Scales are a visible peeling or flaking of outer skin layers. These layers are called the stratum corneum.
Scales may be caused by dry skin, certain inflammatory skin conditions, or infections.
Examples of disorders that can cause scales include:
- Fungal infections such as ringworm or tinea versicolor
Ringworm is a skin infection due to a fungus. Often, there are several patches of ringworm on the skin at once. The medical name for ringworm is ti...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Pityriasis rosea
- Discoid lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disorder
- Genetic skin disorders called ichthyoses
If your health care provider diagnoses you with dry skin, you'll likely be recommended the following self-care measures:
Dry skin occurs when your skin loses too much water and oil. Dry skin is common and can affect anyone at any age. Symptoms of dry skin include:Scali...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Moisturize your skin with an ointment, cream, or lotion 2 to 3 times a day, or as often as needed.
- Moisturizers help lock in moisture, so they work best on damp skin. After you bathe, pat your skin dry then apply your moisturizer.
- Bathe only once a day. Take short, warm baths or showers. Limit your time to 5 to 10 minutes. Avoid taking hot baths or showers.
- Instead of regular soap, try using gentle skin cleansers or soap with added moisturizers.
- Avoid scrubbing your skin.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Try over-the-counter cortisone creams or lotions if your skin is inflamed.
If your provider diagnoses you with a skin disorder, such as an inflammatory or fungal disease, follow instructions on home care. This may include using a medicine on your skin. You may also need to take a medicine by mouth.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if your skin symptoms continue and self-care measures aren't helping.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your provider will perform a physical exam to look closely at your skin. You may be asked questions such as when the scaling began, what other symptoms you have, and any self-care you've done at home.
You may need blood tests to check for other conditions.
Treatment depends on the cause of your skin problem. You may need to apply medicine to the skin, or take medicine by mouth.
Elika Hoss, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
Dinulos JGH. Psoriasis and other papulosquamous diseases. In: Dinulos JGH, ed. Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 8.
Marks JG, Miller JJ. Scaling papules, plaques, and patches. In: Marks JG, Miller JJ, eds. Lookingbill and Marks' Principles of Dermatology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 9.