Living with Diabetes: Everyday Skin Care
If you have diabetes, skin care is important—and the right products go a long way toward helping relieve the dryness that can lead to itching and more serious issues. A hydrating body cleanser, lotion for hands and feet, and a targeted treatment for itching are the basics—and using them regularly can help keep your skin healthy and comfortable.
What you need to know
A primary goal of any diabetes skin care regimen is managing dryness, because dry skin can progress to more serious issues like infection and compromised healing.1 An effective skincare routine should include moisturizing ingredients, and may also benefit from ceramides to help restore your skin’s barrier, which seals moisture into the skin and allows it to defend itself against external aggressors and irritants.2 Urea is also beneficial for softening and smoothing dry skin associated with diabetes because it helps draw moisture from the environment into your skin.3 Antioxidant-rich ingredients like bilberry are also a valuable addition to any diabetic skin care regimen.4
Things to avoid when you have diabetes5
- Long, hot showers and baths
- Low humidity environments (if necessary, use a humidifier)
- Scratching itchy skin
- Leaving scratches, cuts or burns untreated
Diabetes skin care
Controlling your blood-sugar levels is a top priority when you're living with diabetes, but it’s also important to be diligent about diabetic skin care to help avoid many of the side effects this chronic condition can have on the skin. Caring for your skin begins in the shower or bath, and it’s best to keep your water at a warm (not hot) temperature. Afterwards, gently pat your skin dry (rather than rubbing) and pay special attention to areas of your body that can trap moisture, such as under the arms and breasts, the groin area and between the toes. This is also the perfect time to check your body for potential problems like especially dry, red or sore spots. It’s also important that you moisturize with a lotion or cream designed for diabetic skin immediately after bathing.6
Your diabetes skin care regimen should include just a handful of products, which can help you avoid potential irritation. Because dryness is often associated with diabetes, look for products that are specifically formulated for that issue. A gentle, hydrating body cleanser and moisturizing cream for diabetic skin are the basics,7 and a targeted moisturizing product for the hands and feet can help keep diabetic dry skin comfortable. If you’re not sure which products you should use, ask your physician or dermatologist for recommendations.
It’s also important to have an anti-itch product on hand. This is an important product for diabetes skin care since a cut or an abrasion caused by scratching can leave your skin vulnerable to infection.7
Always keep skin moisturized
In addition to using a cream designed for diabetic skin after bathing, it’s also a good idea to apply the cream throughout the day to keep your skin moisturized. Because your hands are especially prone to dryness, be sure to apply moisturizer regularly, especially after washing. And keep a bottle or tube of cream next to the sink so you don’t forget to use it.
Don’t forget your feet
Diabetes can lead to nerve damage and numbness in your feet, so it’s imperative to check them daily for any blisters or cuts you may not feel. Even the smallest injury can be prone to infection due to poor circulation that can compromise healing.8 A foot cream for diabetic skin is helpful for keeping this problem-prone area moisturized—but avoid applying between your toes, as this is a common spot for fungal infections.5
- Coderch, L., López, O., de la Maza, A. et al. Am J Clin Dermatol (2003) 4: 107.
- Baumann, L. (2015) Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients (pp.84-86). New York: McGraw-Hill Medical