of Skin Peeling on Hands

Skin peeling off your hands can be a symptom of exposure to chemicals or the environment or be a sign of an underlying health condition. While it can be the main symptom, others may come up along with peeling skin, depending on the cause. Other symptoms you might have with skin peeling on your hands include:

  • Pain or burning skin
  • Itchiness
  • Dryness
  • Rash
  • Swelling
  • Fever or other infection-like symptoms
  • Skin redness

Can You Have Skin Peeling Without Other Symptoms?

Depending on the cause, skin peeling on your hands can be the main and only symptom.

Causes of Skin Peeling on Hands

Many things can cause the skin on your hands to peel, from environmental exposures to specific health conditions.

Environmental Exposure

Environmental exposure that causes the skin on your hands to peel is often easy to fix. Some possible reasons for peeling hands caused by the environment include:

  • Sunburn: A sunburn can cause the skin to get hot and red. It may begin to peel if the burn is bad enough.
  • Temperature and climate: Changing temperatures and living in certain climates can cause the skin on the hands to become dry, which can lead to peeling. Heat, cold, wind, and humidity levels all play a role in skin health.
  • Chemicals: Certain chemicals can irritate the skin on your hands. They can make the skin dry or cause a chemical burn. In some cases, this can lead to skin peeling. 

Over Washing as a Cause of Skin Peeling

While hand washing is important, doing it too often or scrubbing the skin too hard can lead to skin irritation and skin peeling on your hands.

Underlying Health Conditions

Skin peeling on the hands is associated with several medical conditions, including:

  • Acral Peeling Skin Syndrome: A genetic disorder that causes painless skin peeling on both the hands and the feet.
  • Dermatitis: A term used to describe various skin irritations. Dermatitis can be driven by an allergic reaction or a skin health condition such as eczema.
  • Psoriasis: Palmoplantar psoriasis can lead to scaly plaques on the skin of the hands and peeling.
  • Exfoliative keratolysis: Exfoliative keratolysis is a skin condition that causes localized peeling of the skin on the palms of the hands.
  • COVID-19: In rare cases, COVID infections have caused peeling skin on the hands—mainly in children.
  • Group A streptococcal infections: Scarlet fever and impetigo can cause the skin on the fingers and hands to peel.
  • Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). A rare but life-threatening condition caused by bacteria releasing toxins in the body. It is most often associated with the misuse of tampons. One symptom of TSS is a skin rash that causes skin peeling on the palms of the hands. 
  • Kawasaki disease (KD): An inflammatory disease mainly affecting children that can cause the skin to peel on the hands, including the palms.

When Skin Peeling Is Serious

Not all conditions with skin peeling symptoms are severe, but some are. Pay attention to any other signs or symptoms you have along with skin peeling to determine if you need to seek medical care right away or if it can wait until you can book an appointment with your healthcare provider.

What Medications Can Cause Skin Peeling on Hands?

Some medications can lead to skin peeling on the hands because of their skin-drying side effects. For example, some cancer treatments—such as radiation and chemotherapy—can lead to peeling skin.

A condition known as toxic epidermal necrolysis is caused by a reaction to certain medications—mainly antibiotics or anticonvulsants. The reaction can cause the skin on the hands and other parts of the body to peel. Toxic epidermal necrolysis is life-threatening and requires medical care.

Symptoms of Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis To Look Out For

Along with skin peeling, other symptoms of toxic epidermal necrolysis are fever and painful red skin. If you have these symptoms, you need to be assessed by a healthcare provider.

How to Treat Skin Peeling on Hands

To treat skin peeling on the hands, you need to figure out what's causing it. Once you know, your healthcare provider will treat the cause instead of the symptom. The treatments will depend on the cause of your skin peeling.

Environmental Exposure

  • Sunburn: Sunburns do not always require treatment, but you can apply a moisturizing agent to the area—such as aloe vera gel—to reduce pain while it heals. Drink more water to stay hydrated and cover the burned areas of the skin while they are healing to prevent further sun damage.
  • Temperature and Climate: You cannot change where you live. However, if you live in a climate that causes dry skin, regular moisturizing—especially after hand washing—will help prevent dryness and skin peeling. Applying petroleum jelly on the hands before bedtime might also help.
  • Chemicals: Different chemical exposures require different treatments. In some cases, simply removing the irritant is enough. However, others require immediate medical care. If you have a chemical burn, call 911.

Chemical Burns First Aid

While waiting for medical attention, remove all clothing that the chemical has touched. You can also rinse the area with clean water, but avoid rubbing or wiping the area.

Underlying Health Conditions

Treatments for peeling skin caused by underlying health conditions can include:

  • Acral Peeling Skin Syndrome: There is no cure for acral peeling skin syndrome. Management of the disease involves medications like steroids, keratolytics, antihistamines, and emollients.
  • Dermatitis: Some types of dermatitis can be treated with hydrocortisone cream, while others can heal on their own by avoiding contact with irritants.
  • Psoriasis: There is no cure for psoriasis and treatments are for managing the symptoms of the condition. Psoriasis can be treated and managed with glucocorticoids (anti-inflammatory medications), vitamin D analogs, and phototherapy.
  • Exfoliative keratolysis: Using hand creams containing urea, silicone, or lactic acid can help manage the symptoms of the condition. Some people find phototherapy helpful.
  • COVID-19: There is no single treatment for COVID, but symptom management can often be done while the body fights off the virus.
  • Group A streptococcal infections: The primary treatment for these infections is antibiotics.
  • Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS): Antibiotics are typically used to treat a TSS infection. In more severe cases, people may be able to get purified antibodies from people who have donated their blood.  
  • Kawasaki disease (KD): The main treatments for the disease are aspirin and antibodies that healthy people have donated. The antibodies are put directly into the bloodstream via IV and given to a person while they are admitted to the hospital for treatment.

Getting the Right Treatment

Skin peeling on your hands that's from an underlying disorder requires treatment. To get the right treatment, see your healthcare provider to get the right diagnosis.

Complications and Risk Factors of Skin Peeling on Hands

Depending on the cause, various complications can occur because of skin peeling on the hands. Skin peeling caused by non-severe conditions can lead to infection when the skin becomes raw, cracked, or bleeds. Bacteria and other pathogens can enter the bloodstream through the hands.

In more severe conditions such as toxic shock syndrome, the complications can be serious. That is why it is important to call your provider if you have skin peeling on your hands and other symptoms.

Are There Tests to Diagnose Skin Peeling on Hands?

Diagnosing skin peeling on the hands will be done through a visual examination. Your healthcare provider will also ask you about any other symptoms you have along with the skin peeling.

Since there are many possible causes, it can be hard to figure out what is causing your hands to peel with just one test. Your provider may want to do these tests to figure out what is causing the skin on your hands to peel:

The Difficulty of Diagnosing Skin Peeling

The process of getting a diagnosis for skin peeling on your hands may take some time. That said, severe conditions such as TSS, KD, and COVID-19 are typically easier to diagnose because the symptoms can be severe enough to require hospitalization.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you notice that the skin on your hands is peeling and you are not sure why you could try treating it at home with moisturizers and avoiding certain chemicals or irritants. If the skin peeling is not the only symptom you’re having, contact your healthcare provider. They can help you determine if you can wait and make an appointment with them, or if you need emergency medical care.

Along with skin peeling, these signs could alert you that you need to call your provider:

  • Fever
  • Pain that does not get better or is excruciating
  • Any signs of infection such as pus

Treating Skin Peeling At Home

Many causes of skin peeling are mild, but it's better to be safe and check in with your provider. You might be able to do a telehealth appointment first to see if they need to see the peeling on your hands in person or if you can start at-home treatments before getting medical care.


Skin peeling on your hands can be harmless and related to the weather or simply overwashing your hands. However, it can also be caused by a more severe health condition that requires treatment. Other symptoms that may come along with skin peeling include redness, irritation, itchiness, or pain. These symptoms do not necessarily mean that something serious is wrong, but they could have a negative effect on your daily life.

If you notice skin peeling along with other symptoms, such as pain that does not get better or a fever, contact your healthcare provider for advice. You might be able to treat the symptoms at home, but you may need to see your provider in person to figure out what is wrong.

A Word from Verywell

When the skin on your hands peels, it can be alarming and distressing. However, it's not always a cause for concern. There are many health conditions associated with skin peeling on the hands. Many of them are not a threat to your overall health. The best thing you can do if you notice skin peeling on your hands is to moisturize your skin and drink plenty of water. If you have other symptoms like fever, contact your healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes the skin on your hands to peel?

    There are many causes of skin peeling on the hands ranging from harmless dry skin to more severe conditions such as toxic shock syndrome. Each condition may come with other symptoms on top of the peeling skin. It's essential to pay attention to how your body feels when you notice skin peeling and tell your provider if you have other symptoms, like a fever.

  • Can you die from skin peeling on your hands?

    While the skin on your hands peeling will not be directly life-threatening, it can be a sign of a more severe health problem. For example, toxic shock syndrome (TSS) can cause your skin to peel and can have severe health consequences if it's not treated. That said, TSS is rare. Most skin peeling on the hands is not caused by a serious condition.

  • Is skin peeling on hands a sign of COVID-19?

    There are many symptoms of COVID-19. Skin peeling on the hands can be one of them, although it's rare and has mostly been seen in kids.

17 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Angelica Bottaro
Angelica Bottaro is a professional freelance writer with over 5 years of experience. She has been educated in both psychology and journalism, and her dual education has given her the research and writing skills needed to deliver sound and engaging content in the health space.