This work demonstrates the essential role of particle size and crossover hydrogen on the degradation of platinum polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) cathodes. One of the major barriers to implementation of practical PEMFCs is the degradation of the cathode catalyst under operating conditions. This work combines both experimental and theoretical techniques to develop a validated and thermodynamically consistent kinetic model for the coupling of degradation and the catalyst particle size distribution. Our model demonstrates that, due to rapid changes in the Gibbs–Thomson energy, particle size effects dominate degradation for ∼2 nm particles but play almost no role for ∼5 nm particles. This result can help guide synthesis of more stable distributions. We also identify the effect of hydrogen molecules that cross over from the anode, demonstrating that in the presence of this crossover hydrogen surface area loss is greatly enhanced. We demonstrate that crossover hydrogen changes the surface area loss mechanism from coarsening to platinum loss through dissolution and precipitation off of the carbon support.