Peeling skin for men is a nuisance, but seldom a cause for alarm. Peeling skin can result from dry air or a sunburn. Dry skin is the most-common culprit. For men, beard grooming products or razors can irritate skin. If the facial skin is red and cracked in addition to peeling, it could be the result of a condition that requires medical attention, such as eczema or psoriasis.
More than half of adults over 40 have dry skin. Dry facial skin is also referred to as “facial dandruff” because of the flaking and peeling. In some cases, dry skin is temporary. In others, it’s a lifelong condition. Symptoms of dry skin include:
- A feeling of skin tightness
- Skin that feels rough to the touch
- Skin appears rough visually
- Slight to severe flaking or peeling
- Fine lines or cracks
- Gray or ashy skin
Dry skin for men is often triggered by hot or cold weather, low moisture in the air, or soaking in hot water for too long. Certain soaps and dull razor blades can also dry out the skin. If the peeling is caused by dry skin, try a moisturizer and avoid harsh, drying soaps. A dull razor blade can also be to blame. Minor changes like swapping out your fragrant soap or a gentle facial wash or applying a moisturizer will often improve dry skin. Dry skin that isn’t properly cared for may lead to atopic dermatitis/eczema resulting in cracking and inflammation or even an infection due to bacteria entering the cracks.
It’s believed that men’s skin is more sensitive to the sun than women’s skin, but some experts argue it’s because men are less likely to take precautions to protect themselves from the sun. Men are more likely to work outdoor jobs and less likely to wear sunscreen. If you’ve been in the sun recently, sunburn could be the cause of peeling skin. A sunburn is a toxic reaction from too much ultraviolet B radiation. Even mild sunburns can peel, which is your body’s way of getting rid of the damaged skin. You can expect peeling to begin about three days after sustaining a sunburn.
If your peeling skin is the result of a sunburn, do not exfoliate to remove the skin. While it may be tempting, it’s important not to further irritate the burn. You can expect peeling to stop when the body is healed -- generally about seven days for mild to moderate burns.
Acne products are notorious for drying out skin. If you’re using a retinol based product, you can expect some drying and eventual peeling and your skin cells rejuvenate. Products containing benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid also cause skin to peel. This is often a normal side-effect as your skin transitions to the product. Peeling from anti-aging or acne products diminishes within 2-4 weeks.
If you’ve recently switched to a new moisturizer or facial cleaner, it could be an allergic reaction. Something you've applied to your face can clog pores and cause swelling or hives. Once the skin has been irritated, it dries up and sheds, causing facial peeling. Discontinue use of the product if you suspect an allergic reaction. It’s also a good idea to follow up with a dermatologist.
Underlying Skin Conditions
Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis are associated with facial skin peeling in men.
Eczema is an autoimmune condition. The exact cause is unknown, but it is believed to be the result of an overactive immune system, environmental triggers, stress, and genetics. It is marked by red or brown scaly patches and peeling skin on the face.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition. It’s characterized by white or pink scaly patches that can peel. In some cases, psoriasis is sore and painful.
Seborrheic dermatitis typically affects the scalp, but can develop on the face as well.
Medical conditions that cause your skin to peel are unlikely, but can occur in some cases.
Hypothyroidism is a medical condition that occurs when your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough of certain crucial hormones. Although it’s more common in women, men can suffer from hypothyroidism as well. Side effects include fatigue, weight gain, thinning hair, and peeling skin.
Rosacea is a skin condition that causes broken blood vessels under the skin. It’s characterized by facial redness, swelling and peeling.
Staph and fungal infections are dangerous infections often accompanied by headaches, fatigue, and inflamed skin. Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome is a serious infection that results in toxins causing the outer layers of skin to blister and peel. Seek immediate medical addition if you suspect an infection.
Your skin can peel as a side effect of certain medications. Blood pressure medications, antibiotics, topical medications, and seizure medications can cause your skin to flake and peel. Consult with your doctor if you’re experiencing peeling skin while taking prescription medications.
Vitamin B deficiencies are known to wreak havoc on the skin. For instance, a lack of vitamin B-3 (niacin) in the diet can result in the condition pellagra. This condition causes facial peeling, redness, scaling, and thickening of sun-exposed areas. The recommended daily allowance of niacin is 16 milligrams per day for men.
If you have an autoimmune or inflammatory disease (which can also cause skin to peel) talk to your doctor before taking vitamin supplements.
Treatments for Dry Skin
The best treatment for peeling skin depends on the root cause. Peeling is a side-effect of an underlying issue, even if it’s something mild like dry skin.
If your facial peeling is due to a case of dry skin or sunburn, minor changes in your skincare routine should correct the issue.
- Apply moisturizing lotions regularly (water-based, oil-free are best for men)
- Take showers or baths with warm water
- Use a gentle skin cleanser
- Apply sunscreen with at least 30 SPF
If you suspect the peeling is a reaction from your facial products, stop using them and talk to a healthcare professional.
If you think a deficiency, medical condition, infection or medication is the underlying cause, seek medical advice from your healthcare provider for guidance and the best treatment options.