Skin peeling (also known as desquamation) is a condition where the outer layer of the epidermis falls off. It is a consequence of skin healing from damage. It may look bad, but skin peeling from the fingertips may be perfectly normal.
Our body continuously replaces the outer layer of skin cells, eliminating damaged ones. This happens inconspicuously all over the body, including fingertips. However, there are certain situations where this peeling becomes prominent and noticeable.
One of the common causes of fingertip peeling is frequent hand washing with harsh soaps. This is detrimental to the protective lipid layer on the skin surface, allowing the harsh ingredients of the soap or other handwashing products to get absorbed.
This leads to irritation and excessive peeling. Using hot water, failing to use moisturizers after hand washing or drying the hands with rough paper towels can exacerbate the damage.
Having dry skin is another common cause of fingertip peeling. This is more common in the winter season, especially after taking shower in hot water.
Several chemicals, when present in soap, cosmetics or beauty products may precipitate dryness, leading to more than normal peeling. Some of these substances include preservatives, fragrances, isothiazolinones, cocamidopropyl betaine, etc.
For children, excessive finger sucking is a factor in peeling. This usually goes away with age, but sometimes parents may need to consult a physician if the sucking persists or seems excessive.
Peeling fingertips may signal a more serious disease as well. Different types of allergies, contact dermatitis, some forms of eczema, psoriasis and some other conditions can manifest as fingertip peeling.
So, what can be done? This is usually not a serious problem and is often manageable by following simple home remedies. Proper handwashing practices are a must. It should be done with gentle soap, minus harsh ingredients, and then dried off using a soft towel. After that, a moisturiser should be applied.
Aloe vera is a great option to soothe burning and irritation associated with fingertip peeling. Aloe vera gel or oil can be applied to the affected area at least two times every day. this usually alleviates any irritation within minutes.
Coconut oil is beneficial too. Massaging the affected area with coconut oil help to heal the damaged skin and at the same time, moisturise it to prevent further disruption. It can also help to reduce itching and burning sensations.
Moisturisers, e.g. petroleum jelly is another good remedy. It can help treat the cracks and peels in the fingertip by providing much needed moisture.
Petroleum jelly traps the moisture in, prevents dryness, and facilitates the healing. It can be applied any time of the day, but one of the best times is at night, before going to sleep. Emollient hand creams can have the same effect as petroleum jelly.
If the fingertip peeling is due to some underlying disease, the home remedies will not help that much unless the disease is treated.
So if the symptoms are getting worse despite using these remedies, or there are other health problems associated with fingertip peeling, it is advisable to reach out to a physician.
Dr Imtiaz Ahmed completed his MBBS from Dhaka Medical College. [email protected]