Exfoliative keratolysis also known as ‘keratolysis exfoliativa’, and ‘focal palmar peeling’ is a common skin condition that causes the skin of the palms and soles of foot to peel off. Exfoliative keratolysis aggravates during summer, and most often affects teenagers. Sometimes, on the end of a finger, the split on the skin may be deeper, and it can make the skin feel numb and hard, and can take longer time to peel off.

Exfoliative keratolysis may be lead by pompholyx, which is an itchy form of eczema having small fluid-filled blisters.

Exfoliative keratolysis (EK) can be initially identified with air-filled blisters apparent on the palms, fingers or soles of feet. With time, these blisters rips open and leaves small collars of peeled scales of skin. The skin beneath becomes tender, dry and red. EK is usually not itchy.

Condition of EK can be confused with another autoimmune skin disorder, called “psoriasis“, which causes scaly patches of the skin.

The symptoms of EK generally aggravates if exposed to irritants. Such irritants may include detergents, soap, solvents and water. In due course, normal skin forms, but exfoliative keratolysis recurs frequently.

Exfoliative Keratolysis

Exfoliative Keratolysis

Exfoliative Keratolysis Causes
There is no known cause that causes this skin condition, but factors believed to be responsible include genetic factors and allergy. Though stress may not be the leading factor for EK, but it can trigger or aggravate the condition to make it worse.

Exfoliative Keratolysis Treatment

Topical steroids are often given exfoliative keratolysis. Intravenous steroids may be given in severe cases, but steroids usage has its own side effects, when used for a long time. The following may be helpful:

  • Protect the affected area from irritants
  • Use emollient hand creams, which contain silicone, lactic acid or urea
  • Photochemotherapy – a technique used to boost the immune system.


Exfoliative keratolysis is not a disease that aggravates to such a condition that may cause a threat to life. By maintaining proper lifestyle and avoiding the irritants, the pain or tenderness of this skin condition can be reduced.