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Why Does Skin Peel After Swelling

Peeling skin can occur as a reaction to a number of inflammatory processes of the skin or damage to the skin. Sunburn is a classic example, but other conditions that can cause peeling skin include various forms of dermatitis, eczema, and certain infections. Burns of any degree of severity can result in peeling skin. Some types of medications, such as topical retinoids used for acne, can cause peeling skin. Adverse reactions to medications such as cancer chemotherapeutic agents can also lead to peeling skin. Any condition that results in the formation of a blister can result in peeling skin at the area of the blister. Although peeling skin is not typically associated with a rash, some skin rashes may be associated with peeling skin. Treatment is dependent upon the underlying cause.

In this post, we’ll provide answer to is skin peeling a sign of healing and we’ll also discuss peeling skin syndrome.

Why Does Skin Peel After Swelling

Peeling skin (desquamation) is the loss or shedding of the outer layer of your skin (epidermis). Peeling skin can be caused by direct damage to the skin or by a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. Peeling skin can affect a small area of the skin or the full body and can occur in all age groups and populations. Depending on the cause of peeling skin, it may go away with over-the-counter (OTC) creams or lotions, or it may require treatment of an underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Because of the range of possible causes of peeling skin, a correct diagnosis of the underlying disease, disorder or condition is very important. The goal of the clinical evaluation is to identify the root cause for peeling skin. Contact your health care provider for a physical exam.

Peeling skin that is associated with confusion, change in consciousness, blisters or sores, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, skin pain, or facial swelling can indicate a serious, life-threatening condition, such as toxic shock syndrome or Stevens-Johnson syndrome. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have peeling skin with any of these symptoms.

Seek prompt medical care if your peeling skin is unexplained, persistent, or causes you concern.

What other symptoms might occur with peeling skin?

Peeling skin may be accompanied by other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Other symptoms may affect the digestive tract, respiratory system, nervous system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, immune system, or integumentary system (skin and associated tissues).

Skin symptoms that may occur along with peeling skin

Peeling skin may accompany other symptoms affecting the skin including:

  • Bleeding
  • Blistering
  • Burning
  • Dryness
  • Inflammation
  • Irritation
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Redness
  • Scaling
  • Swelling
  • Thickening
  • Warmth

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, peeling skin may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition, such as toxic shock syndrome or Stevens-Johnson syndrome that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have peeling skin associated with any of these symptoms:

  • Change in vision or other eye symptoms such as dry eyes
  • Confusion or change in alertness or consciousness, such as lethargy or passing out
  • Diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or wheezing
  • Headache
  • High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Hives or swelling of the mouth, lips, tongue or throat
  • Joint pain, skin pain, or itching
  • Seizure
  • Shedding or sloughing of large sheets of skin
  • Sores, lesions, or blistering rash or blisters on mucous membranes
  • Swollen lymph nodes or other signs of infection, such as flu-like symptoms (fatigue, fever, sore throat, headache, cough, aches, and pains)

What causes peeling skin?

Many different diseases, disorders and conditions can lead to peeling skin. Peeling skin can be a sign of allergies, inflammation, infection, or skin damage. More serious causes include severe allergic reactions, drug reactions, and infections.

Allergic causes of peeling skin

Drug, animal, food, and other environmental allergens can lead to peeling skin including:

  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
  • Contact dermatitis (contact with allergens, such as perfumes, poison ivy, and soaps)
  • Drug reactions

Autoimmune or inflammatory causes of peeling skin

Autoimmune and inflammatory causes of peeling skin include:

  • Kawasaki disease (inflammatory disease primarily affecting young children and infants)
  • Psoriasis

Infectious causes of peeling skin

Peeling skin may arise from infectious diseases, such as:

  • Scarlet fever
  • Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome
  • Tinea infections (Athlete‚Äôs foot, jock itch, ringworm)
  • Toxic-shock syndrome (late)

Other causes of peeling skin

Various other causes of peeling skin include:

  • Certain acne treatments, such as those containing retinol or benzoyl peroxide
  • Chemical peels or use of facial creams containing retinol to reduce aging
  • Harsh soaps and detergents that can cause drying of the skin
  • Peeling skin syndrome (rare genetic disorder)
  • Side effects of some drugs and vitamins
  • Skin irritation or damage
  • Some types of cancer treatments
  • Sunburn
  • Vitamin deficiencies or toxicities

Serious or life-threatening causes of peeling skin

In some cases, peeling skin may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (type of blood cancer that affects the skin)
  • Skin cancer
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome (erythema multiforme major, a skin disorder caused by serious infection or allergic reaction)
  • Toxic epidermal necrolysis (severe reaction likely caused by a drug reaction)
  • Toxic shock syndrome

Questions for diagnosing the cause of peeling skin

To diagnose the underlying cause of peeling skin, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your symptoms. You can best help your health care practitioner in diagnosing the underlying cause of your peeling skin by providing complete answers to these questions:

  • Are the palms of your hands or the soles of your feet peeling?
  • Did you have any type of illness before the peeling started?
  • Does the peeling involve mucous membranes in your eyes, nose, mouth, genitals or anus?
  • Has your skin been exposed to sun or heat for long periods of time? Have you recently been sunburned?
  • Have you been in recent contact with any unusual or new substances or environments, such as poison ivy, new medications, or food?
  • How long has your skin been peeling?
  • How severe is the peeling? Are small or large pieces of skin peeling off?
  • Provide your full medical history, including all medical conditions, surgeries and treatments, family history, and a complete list of the medications and dietary supplements that you take.
  • What other symptoms are you having?
  • Where is your skin peeling? All over? Or in a specific area?

What are the potential complications of peeling skin?

Complications of peeling skin depend on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Identifying and treating the underlying cause of peeling skin is important to minimize any potential complications. In some cases, peeling skin itself can also lead to complications, especially if it leads to a breakdown of the skin. Complications include:

  • Bacterial or fungal infection of the skin
  • Cellulitis (an infection of the skin and surrounding tissues caused by a growing bacterial or fungal infection)
  • Open sores and lesions
  • Permanent change in skin texture or scarring
  • Permanent skin discoloration

Is Peeling Skin A Sign Of Healing

The skin consists of three basic layers, each of which performs a particular function. The skin and each layer is always in a continuous state of change. The outer layer is completely replaced every 28 days. Peeling skin is temporary, quite normal with some exceptions, and a sign of healing skin.


Environmental factors can cause skin to peel. Sun, wind, friction and hydration all influence skin peeling. Infections, medications or skin disorders can also cause peeling skin and should be medically treated. Peeling skin is the skin’s way of shedding a damaged layer of skin.


Peeling skin is a symptom and an attempt to rid the body of toxins and clear the skin of damage. Causes can include: Eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, and excessive exfoliating of the skin. Uncommon causes are: Ichthyosis, Kawasaki disease, toxic epidermal necrolysis, scarlet fever, peeling skin syndrome (a rare disorder) and vitamin A overdose.


Sunburn, heavy sweating, blisters, rashes, dry skin, cold weather and wind exposure can all cause skin to peel. The peeling paves the way for a new layer of unblemished skin to grow. Moisturizing lotions, drinking plenty of water, sunscreen and mild soaps help prevent and alleviate peeling skin.

Expert Insight

A baby’s skin peels naturally after birth, and the amount is dependent upon how mature the baby is at birth. This is a healthy and normal occurrence. Post-term babies shed the most skin, especially on the palms and soles.


Skin peeling is most often not a problem nor a reason for concern, and most usually a healthy change in the skin’s growth cycle. It will usually clear up on its own accord. When the skin peels, it is attempting to rid the body of, reacting to and preventing unknown, harsh, and harmful ingredients from invading the body .


Peeling skin should not be picked at. If the skin is hanging it can be snipped with clean scissors. While peeling skin is a sign new and healthy skin is growing, skin can be helped along with gentle moisturizers, mild soaps, plenty of water and protection against environmental elements.

Peeling Skin Syndrome

Peeling skin syndrome (PSS) is the name given to a set of illnesses that make the skin prone to easy tearing and peeling. Constant skin peeling is the predominant symptom. In most cases, the skin peeling is painless. Depending on the PSS form, there may be additional symptoms. Scarring, redness, and itching can all be symptoms of PSS. From infancy through age, PSS symptoms can arise at any moment, but they typically start in childhood. PSS comes in two different kinds. In the generalized type, skin peeling involves most of the body. There are two subtypes of the generalized form: inflammatory and noninflammatory. There is an acral variant in which only the hands and feet experience skin peeling. PSS is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern and is brought on by genetic variations in numerous separate genes. Symptoms are used to diagnose PSS. Escaping other, more prevalent situations can be necessary.

About Peeling Skin Syndrome
There is little knowledge about many rare disorders. With this disease, GARD currently wants to present the following information:

Population Estimate: This section is still under construction.
Symptoms: May first manifest in newborns and infants.
Cause: A mutation in the genetic code is to blame for this ailment (DNA).
Organizations: Patient organizations can provide support and advocacy for this particular ailment as well as assistance in locating a specialist.
Types: Skin Conditions
Genetic Illness

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