Dry Skin Solutions
Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It protects you by keeping germs, pollutants, and other substances out. When your skin is too dry, however, it can’t do its job as well. It’s more easily injured and becomes itchy and uncomfortable. Very dry skin can even crack, which leaves you open to infections. This means that taking good care of your skin is important if you have diabetes. Below are some of the most common causes of dry skin, how you can avoid it, and what you can do about it.
What causes dry skin?
Dry skin happens when your skin loses too much water or oil. There are many things that dry your skin, from central heating to not drinking enough water. Diabetes itself tends to dry your skin out, and the higher your blood sugar the drier it’s likely to be. Other common causes are heat, hot showers or baths, soaps, and shampoos. The weather can have a serious effect on your skin, and cold, dry winter air saps the moisture from it.
How can I help avoid it?
To keep your skin healthy and hydrated, treat it gently. Heat, moisture, and soaps strip the oil from your skin, and oil—not water—is the key to keeping your skin moisturized. Hot baths and showers also steal moisture, and detergent soaps wash away your natural protection. Keep your baths or showers short, and use warm water instead of hot. Opt for a gentle, non-detergent bath soap or body wash, and use a gentle shampoo.
Dry air also dries your skin out. During the cold months, when your house is constantly heated, consider running a humidifier. This replaces the moisture in the air so that it doesn’t rob your skin. Keep your sun exposure to a minimum during the warm months, and protect your skin during the winter months by covering as much of it as possible when you go outdoors. Don’t just wear a coat and gloves—protect your face with a scarf too. Use lip balm to protect your lips.
Keeping your blood glucose as close to normal as possible reduces your likelihood of dry skin. So do omega-3 fatty acids, which are very nourishing to the skin. They're found in fatty fish such as salmon, nuts, and soybeans. Omega-3s are also available as supplements. But always check with your doctor before starting to take any supplements.
Staying hydrated is important. When you get even mildly dehydrated, your skin is one of the first things to suffer. So make sure that you drink enough fluids.
How is it best treated?
Dry skin needs moisture. Moisturizing lotions containing natural oils such as sunflower, safflower, olive, or coconut are especially beneficial. Glycerin-based moisturizers are very hydrating, and creams containing shea butter are very soothing for thirsty skin. The best time to apply a moisturizer is immediately after a bath or shower.
You can also use oil as a moisturizer. After patting yourself dry, apply oil just as you would lotion. Your skin is already well-hydrated from the bath, so the oil seals the moisture in and keeps it there. Whether you use lotion or oil, don’t apply it between your toes—too much moisture there can make a fungal infection more likely.
Keep some lotion or hand cream by the sink, and use it after every hand-washing.
When should I see a doctor?
Dry skin is a minor annoyance for most people. However, it pays to be careful when you have diabetes. If you have chronic dry skin that doesn’t respond to gentle care and moisturizing, talk to your doctor. And if your skin is dry enough to crack, see your doctor right away.