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  5. Peeling Skin on Face: Common Causes and Treatment Options

You wake up one fine morning after a good night’s sleep and suddenly notice that your face’s skin is peeling. What do you do? Ignore it thinking that it’s just dry skin or the weather’s playing spoilsport? And, then you apply make-up to cover it!

Well, peeling of facial skin can certainly be attributed to the weather or chemical exfoliation in many cases. But ignoring this problem for too long can be dangerous in the long run as skin peeling could also be the result of an underlying condition. We tell you what the possible causes could be and how you can have them treated.

What Causes Peeling On The Face?

When the skin starts peeling, it is a sign that damaged cells are being repaired and the dead skin makes way for the new skin. It can also be itchy at times.

There can be several reasons why the skin on the face peels. One of the main causes is dry skin (also called xerosis, xerosis cutis or xeroderma) [1]. When the skin peels over large parts of the body, it is called generalised exfoliative dermatitis[2].

However, here are some of the other common causes of peeling skin on the face:

1. Psoriasis [3] is a skin condition where scaly white patches appear on the skin and look like sores. They are often reddish and start to peel; and can be quite painful.

2. Eczema [4] is different from psoriasis and has red and brown scaly patches of skin. This condition also usually affects the ankles but can affect your face too. It is classified as an autoimmune disorder.

3. Rosacea [5] is a skin condition characterised by redness on the face. Other symptoms include inflammation on the skin, broken blood vessels and peeling of the skin on the face.

4. Seborrheic dermatitis [6] usually affects the scalp. But it is also known to affect facial skin and cause peeling of the skin accompanied by itching, scaly and reddish skin.

5. There are some infections that are bacterial and fungal in nature; one of them is Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS) [7]. The latter can be quite dangerous and are not limited to facial peeling.

6. Sunburn due to prolonged exposure to the sun can cause red skin, which is itchy. When it starts to peel off, it can be quite painful till the new skin below appears.

7. Some medications have side effects which cause the skin of the face to peel. Prescribed drugs for fits and seizures, and blood pressure; penicillin and topical medicated creams can also cause the skin to peel.

8. The thyroid hormone imbalance conditions such as known as Hypothyroidism[8] can cause peeling skin among other symptoms. It occurs when your body produces too little of the thyroid hormone required.

9. Skincare products and cosmetics, if applied to the face without testing can also cause facial skin peeling. Anything from a moisturiser to a foundation can cause swelling, blocked pores or make it so dry, it starts to peel.

10. Excess of vitamin A known as vitamin A toxicity [9] and a deficiency of vitamin B3 also known as niacin [10] are diet and nutrition related conditions that can cause peeling skin.

11. A rare health condition known as the peeling skin syndrome [11] leads to patches of skin turning red and then peeling off.

12. Dry skin due to very cold and dry air, hot showers, and humidity levels in winter which fluctuate, can make the skin on the face peel. An anti-acne cream containing retinoids or salicylic acid can cause dry skin and facial skin peeling.

How To Treat Peeling Of The Skin On The Face?

To treat peeling skin on the face, you can resort to home remedies or prescribed medicated treatments or both. Specialised products and treatments can help heal peeling skin too.

1. Medical Treatments

Depending on the condition that is causing the facial skin to peel, a dermatologist may prescribe medicines and treatments. The treatments can include corticosteroid creams (not OTC), chemical peel treatments and acne medication which contains doxycycline.

2. Cosmetic Products & OTC

If your condition is not related to a more serious ailment, you can do the following to stop the skin on the face from peeling. If it is serious, consult a dermatologist.

  • To control and correct skin peeling on the face, apply a moisturiser, preferably one that contains shea or cocoa butter, lanolin, or lactic acid and hyaluronic acid.
  • To clean your face, use a fragrance-free, non-foaming cleanser.
  • Applying aloe vera gel on the face frequently can also provide relief.
  • Apply sunscreen with a good SPF every day, even if you are indoors.

3. Home Remedies For Peeling Skin

If your skin is peeling due to dry skin, the weather or lack of hydration, it is possible to treat it at home. Some effective home remedies are:

  • Don’t be afraid to exfoliate your facial skin when it is peeling. Use a mild cleanser which does not contain alcohol, a strong fragrance or alpha hydroxy acid as these can make skin drier. Or use a shower scrub made of soft fabric to remove the dead skin.
  • Applying a soothing gel like aloe vera which has anti-inflammatory qualities can help your skin to heal faster, especially if it is because of sunburn.
  • Honey is a natural moisturiser. So you can use it to control facial peeling.
Woman applying moisturizer to face

Tips To Avoid Skin Peeling On The Face

  • Avoid covering your peeling skin with make-up. It won’t hide the peeling and might even make it worse because they dry the skin further.
  • Do not touch your face as much as possible.
  • If you see a bit of peeling skin, do not peel it off, especially if it is wet. It can bleed and may even get infected.
  • Pat your face dry as gently as possible.
  • Shower in lukewarm water as the steam from very hot water can open out the facial pores which dries out the skin, making the peeling worse.
  • Keep your showers brief; not more than 10 minutes at the maximum.
  • Drink enough water - 8-10 glasses a day. Staying hydrated prevents the skin from drying up and peeling off.
  • Avoid products that contain alcohol or deodorants. These include soaps, toners and other skin care products like face washes.
  • Use hypoallergenic and gentle cleansers that are fragrance free. If the soap or cleanser generates a lot of foam, then ditch it because it can dry your skin further making it peel more.
  • Always moisturise your face after you wash it. For best results, pat dry your face, and apply on slightly damp skin; this will lock the moisture in.
  • Use a soft fabric to wipe your face. Luxurious Turkish towels or velour hand towels will protect your skin from further damage.

How Long Does It Take For The Peeling To Stop

Depending on the cause, it can take 3-7 days (for sunburn); and at least a month, if it is due to dry skin. Medical conditions like rosacea or psoriasis may need lifelong treatment depending on the severity of the peeling.

Wrapping Up

If you know why the skin of your face is peeling, you can take proactiv steps to stop it. But, if the cause is deep-rooted and related to a chronic ailment, then medical advice is your best option. Regular skincare and moisturising can take care of it, if it is due to dry skin.

Did You Know?

  • Men and women can get psoriasis in equal numbers.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis appears in the oily parts of the face like the sides of the nose; it can lead to facial peeling.
  • There is no cure for the peeling skin syndrome, though ointments that soften the skin and petroleum jelly may provide some relief.
  • Women are more likely to suffer from hypothyroidism than men. It also occurs in people over the age of 60.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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