Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects many parts of the human body including the largest organ – the skin. As people with diabetes struggle with poor blood circulation, it directly affects their skin, especially the skin on the feet. If there are any signs that diabetes has affected your skin – it’s when it becomes dry most of the time. This is why we wanted to touch on several key points on how to keep your skin hydrated and healthy. Read them all down here:
- Check your cosmetics. They could be increasing your risk for diabetes, according to a study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Divisions of Women’s Health. Researchers found that exposure to phthalates, chemicals found in personal care products like nail polish, hair spray, soap, and some perfumes, may cause high blood sugar and insulin resistance.
- Take care of dry skin – moisturize especially your feet, as they are most vulnerable. Apply moisturizer when your skin is still a little bit damp (usually after a shower) as it is more absorbent. Products that improve blood circulation work the best for this area of your body. Use gentle cleansers and moisturizers that are dermatology-tested products and proven to be suitable for people with diabetes. They work extremely well for deep moisturization. Read the labels of all new products that you choose to use on your skin. If not sure that they will be a good fit, consult with a dermatologist.
- Do not over moisturize as this can lead to bacterial or fungal infections that usually go away extremely slowly because they have a long-lasting treatment process. However, always choose products for deep moisturizing which are usually marketed for extra dry & sensitive skin. Skin relieving products and anti-itching products (itch relief) can also greatly benefit your skin. Look also for label indicators such as “no perfume” and “no alcohol”.
- Keep your skin dry and clean – after using a gentle cleanser, PAT DRY, do not rub the towel on your skin, not even on your scalp, and keep skin folds on the dry side (armpits, the skin between your toes, the groin, and area underneath the breasts for the women). Use baby powder or natural talc to avoid sweating in these areas.
- Use SPF every day – as the sun can cause the greatest damage to your skin, make sure to cover every exposed part of your body when you go outside. Protect your skin from the sun’s UV lights with high SPF factors (50+) and reapply during the day if needed.
- Take short showers with lukewarm water, not boiling hot because you risk drying out your skin even more and stripping the natural oils from the skin.
- Avoid staying for too long in bathtubs/swimming pools/the sea as it will draw out the moisture from your body.
- Treat wounds and sores as fast as possible – Apply antibiotic ointment on cuts and wounds immediately as it is well known that in people with diabetes the injuries heal slowly or may not heal at all, which can lead to serious complications.
- Take lip balm everywhere with you to avoid chapped lips. This area of your body is in constant contact with not only food and drinks but also objects like cutlery, cups, face masks, etc.– so make sure to reapply the lip balm a few times during the day.
- Use a humidifier if you live in a dry area. Even when you moisturize your skin morning and night – if the air around you is constantly dry, it will also slowly dry out your skin. This is why a humidifier works best in cases like this.
- Avoid scratching your skin at all costs – do not strip away the upper layer of your skin as this might expose it to the development of serious skin problems such as dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, and more.
- Improve your blood circulation by massaging your scalp and feet. Every so often treat yourself to a massage, or ask a friend or relative to help with that.
- Avoid tight shoes and wear comfortable clothing – this is especially for women who wear tight heels or sandals. If your toes are squeezed or pressed against the top of the shoe, you risk health issues since the blood circulation in people with diabetes is not that good. Do not restrain your body from free movement so that your skin won’t have any red marks or stretches from seams or labels. Tight clothes might also irritate your skin by peeling the upper layer of your skin.
- Do not cut the cuticles around your nails as this might lead to infections. Be careful when you clip your nails so you won’t make them so short that bleeding occurs.
- Never miss teeth cleaning – diabetes reduces the body’s ability to fight bacteria, which can cause unsightly (and unhealthy) plaque buildup. This is why you should never miss your bi-annual cleanings. Specialists suggest scheduling them for mornings as the stress of a dental appointment can raise blood sugar, so it’s better to go after breakfast when the morning medication brings glucose levels down.
- See a dermatologist to check what ingredients irritate your skin and to find out the right solutions for your skin-related issues, if you notice any.
- Consult an orthopedic surgeon or podiatrist if you have even a slight suspicion that you have any problems with the skin on your feet or the feet themselves (tissues, bones, joints).
If you want to keep track of your overall health as a person with diabetes, we recommend you try out the Diabetes:M app. Log your blood sugar levels and receive bolus advice when doing any physical activity. Lower your risk for diabetes-related skin complications by self-monitoring your chronic condition with the Diabetes:M app. Download it for iOS or Android from here.
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