Symptoms A-Z

Foot Peeling Symptoms, Causes & Statistics

Understand your foot peeling symptoms, including 7 causes & common questions.

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  1. Symptoms
  2. Causes
  3. 7 Possible Foot Peeling Conditions
  4. Treatments and Relief
  5. Statistics
  6. References

Foot Peeling Symptoms

Foot peeling is one of those unsightly ailments that can not only be problematic from a health and wellness perspective, but also for aesthetics. Our skin is subjected to abuse day-in and day-out from a variety of sources. Our outer layer of protection is designed to withstand quite a bit, but sometimes our skin starts to exhibit symptoms of an ailment.

Symptoms of foot peeling include:

Our skin acts as a protective barrier for the body. It keeps water in and helps limit the effects of the outside elements (wind, sun, rain, etc.) and pathogens on the internal components of the body. Feet are often covered by socks and footwear which can limit overexposure to the elements, but the constant use of our feet subject the skin to additional heat and dryness. Understanding the symptoms of foot peeling will help determine a cause and, ultimately, dictate a treatment.

Foot Peeling Causes

Environmental causes:

  • Trauma: Irritation of the skin, particularly if repeated, can lead to foot peeling symptoms. Irritants include everything from ill-fitting footwear to physical activity to chemicals in soaps, detergents, and acids.
  • Environment: Hot, cold, wind, sun, humidity, and dryness can all cause the skin to react by peeling. A sunburn, for example, can lead to excessive dryness that, in turn, results in foot peeling symptoms.
  • Bodily Function: The body naturally sheds skin across the body. Unlike many parts of the body, the foot is prone to skin build-up which results in skin peeling [1].
  • Fungal: Fungi enjoy the warm, moist areas provided by the body. Athlete's foot is an example of a fungal condition that results in foot peeling [2].
  • Allergies: Certain substances can cause a skin reaction on the foot which results in foot peeling.

Inflammatory causes:

  • Infection: Bacterial infections can lead to the foot to exhibit peeling.

Systemic disease causes:

  • Hereditary: Some inherited conditions cause foot peeling as a primary symptom. These conditions are likely underdiagnosed because the symptoms are not severe and mimic other skin conditions [3].
  • Cancer: Whether a byproduct of cancer itself or brought on by the methods used for treatment, foot peeling has been linked to the disease.

7 Possible Foot Peeling Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced foot peeling. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Athlete's foot (tinea pedis)

Athlete's foot is a common fungal infection of the feet and/or toes. Warm, moist environments and community showering are common causes of this type of infection.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: foot redness, foot/toe itch, foot skin changes, spontaneous foot pain, peeling between the toes

Symptoms that always occur with athlete's foot (tinea pedis): foot redness

Symptoms that never occur with athlete's foot (tinea pedis): toe injury

Urgency: Self-treatment


Sunburn is an acute condition related to excess exposure to ultraviolet rays. It usually resolves over the course of a few days and acute symptoms can be managed; however, it can have morbid long-term effects if the sunburn is particularly severe. Symptoms include reddening of the skin (erythema), fluid-filled bumps on the skin or blisters, and possibly nausea, fever, vomiting, and headache. Treatment options include taking NSAIDs for pain, treating burns in a professional setting (if necessary) as well as measures to protect the skin from further sun exposure. The application of sunscreen, as well as wearing protective clothing, are important steps to avoid sunburn.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: painful rash, red rash, itchy rash, warm and red rash, swollen rash

Symptoms that always occur with sunburn: painful rash, red rash

Symptoms that never occur with sunburn: fever

Urgency: Self-treatment

Normal occurrence of dry skin

Dry skin can be caused by overheating during the winter or air conditioning in the summer, the loss of sweat and oil glands as you get older, and overuse of things like soap, antiperspirant, perfumes, and hot baths.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: dry skin

Symptoms that always occur with normal occurrence of dry skin: dry skin

Urgency: Self-treatment

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Allergic contact dermatitis of the foot

Allergic contact dermatitis is a condition in which the skin becomes irritated and inflamed following physical contact with an allergen. Common products known to cause allergic dermatitis include plants, metals, soap, fragrance, and cosmetics.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: foot redness, foot/toe itch, scabbed area of the foot

Symptoms that always occur with allergic contact dermatitis of the foot: foot redness

Urgency: Self-treatment

Non-specific dermatitis (skin inflammation)

Nonspecific dermatitis, or contact dermatitis, simply means inflammation of the skin from many different causes.

Most nonspecific dermatitis is caused by skin contact with a substance that provokes a reaction, which could be anything from plants to soap to jewelry to fabrics. Some may be due to an autoimmune condition, where the body's immune system attacks itself.

Risk factors include a family or personal history of allergies, asthma, or other condition which weakens the immune system; or constant contact with metals, plant life, or chemicals.

Symptoms commonly include red, swollen skin rash with itching, blistering, or oozing, which may become painful and infected.

Dermatitis itself is not contagious but can interfere with quality of life. A medical provider can help with managing the symptoms.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and sometimes skin biopsy and patch testing.

Treatment involves using protective measures if the substances cannot be avoided; making nutritional improvements to strengthen the immune system; using corticosteroid or other creams; and phototherapy.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: red rash, itchy rash, painful rash

Symptoms that always occur with non-specific dermatitis (skin inflammation): red rash

Urgency: Self-treatment

Irritant contact dermatitis

Irritant contact dermatitis means a skin reaction that is caused by directly touching an irritating substance, and not by an infectious agent such as a bacteria or virus.

Common causes are soap, bleach, cleaning agents, chemicals, and even water. Almost any substance can cause it with prolonged exposure. Contact dermatitis is not contagious.

Anyone who works with an irritating substance can contract the condition. Mechanics, beauticians, housekeepers, restaurant workers, and health care providers are all susceptible.

Symptoms include skin that feels swollen, stiff, and dry, and becomes cracked and blistered with painful open sores.

A medical provider can give the best advice on how to heal the skin and avoid further irritation. Self-treatment can make the problem worse if the wrong creams or ointments are used.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, to find out what substances the patient comes into contact with, and through physical examination of the damaged skin.

Treatment involves avoiding the irritating substance if possible. Otherwise, the person can use petroleum jelly on the hands underneath cotton and then rubber gloves.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: rash with well-defined border, itchy rash, red or pink, rough patch of skin, painful rash, red rash

Symptoms that always occur with irritant contact dermatitis: rash with well-defined border

Symptoms that never occur with irritant contact dermatitis: fever, black-colored skin changes, brown-colored skin changes, blue-colored skin changes

Urgency: Self-treatment

Eczema (atopic dermatitis)

Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a non-contagious chronic skin condition that produces an itchy rash. It is caused by a genetic condition that affects the skin's ability to protect itself from bacteria and allergens. The most susceptible are those with a family history of atopic dermatitis, asthma, or hay fever.

Infants will have a dry, scaly, itchy rash on the scalp, forehead, and cheeks. Older children will have the rash in the creases of elbows, knees, and buttocks.

Without treatment, a child may have trouble sleeping due to the intense itching. Constant scratching may cause skin infections.

Eczema cannot be cured, but it can be controlled through prescribed medications, skin care, stress management, and treatment of food allergies. People with eczema often have allergies to milk, nuts, and shellfish. Keeping the skin clean and moisturized helps prevent flares.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: trouble sleeping, feeling itchy or tingling all over, dry skin, scalp itchiness, flexor surface rash

Symptoms that never occur with eczema (atopic dermatitis): fever

Urgency: Phone call or in-person visit

Foot Peeling Treatments and Relief

The vast majority of foot peeling cases can be treated at home. The involvement of a medical professional is necessary when foot peeling is accompanied by other more serious symptoms.

Contact your doctor if any of the following are experienced:

  • Severe pain associated with peeling
  • Peeling that does not subside for two to four weeks
  • Fever
  • Concerns regarding the cause of the peeling

At-home treatments:

  • Warm Water and Scrub: Soaking the affected area in warm water for up to twenty minutes can help soften skin to the point where it can be removed by a gentle scrub.
  • Moisturizer: Repeated applications of lotion to the affect areas can help limit foot peeling symptoms.
  • Hygiene: Keeping feet clean and dry can help prevent fungus. Similarly, wearing clean socks, well-ventilated shoes, and protecting the feet in public areas such as pools will help maintain good overall foot health.
  • Over-the-Counter Medications: Several powders or creams exist to treat athlete's foot and reduce peeling.

Professional treatments:

  • Prescription Medications: Oral antifungal medications or antibiotics may be necessary for more significant causes of foot peeling. Prescribed foot creams are also available.

As with all afflictions, foot peeling should be monitored to ensure it improves instead of getting worse. In most cases, some small steps can be taken to provide effective foot peeling relief.

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Foot Peeling Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced foot peeling have also experienced:

  • 16% Foot/Toe Itch
  • 11% Dry Skin
  • 3% Feeling Itchy Or Tingling All Over

People who have experienced foot peeling were most often matched with:

  • 33% Athlete'S Foot (Tinea Pedis)
  • 33% Sunburn
  • 33% Normal Occurrence Of Dry Skin

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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  1. Cunliffe T. Peeling Skin Conditions. Primary Care Dermatology Society. Updated July 6, 2016. PCDS Link.
  2. Athlete's Foot. NHS. Updated September 2, 2018. NHS Link.
  3. Acral Peeling Skin Syndrome. NIH: Genetics Home Reference. Published November 27, 2018. GHR Link.
  4. Why is the Skin Between My Toes Peeling? Published March 12, 2018. Link.
  5. Cracked or Dry Skin. Seattle Childrens Hospital. Updated October 29, 2018. Seattle Childrens Hospital Link.