Skin around Nails Peeling? Vitamin Deficiency and Other Causes

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skin around nails peeling
Credit: iStock.com/ChesiireCat

Is your skin around nails peeling? Dry skin around nails is often harmless; however, peeling skin can sometimes be a sign of a deeper, less obvious problem, such as a severe vitamin deficiency.

Skin peeling around nails is often due to having insufficient amounts of water for the proper function of the stratum corneum—the outermost layer of the epidermis, which consists of dead cells.

There is a reduced amount of protective oil and therefore the skin becomes dry. Depending on the underlying cause, this may lead to bleeding; peeling; or dry, cracked skin around fingernails.

Other symptoms of dry skin include itching, red, or ashy skin and skin that feels stretched or tight. Exposure to harsh chemicals from nail polish, showering in hot water, or even washing your hands with lots of soapy water can help contribute to the problem.

The cold winter weather can also cause cracked, dry skin around fingernails.

This article will explore the possible causes of dry, peeling skin around nails, and especially the influence a vitamin deficiency or overdose may have.

Peeling Skin: How Vitamin Deficiency or Overdose May Play a Role

What does peeling skin on fingers have to do with a vitamin deficiency? Indeed, your skin around the nails peeling may result from too little or too much intake of certain nutrients.

Any vitamin deficiency that leads to dry skin will eventually develop flaking or peeling skin around your nails. That being said, the vitamin deficiency must be severe before you start to see dry and rough skin around nails.

Vitamin B3 or vitamin B7 deficiency and vitamin A toxicity can all cause peeling skin around nails. Let’s take a deeper look at how vitamin deficiency or overdose can lead to peeling and dry skin around the cuticles of the nails.

1. Niacin or Vitamin B3 Deficiency

Niacin, or vitamin B3, is an important vitamin for skin health. A severe vitamin B3 deficiency can lead to a skin condition called pellagra. Symptoms of pellagra include inflamed skin, scaly skin sores, and cracked skin.

As the skin cracks, over time, your skin may peel, bleed, or become stiff or darker. You may also experience peeling of the lips and tongue.

Primary pellagra is often the result of a diet deficient in both niacin and tryptophan.

Although pellagra is often caused by a poor diet, secondary pellagra results from a poor ability to use niacin in your diet, which can occur due to long-term diarrhea, alcoholism, Hartnup disease, carcinoid syndrome, and various medications like isoniazid.

Pellagra can also trigger dementia, diarrhea, and dermatitis.

Niacin supplementation is the often considered the most efficient way to restore vitamin B3 levels.

A vitamin B3-rich diet will include:

  • tuna
  • chicken
  • salmon
  • cod
  • lamb
  • turkey
  • sardines
  • grass-fed beef
  • green peas
  • asparagus
  • broccoli
  • collard greens
  • spinach
  • cauliflower
  • eggplant
  • kale
  • winter squash
  • raspberries

2. Biotin or Vitamin B7 Deficiency

Biotin, or vitamin B7, is a major part of what helps maintain the health of skin, hair, and nails. Sometimes biotin is called by the nickname the “H” vitamin, which stems from the German words Haar and Haut that translate as “hair and skin.”

Biotin deficiency is considered rare; however, a biotin deficiency can cause dry, scaly skin. As the deficiency progresses, this leads to more severe dermatitis, inflammation, dark scales, and hair loss.

Other symptoms include dry eyes, cracking in the mouth, fatigue, depression, insomnia, and appetite loss. Biotin deficiency can also worsen symptoms of psoriasis and eczema, which can further lead to peeling skin around nails. Biotin deficiency is also common in Crohn’s disease.

How can you prevent biotin deficiency? Biotin is rich in foods like:

3. Retinol or Vitamin A Overdose

Vitamin A is an antioxidant responsible for skin maintenance, wound healing, skin re-growth, and immune health. Vitamin A is found in two main forms: beta-carotene and active vitamin A.

Active vitamin A—also called retinol—is found in animal-derived foods and can be directly used by the body. It does not need to be converted first.

On the other hand, carotenoids like beta-carotene are found in fruit and vegetables. Carotenoids are converted to retinol after food is ingested.

When it comes to vitamin A, having too much can cause peeling skin, including around the nails. The dosage needed for vitamin A toxicity is difficult to achieve from food alone.

Rather, vitamin A overdose is likely from long-term usage of vitamin A creams, gels, or supplements, or accidental ingestion of very high doses. People with poor liver function are more likely to experience symptoms of vitamin A toxicity.

Other Common Causes of Skin Peeling around Nails

Besides vitamin deficiency or overdose, there are a number of other causes associated with dry and peeling skin around nails.

The following are some of the most common:

  • Bad habits: Sometimes a person’s nails are in poor condition due to nervous habits, including biting or picking your nails and cuticles. These habits can cause damage and skin infections.
  • Frequent handwashing: Excessive handwashing may lead to peeling of your skin around the nails, since constant usage of soap can wear away at your skin’s surface and lead to sensitive skin, irritation, and peeling.
  • Using harsh chemical products: Various chemicals are added to soaps, moisturizers, shampoos, and other beauty products, and some of these can lead to peeling skin around nails.
  • Sunburns: Too much time in the sun can result in a sunburn, and in a few days, your skin will peel. This can affect the skin around nails when your hands are exposed to the sun.
  • Cold or hot weather: Cracked, dry, and peeling skin around the nails can also result from dry climates and winter temperatures. It can also occur during the summer months due to excessive sweating.
  • Allergic reactions: The skin around your nails may peel if you’ve been exposed to an allergen such as latex, nickel, detergents, or solvents.
  • Hand eczema: Hand eczema may lead the skin to redden, crack, itch, and peel. Avoid hot water and use gentle cleansers in hand eczema treatment.
  • Fungal infections: Fungus or yeast on the fingers can also cause dry skin and peeling around your nails. This can be due to Candida albicans or sometimes dermatophytes, which only live in dead tissue like dead skin cells or nails.
  • Psoriasis: Peeling skin around nails is also a symptom of psoriasis—a chronic skin condition where silvery plaques or other lesions are found on the skin.
  • Exfoliative keratolysis: This condition occurs during summer months, and can cause blisters that eventually peel. The skin will also feel dry and cracked, and look red.
  • Calcium deficiency: Dry skin is a symptom of calcium deficiency, which can lead to the skin peeling.

Final Thoughts on Skin around Nails Peeling

The skin around nails peeling may may indicate a vitamin deficiency or an overdose. The common vitamin deficiencies associated with peeling skin around nails include vitamin B3, aka niacin, or vitamin B7—also known as biotin. Vitamin A toxicity can also lead to the skin around the nails peeling.

Other potential causes of dry and peeling skin around nails include exposure to harsh chemical products, hot or cold weather, sunburns, frequent handwashing, allergic reactions, hand eczema, psoriasis, exfoliative keratolysis, and calcium deficiency.

The treatment for dry and peeling skin around nails will depend on the cause. Consult your doctor or naturopath to help determine the cause and best treatment plan most appropriate for you.

Some natural products often used for skin irritation include aloe gel, coconut oil, olive oil, or raw honey.

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Article Sources (+)

Mateljan, G., The World’s Healthiest Foods: Essential Guide for the healthiest way of eating (Seattle: George Mateljan Foundation), 736, 768, 784-785.
Silver, N., “What Causes Peeling Fingertips and How Is It Treated?” healthline, June 26, 2017; https://www.healthline.com/health/fingertips-peeling.
Dray, T., “Can Lack of Vitamin Cause Skin Peeling?” LIVESTRONG.com; https://www.livestrong.com/article/546925-can-lack-of-vitamin-cause-skin-peeling/, last updated Aug. 14, 2017.
“Vitamin H (Biotin),” University of Maryland Medical Center; http://www.nahfoundation.org/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-h-biotin, last accessed Jan. 11, 2018.
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