What causes skin on the fingers to peel?

Updated April 17, 2017

Fingers with peeling skin can range from dry and cracked with minor peeling to red, itchy welts. The degree to which your fingers are peeling determines the possible cause.

Dry Skin

A minor condition can simply mean dry skin, which can be caused by dry weather, indoor heating or air-conditioning, frequent bathing in hot water, harsh soaps and detergents and exposure to the sun, according to the Mayo Clinic. For a minor case of dry and peeling fingers, moisturise regularly, bathe less frequently, avoid harsh soaps and detergents, use a humidifier, and exfoliate the dead skin from your fingers regularly before moisturising.


Hand eczema is characterised by itchy, scaly patches that flake, redness, cracking, or a rash with weepy bumps, according to the National Eczema Association. Hand eczema is more common in people who have had previous allergies and whose hands are often wet or exposed to irritating chemicals. Your doctor might prescribe a topical corticosteroid medication, as well as a regimen of washing your hands with a perfume-free cleanser, moisturising with petroleum jelly or perfume-free cream or lotion, and wearing waterproof gloves while washing the dishes or showering.


Psoriasis, a non-contagious, chronic autoimmune disease, manifests on the skin, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. Of the five types--plaque, guttate, inverse, pustular and erythrodermic--plaque is the most common and appears as raised, red patches or lesions covered with a white layer of dead skin. Psoriasis is associated with diabetes, heart disease and depression. While psoriasis has no cure, topical and systemic treatments are available. Work with your doctor to find the best treatment for you.


Erythroderma is a type of psoriasis characterised by an intense and widespread reddening of the skin, according to the New Zealand Dermatological Society, and is often accompanied by exfoliative dermatitis, which is the flaking and peeling of skin. Possible causes include adverse drug reaction, a pre-existing skin disorder such as dermatitis or psoriasis, or a systemic disease such as cancer or HIV infection. Idiopathic erythroderma has no known cause. Erythroderma is treated by determining and treating the underlying cause.


Ichthyosis is a rare condition in which the skin is dry, thick, rough, and scaly, according to DermNet. Most cases are hereditary, appear within the first year of life and are caused by a genetic mutation, which either causes new skin cells to grow too fast or old ones to shed too slowly, resulting in a build-up of dry, scaly skin. Acquired cases are usually associated with a systemic disease, such as underactive thyroid, cancer, HIV infection, or adverse drug reaction. Ichthyosis has no cure. Those afflicted must cleanse and exfoliate their skin daily, as well as moisturise with a prescribed cream or ointment. Severe cases are prescribed oral retinoids, which reduce swelling, or oral antibiotics, to combat secondary infections.

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About the Author

Angela Tung has been writing professionally for more than 15 years, working in such fields as publishing and marketing, with work appearing in "New York Press" and "Carve Magazine." Her YA novel, "Song of the Stranger," was published by Roxbury Park Books. She has a M.A. in creative writing from Boston University and an M.S. in library science from the Pratt Institute.