The fingertips may peel due to environmental factors like cold exposure or health conditions like psoriasis. Limiting exposure to extreme temperatures and irritants and treatment for underlying causes can help reduce peeling.

While skin peeling is usually not a cause for serious concern, it can be associated with several medical conditions, so a prompt diagnosis is important.

Environmental factors or underlying conditions can cause skin peeling on fingertips.

In this article, we look at 10 common causes of skin peeling on the fingertips and when it might be necessary to see a doctor.

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Environmental causes of peeling skin are external rather than internal problems. This category can include the weather and finger-sucking in children.

Frequent handwashing

Frequent handwashing with soap and hot water can cause dryness and skin cracking on the hands.

While frequent handwashing is important to reduce the spread of harmful bacteria, using soap removes the skin’s protective oils. Once these oils are gone, the skin can no longer retain moisture, causing dry skin or soap dermatitis.

People experiencing skin peeling on their fingertips because of frequent handwashing are advised to wash their hands only when necessary, moisturize afterward, and avoid drying the skin with rough paper towels.

Learn more about proper handwashing practices in our visual guide.


Very dry weather conditions can also dry out the skin, causing it to peel or crack. This is common in dry winter weather, especially if someone does not wear warm gloves or moisturize adequately when spending time outdoors.


Sunburn causes damage to the skin via ultraviolet (UV) rays. The skin can become discolored, warm, sore, and tender before it starts to peel or flake. It may take a few days for the skin to start peeling after the initial sunburn.

People with sunburn should stay out of the sun and use lotions such as aloe vera to keep their skin moisturized while it is healing.


Finger or thumb-sucking in children is relatively common but can lead to painful sores and peeling skin on the fingertips. While most children grow out of this habit, they may require encouragement and monitoring at first.

Similar to nail-biting, some adults may also suck or chew their fingers when stressed or out of habit.


Often, a person’s job may expose their skin to harmful chemicals. This includes jobs in agriculture, construction, and manufacturing. Many cleaning products, soaps, and solvents also have chemicals in them that can affect the skin.

Exposure to chemical irritants can cause contact dermatitis – leading to skin discoloration, swelling, pain, blistering, and skin peeling.

Someone who is regularly exposed to chemicals should be sure to wear protective clothing and wash and moisturize their hands regularly.

A range of underlying medical conditions can cause the skin on the fingertips to peel, including:

Hand eczema

Hand eczema, or hand dermatitis, is a common condition that affects around 10% of the U.S. population. Eczema on the hands may be caused by genetics or by coming into contact with an allergen or an irritant.

People who work in certain industries are more likely to be affected. These industries include:

  • cleaning
  • catering
  • healthcare
  • hairdressing
  • mechanics

Learn more about the different types of eczema in our dedicated content hub.

Allergic contact dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when a person touches something they are allergic to. For example, if someone has a nickel allergy, their skin may become irritated, crack, or peel if they touch nickel.

Also, some natural poisons, such as poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, have the same effect.

Exfoliative keratolysis

Exfoliative keratolysis is a common skin condition that causes peeling. Warm weather, water contact, and friction can worsen symptoms.

Superficial air-filled blisters can appear on the fingertips and then burst, leaving peeled areas. These areas can then become discolored, dry, and cracked, but they are usually not itchy.


Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes discoloration, inflammation, and scaling of the skin. It is more common on the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back than the fingertips, but it can appear anywhere on the body.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, meaning that it occurs due to a change in a person’s immune system. In psoriasis, the body mistakenly sends T-cells to attack healthy skin cells. T-cells are a type of white blood cell that helps fight infections.

When T-cells attack the skin, it causes an overproduction of skin cells, which then build up into patches of plaque and scaling.

A person with psoriasis may experience psoriasis flare-ups, which are when the condition worsens. Many external factors, including injuries, diet, humidity, and stress, can trigger flare-ups.

Learn more about psoriasis in our dedicated hub here.

Kawasaki disease

Kawasaki disease, or Kawasaki syndrome, is a rare condition that mainly affects children under 5 years of age. The most noticeable symptom is a high temperature that lasts more than 5 days. Kawasaki disease can also cause peeling skin on the fingertips.

Kawasaki disease must be treated in a hospital and can have serious consequences, so immediate diagnosis is vital.

Most cases of skin peeling on the fingertips are mild and can be treated easily at home with moisturizer and by avoiding irritants. Some, however, are caused by underlying medical conditions that a doctor should diagnose.

A person should speak to a doctor if they experience:

  • signs of infection
  • peeling lasting more than 2 weeks
  • peeling that does not improve with conservative treatments
  • symptoms that become worse over time

A person may have allergies they do not know about, but a doctor will often be able to diagnose these with a patch test.

Treatment for skin peeling on the fingertips will vary depending on its cause. In many instances, removing any contact irritants, moisturizing, and practicing general good wound care will allow peeling areas to heal naturally.

However, when skin peeling occurs due to an underlying health condition or infection, treating this is the best mode of reducing symptoms.


There are some simple tips and lifestyle changes a person can follow to prevent skin peeling or cracking on the fingertips. These include:

  • washing hands with cool water rather than hot water
  • wearing gloves when washing dishes or using cleaning products
  • wearing warm gloves outside during cold weather
  • using moisturizer after fingertips have been in contact with water

The following are answers to commonly asked questions about skin peeling on the fingertips.

What vitamin deficiency causes fingertips to peel?

A vitamin B deficiency can cause skin problems like dryness, flaking, and rashes.

What virus causes fingertips to peel?

It is very unlikely that a virus would cause peeling fingertips. In most cases, the causes are environmental or skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

Are peeling fingertips normal?

Skin peeling is usually not serious, and it can occur because of cold weather or frequent handwashing. If it does not go away with time, it may be more serious.

Exposure to irritants, weather changes, and underlying health conditions can all cause the skin of the fingertips to peel.

In many cases, this peeling will resolve when a person removes any irritants, reduces extreme heat exposure, and moisturizes effectively.

However, in the case of underlying health conditions or skin infections, treating the root cause of peeling is necessary to resolve symptoms.