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Why Do Babies' Feet Peel? Here's How To Determine The Cause

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Babies are amazing little creatures who grow and change more in a few months than they'll do for the rest of their life. They grow exponentially, they go from looking like squished little old men to the cherubic sweetness of impending toddlerhood. Sometimes, the changes are more confusing than others. Such is the case with their skin. From baby acne to that layer of hair that seems to cover them from head to foot, it can be a little strange, especially if you notice your baby's feet shedding like a snake. Why do babies' feet peel anyway? Is it something to worry about?

According to HealthLine, newborn foot peeling is not at all uncommon, and it's most likely nothing to worry about. The process, called desquamation, is the shedding of the outer layer of the epidermis, often in sheets. The article noted that this is completely normal in newborn babies and is due to the amount of vernix — that gooey stuff that covers baby at birth — that your baby was born with. Once the vernix is gone, the dermis will shed, and you might notice peeling at the feet, toes, ankles, and hands.

It looks gross, no doubt about it, but it's apparently no big deal in newborns.

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I spoke with pediatric nurse and mom Elizabeth Thompson of Los Angeles, California, and she tells Romper, "Peeling on the feet is normal when your baby is a newborn, but probably due to dry skin or infection as they get a bit older." She says that it's really common for babies to be sensitive to the objects that come in contact with their skin, and this can lead to irritation and peeling. "Even if it's just dry skin, the areas between the toes and on the soles of the feet like to peel. If your baby is well-moisturized and hydrated, and you notice the peeling is still going on, definitely talk to your doctor." If your child was recently treated for hand, foot, and mouth disease, the blisters will sometimes look like peeling skin as they've healed, Thompson adds.

With my kids, it was eczema that caused skin peeling. The peeling was localized to their toes, and at 10 and 7, they still suffer from this. My family always jokes that we have "cheap skin." We're prone to skin allergies, eczema, and all manner of psoriasis and dermatitis.

If you're wondering why your baby's feet peel when it's not the result of allergy, Thompson indicates that some of these conditions are mild, like an infection of the skin, but some, like ichthyosis, a genetic condition wherein the skin is constantly peeling, are more serious. "There's a range of diseases and infection that may present with peeling. That's why it's good to get it checked out."

However, pediatrician Dr. Varsha Saxena mentioned in a YouTube video that absent of any other symptoms, the peeling is likely something minor, like allergies, dry skin, or infection.

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"It could be due to detergents, soaps, moisturizing creams, or lotions," Saxen added. If you're like me, you will know the pain that is finding out too late that you're allergic to a lotion or moisturizer. My kids were the same way. We could use only one brand of shampoo and lotion, and it was of course the brand that cost the price of a small nation each month. Skin, especially brand new baby skin, is hyper-sensitive to the environment. After all, it's your body's first defense against the outside world.

But as Thompson says, it's impossible to diagnose without evaluation, so it's best to at least give your pediatrician a call if they haven't seen the peeling for themselves. That way there's a record of the occurrence and your child's doctor can determine where to proceed. Hopefully you can get away with something simple, and perhaps less costly than the apparently platinum-infused lotions and potions I was made to buy. Hopefully.