Why Are My Feet Peeling? 10 Possible Culprits to Be Aware Of

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Recently, I noticed the skin at the bottom of my feet peeling off. I wondered, "Why are my feet peeling?" I was so horrified, I called a friend of mine who is a nurse. She gave me some pointers about what could be the reason for my predicament.

I also followed this up with some research online to confirm what I had just learned. Here is what I found out…

Why Are My Feet Peeling?

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So why are my feet peeling? There are many reasons why feet peel, but the most common is athlete’s foot. It’s a fungal infection that often starts between toes.

People at a higher risk of developing athlete’s foot include those who:

  • Walk barefoot in public areas such as pools, communal baths, and locker rooms
  • Share bed linens, shoes, clothes, or mats with someone already infected
  • Regularly wear tightfitting shoes or damp socks

​What Causes Peeling Feet?

Let’s dive deeper into the symptoms for athlete’s foot and also explore other possible causes in order to provide a better answer to the question, why are my feet peeling?

Athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot is a contagious fungal infection that usually affects the skin on your feet. It can also spread to your toenails and hands.


You can get athlete’s foot through direct contact with an infected person or contaminated surfaces such as around swimming pools and locker room floors.


Its symptoms include itchy blisters between your toes or the soles of your feet.


The skin may peel frequently and there may be some cracking or fissuring in severe cases.


The most common test for athlete’s foot is a skin lesion potassium hydroxide exam. A doctor usually scrapes of a small part of infected skin and adds it to potassium hydroxide. That destroys normal skin cells and leaves the infected area visible under a microscope.


Over-the-counter topical antifungal medications can be used to treat athlete’s foot. Lotrimin antifungal powder and Tea Tree oil are the most commonly used treatments for athlete’s foot.


It’s worth noting that if you have a weakened immune system or diabetes, it’s best to contact a doctor immediately.

Dehydration

If the above symptoms don’t check out and you’re still wondering "why are my feet peeling?" dehydration is also another reason why feet peel.


It occurs when your body doesn’t have enough water and electrolytes to maintain a balance of fluids.


Drinking inadequate amounts of water makes the skin lose elasticity and break out. That leads to cracks and flaky skin that can appear on the soles of your feet.


To deal with peeling skin caused by dehydration, drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day to stay hydrated.

Sunburns

Even though you always remember to slather some sunscreen onto your face, shoulders, and back, your feet somehow get forgotten. Your feet end up on the receiving end of the sun’s dangerous UV rays, which leads to sunburns.


Sunburns usually manifest in the form of a painful red rash, then the peeling starts. Moisturizers such as aloe vera gel can help soothe sunburns and Ibuprofen can also help reduce the pain and inflammation.


Sunburns usually resolve after a few days but it’s best to see a doctor if you notice that your sunburn has blistering over large parts of your body, vomiting, headaches, or fever.


In addition, instead of going for thin lotion, choose thicker ones such as Theraplex Barrier Balm or even Skinfix Ultra Rich Body Butter to calm the itching and moisturize the skin on your peeling feet.

Dyshidrotic eczema

Dyshidrotic eczema is a skin condition that causes painful blisters on the soles of your feet or the palms of your hands.


The blisters are usually itchy and may fill up with fluid. This condition varies between individuals but the blisters may last for about two to four weeks.


Dyshidrotic eczema is associated with seasonal allergies or high levels of stress. According to reports from the National Eczema Association, dyshidrotic eczema is most prevalent in adults between 20 and 40 years of age. However, unlike the athlete’s foot, it is not contagious.


Mild outbreaks can be treated using corticosteroid ointment. Doctors can also prescribe a topical steroid for more severe outbreaks. UV light treatments and antihistamines such as Dermaroot by Urbal can help treat this type of Eczema.

Trench foot

Trench foot is also referred to as immersion foot. It occurs when your feet remain wet for an extended period leading to damage to the blood vessels, nerves, and skin peeling.


The condition was discovered during World War I, where soldiers got trench foot from fighting in wet conditions in the trenches without the extra boots to keep their feet dry. A whopping 75,000 British and 2,000 American soldiers died as a result of trench foot.


Its symptoms include itching, pain, blisters, and blotchy skin on the soles of your feet. Trench foot is not a contagious infection. To treat trench foot, elevate the affected foot to encourage blood circulation. You can also take Ibuprofen for the pain and swelling.


According to the U.S Center for Disease Control and Prevention, early symptoms can be treated using the same techniques employed for frostbite. However, if home treatments fail to work, consult with your doctor to avoid any complications.

Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the tissues under your skin. It often appears like a red swollen area that is hot and tender to the touch. This redness and swelling usually spread quickly.


It can develop anywhere on your body but it often occurs in the lower legs and spreads to the feet. If you fail to treat cellulitis, it can spread to blood vessels and become life-threatening.


With cellulitis, you’ll notice redness, a rash that grows quickly, an abscess with pus, blisters that peel as they heal, and fever.


Treatment involves taking antibiotics for two weeks and the doctor may prescribe pain relievers. Cellulitis should go away after 7 to 10 days once you’ve started taking the antibiotics.

Shoe contact dermatitis

Shoe contact dermatitis is a condition that causes the skin between the toes to peel. The shoes we wear contain materials such as rubber, dyes, and adhesives. These materials can cause an allergic reaction on your feet leading to peeling.


Contact dermatitis may not be contagious but a rash usually spreads from one area of your body to another. You’ll notice blisters, a burning sensation, and redness on the affected area.


Its treatment may involve oral corticosteroids that reduce inflammation and antihistamines to relieve the itching. A topical steroid cream such as the Era Organics cream may also be applied to help soothe the rashes.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin condition that accelerates the life cycle of the skin’s cells. That leads to a rapid build-up of cells on the surface of the skin. The extra skin cells create scales and red patches that can be itchy.


Its telling signs include red patches of skin covered with silvery scales. The treatment for psoriasis focuses mostly on reducing inflammation and the growth of scales because it is a chronic condition.


Psoriasis treatment includes topical treatments, systemic medications, and light therapy.

Normalcy

Even though there are some eyebrow-raising answers to the question, "Why are my feet peeling?" sometimes it’s not a bad thing.


The skin may peel off as your body tries to get rid of dead skin cells to generate new skin. You can help your body along this process by taking a pumice stone and gently rub your feet to rejuvenate your skin.

Genetic disorder

Feet peeling can also be due to a rare genetic skin disorder known as acral peeling skin syndrome. This condition can be characterized by the painless peeling of your feet and palms of your hands.


Its symptoms develop right after birth but they can also start to manifest in childhood or early adulthood. Skin peeling gets worse when you’re in hot temperatures and places with high humidity.


Emollients are often used to reduce the skin peeling and light dressings applied to prevent friction. The affected areas will heal without forming scars.

How Do You Treat Peeling Feet?

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As you may have noticed, treatment options depend on the underlying cause. For instance, if an infection is the main cause, such as in the case of athlete's foot, the doctor will prescribe antifungal creams.


Other treatment options include using medicated ointments on the skin between toes and feet. For instance, medications with hydrocortisone decrease itching.


Avoiding allergens in the case of contact dermatitis and applying cool compresses to reduce the burning sensation on your feet may also help.

How Do You Prevent Peeling Feet?

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Below are some steps you can take to prevent feet peeling.

  • Wear sandals when walking around locker rooms and swimming pool areas
  • Avoid wearing shoes that are too tight
  • Don’t share shoes or socks with others
  • Give your shoes enough time to dry before you wear them

​When Should You See a Doctor?


Even though you can use a variety of natural remedies to treat feet peeling at home, sometimes you have to seek medical advice. Such instances include when:

  • Fever or chills occur
  • A rash starts to leak fluids
  • The skin between your toes turn black

​Put Your Best Feet Forward


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We believe that, at this point, you can help someone answer the question, "Why are my feet peeling?” So, go spread the word!


Have you ever experienced peeling feet that were so bad you couldn’t wear your cherished sandals? What was that whole experience like? Feel free to share with us in the comments section below.


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