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  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

Is it possible to stop your skin from peeling?

Prevention is key! Help keep your skin protected by wearing sunscreen and regularly moisturizing.

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Curology Team
Jan 23, 2023 · 7 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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  3. > Is it possible to stop your skin from peeling?

Here at Curology, we currently focus on the diagnosis and treatment of acne, rosacea, and anti-aging concerns. We do not treat many of the conditions mentioned in this article. This article is for information purposes only.

The skin is your body’s largest organ and it plays a big role in maintaining your overall health. Its job is to protect you from the outside environment—a huge responsibility! When it gets damaged, it can peel and in turn, it doesn’t do what it’s intended to do as effectively. That’s why it’s important to care for it properly. 

Here we’ll explain the process of peeling skin, its possible causes, and how to stop peeling skin in the future. Long story short: sunscreen, moisturizer, and your dermatology provider’s recommendations are key.

Root causes of peeling skin 

Peeling skin (”desquamation” is the medical term) can happen when your skin is healing from some type of damage. The outer layer of skin (epidermis) sheds as new skin forms underneath. 

Understanding the contributing factors will help you know what to do when your skin peels. Environmental factors, skin conditions, allergies, and infections are common culprits of peeling or flaking skin. Here are some specific causes: 

  • Sunburn is the most common burn leading to damaged skin. It results from exposure to UVB rays (the burning rays), whether they come from the sun or tanning beds. UVA rays also lead to damaged skin, but UVA rays are responsible for skin aging (sunspots, liver spots, and solar lentigines).¹

  • Dehydrated skin can lead to peeling and flaking. It results from the loss of moisture in the skin, which is different from having a dry skin type. A dry skin type is the result of a lower production of natural oil (sebum). 

  • Seborrheic dermatitis is a condition similar to dandruff that can occur on the face and body. It appears as red patches or plaques with yellowish, greasy scales on the face, scalp, and chest.²

  • Allergic or irritant contact dermatitis happens when your skin comes into contact with an allergen or irritant. Common allergens include fragrances, certain skincare ingredients, and metals (such as nickel). Irritants include cleaning supplies and detergents.

  • Skin or acne treatments, such as chemical peels, and ingredients, such as retinoids, can also cause peeling or flaking skin. Many of these treatments and ingredients accelerate skin cell turnover. They remove dead skin cells and promote the growth of new ones. While the skin adjusts, it may peel and flake.

  • Eczema is itchy, dry, and scaly skin that affects any area of the body. Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema, triggered by an overactive immune system which causes chronic inflammation and rashes on the skin.³

  • Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition characterized by red plaques with silvery scales. It’s most common in the elbows, knees, and lower back.⁴

  • Viral infections, such as measles and chickenpox, can cause a rash. Measles tends to be accompanied by a flat, non-itchy rash, and chickenpox tends to lead to an itchy rash that can blister. Both of these conditions can also cause fevers.⁵,⁶

flaky skin girl

How to help peeling skin heal

The proper approach to flaky skin and the ingredients you should use depend on the cause of the flaking—seborrheic dermatitis will have a different treatment than irritant contact dermatitis or sunburn, for example. Here are several different suggestions on what to use for peeling skin: 

Try topical ingredients

Topical ingredients, such as aloe vera, can help soothe sunburned skin. Aloe vera gels cool your skin and may reduce inflammation. Some aloe products are formulated with alcohol—which can potentially dehydrate your skin even further—so use fresh aloe leaves or pure aloe.

Hydrate and moisturize

Often, a little moisture is all you need to prevent or stop your skin from flaking or peeling. This can depend on the underlying cause, but dry or dehydrated skin will benefit greatly from a rich moisturizer such as the Curology rich moisturizer with hyaluronic acid, glycerine, aloe, and shea butter.  

Avoid exfoliating 

Peeling skin is damaged in some way, whether by sunburn, a skin condition, or something else entirely. Resist the temptation to exfoliate peeling skin, especially using harsh exfoliants. Instead, take lukewarm (not hot) showers and gently pat your skin dry.

Take a cool shower or bath 

It can feel luxurious to soak in a lukewarm or cool bath when your skin is peeling, especially from sunburn. Just be sure to skip the bath bombs and scented soaps and oils. Instead, try a colloidal oatmeal bath to naturally hydrate your skin and strengthen your skin barrier.⁷ 

Treat underlying conditions 

If you’ve been diagnosed with an underlying condition, such as psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis, you will need to treat it at the source—peeling skin is just a symptom. Seek medical advice from a dermatology provider—they can help create a personalized treatment plan to address your skin condition.  

Is it possible to prevent skin from flaking or peeling?

Of course, staying out of the sun is the best way to prevent peeling skin from sunburn. But it’s not always that easy. Nor is living in a bubble to prevent contact dermatitis, eczema, or other culprits of flaky, peeling skin. But there are some things you can do to help prevent peeling in the first place. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’ll get you started: 

  • Wear sun protection. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 is your best defense against UV rays. Other tips from the American Academy of Dermatology include limiting sun exposure between 10 am and 2 pm, wearing UPF sun-protective clothing and a broad-brimmed hat, and using UV-protective sunglasses.⁸

  • Moisturize your skin. Apply moisturizer to your face morning and night, and use a body cream after showering. Choose creams, lotions, or gels with humectants to attract water and emollients to lock in moisture.

  • Follow recommendations from your dermatologist if you have a skin condition. The best way to treat underlying skin conditions is to follow expert advice from your medical provider.

  • Consider patch-testing new products. Test out new products before you apply them to areas of sensitive skin.

  • Avoid irritating ingredients. Irritants can be different for everyone, but the following tend to dry out most skin types: denatured alcohol, added fragrances, and dyes. 

How long does it take for peeled skin to heal?

The length of the healing process depends on the cause, but removing peeling or flaking skin will not make your skin heal faster. It could even make it worse, so be patient and follow the tips above. 

Most of the time, peeling skin will go away on its own. But don’t hesitate to talk with a licensed healthcare professional if your symptoms persist, get worse, or you experience any of the following:

  • Fever

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Shortness of breath

  • Dizziness or disorientation

  • Blisters

  • Extreme pain or joint pain

Protect and prevent!

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Applying sunscreen and using moisturizer daily can both prevent peeling skin. As a bonus, they’ll also help slow signs of aging and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. 

Although Curology can’t tackle urgent health concerns, we offer many solutions to address your overall skin health and goals and simplify your skincare routine. Our licensed dermatology providers work with you to examine your skin, assess your skincare goals, and provide custom treatment options.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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Ready to get started? Just answer a few questions and upload some selfies to help us get to know your skin. If Curology is right for you, we’ll pair you with one of our licensed in-house dermatology providers, who will create a personalized prescription formula. They’ll also recommend any of our gentle and effective skincare products. Sign up to start your Curology journey now.*

FAQs

How to help peeling skin heal?

The proper approach to flaky skin and the ingredients you should use depend on the cause of the flaking. Here are several different suggestions on what to use for peeling skin: 

  • Try topical ingredients: Topical ingredients, such as aloe vera, can help soothe sunburned skin. Aloe vera gels cool your skin and may reduce inflammation.

  • Hydrate and moisturize: Often, a little moisture is all you need to prevent or stop your skin from flaking or peeling.

  • Avoid exfoliating: Peeling skin is damaged in some way, whether by sunburn, a skin condition, or something else entirely. Resist the temptation to exfoliate peeling skin, especially using harsh exfoliants.

  • Take a cool shower or bath: It can feel luxurious to soak in a lukewarm or cool bath when your skin is peeling, especially from sunburn.

  • Treat underlying conditions: If you’ve been diagnosed with an underlying condition, such as psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis, you will need to treat it at the source.

Is it possible to prevent skin from flaking or peeling?

There are some things you can do to help prevent peeling in the first place. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’ll get you started: 

  • Wear sun protection. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 is your best defense against UV rays.

  • Moisturize your skin. Apply moisturizer to your face morning and night, and use a body cream after showering.

  • Follow recommendations from your dermatologist if you have a skin condition. The best way to treat underlying skin conditions is to follow expert advice from your medical provider.

  • Consider patch-testing new products. Test out new products before you apply them to areas of sensitive skin.

  • Avoid irritating ingredients. Irritants can be different for everyone, but the following tend to dry out most skin types: denatured alcohol, added fragrances, and dyes.

How long does it take for peeled skin to heal?

Most of the time, peeling skin will go away on its own. But don’t hesitate to talk with a licensed healthcare professional if your symptoms persist, get worse, or you experience any of the following:

  • Fever

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Shortness of breath

  • Dizziness or disorientation

  • Blisters

  • Extreme pain or joint pain

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. American Academy of Dermatology. Sunscreen FAQs. (n.d.).

  2. Gary G. Optimizing treatment approaches in seborrheic dermatitis.J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. (February 2013).

  3. Peng W, Novak N. Pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis.Clinical & Experimental Allergy. (22 January 2015).

  4. Pragya A. Nair; Talel Badri1. Psoriasis. StatPearls Publishing. (January 2022)

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About chickenpox. (n.d.).

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measles: Signs and Symptoms. (n.d.).

  7. Ilnytska, O., et al. Colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) improves skin barrier through multi-therapy activity.Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. (June 2016).

  8. American Academy of Dermatology. Sunscreen FAQs. (n.d.).

Donna McIntyre is a board-certified nurse practitioner at Curology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing at MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA.

* Subject to consultation. Results may vary.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

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