North winds, cold temperatures, sleet, and snow wreak havoc not only on roads but your skin. The potential for diabetes-related skin complications means that you have to give special attention to your skin when the temperatures drop. Skin care is more than powders and creams. It includes proper cleansing, drying, coverage, and moisturizing when your skin is most vulnerable. Wintertime skin care also needs extra vigilance with a dedication to a daily skincare routine.
Winter Challenges for Diabetic Skin
Cold winter weather dries out the skin because the air temperature affects how much water vapor the air can hold. Cold air holds less moisture than warm air. Consequently, even if you live in a climate where it rains all winter, your skin may become dry and flaky because there’s less moisture in the air for the skin to absorb.
Diabetes can already contribute to overly dry, itchy skin that’s prone to splitting and cracks. Add the dryness of cold temperatures and the risk of split skin and infection increases. Diabetes also affects the ability to heal those cracks and fight off any infection. If you’ve developed diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage), you may not feel the cracks or infection until they have gotten more serious. Regular skin checks should already be a part of your daily skincare routine, but they become even more important in the winter when you’re battling dry skin. Only one suggestion here- is it true that diabetics don’t feel their extremities as much either? So they may have an infection and yet not feel it? You mention daily checks below but might be good to mention it here as well.
Tips for Winter Skin Care
1. Regularly Moisturize Your Skin
Regular moisturizing fights dry skin. Before you get dressed for the day, start with a daytime moisturizer. Rub the moisturizer into the skin so that it doesn’t leave your skin feeling sticky or pool between the fingers or toes. Keep a small bottle of moisturizer with you in case you need to reapply while away from home. Moisturize before bed, too. Consider using a special nighttime moisturizer because they often have ingredients that promote healing while they moisturize.
2. Don’t Forget Sunscreen
Apply sunscreen on top of your moisturizer. You don’t necessarily think of sunburn in the winter, but the sun still shines when the temperatures are low. If there is snow on the ground, the snow can reflect the sun and increase your chances and the severity of sunburn.
3. Remember Your Lips
Apply a lip balm in the morning and as needed throughout the day. Make sure it has sunscreen. Many people forget to moisturize and apply sunscreen to their lips, but the skin on your lips is just as susceptible to cracking and sun damage as any other area of your body.
4. Stay Covered
Harsh winter winds can suck the moisture right out of the skin on your face and hands. Scarves and gloves or mittens can protect your skin. Apply moisturizer before heading out the door for an extra layer of protection.
5. Focus on Your Fingertips
The fingertips are prone to developing dry, hard skin in the winter, making it difficult to get a blood sample. When you apply moisturizer, make sure it gets rubbed into the fingertips.
6. Take Care of Skin Folds and Crevices
Some skin areas can stay too moist and become at risk for fungal infections. After showering, make sure to dry between the fingers and toes, in the armpits, bends of the elbows, behind the knees, and in the groin area. Use an antifungal moisturizer like VitalFitSR’s Day Moisturizer to further protect sensitive skin areas from infection. Make sure to completely work the moisturizer into the skin, so there isn’t extra moisturizer left behind.
7. Keep Water Temperatures Moderate
Hot water dries the skin. Keep your shower and bath temperatures moderately warm, and try not to linger too long. That might be hard when it’s cold in the bathroom. Try turning up the thermostat or turning on a space heater to make the bathroom less frigid.
8. Avoid Harsh Cleansers
A gentle moisturizing cleanser works best on winter skin. Watch out for formulas with harsh cleansers, fragrances, and dyes that could irritate or dry the skin.
9. Mind Your Feet
Diabetes can affect circulation and nerves, especially in the feet. Foot checks should be part of your daily routine anyway. In the winter, you may want to increase the number of times you look for irritation, red spots, or cracks in the skin. If diabetic neuropathy has affected the feeling and sensitivity in your feet, be extra cautious. Regular foot checks can catch a skin irritation or infection before you feel it. Address any issues as soon as possible to prevent a minor skin irritation from turning into a chronic problem or serious infection.
10. Socks and Shoes
Diabetes can slow the healing of blisters or chafing from shoes. Invest in socks and shoes that fit your feet well. Thin socks may not protect your feet from cold weather or provide enough protection from rubbing and chafing. Wear shoes that fit well and provide room for your toes to wiggle. Keep an eye on the fit of the heel to prevent blisters.
11. Stay Hydrated
It’s easy to forget about hydration when the temperatures aren’t making you sweat. However, hydration is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer. Sometimes, even more so because cold temperatures can hide the fact that you’re losing water.
A Final Note
Winter weather requires a bit more vigilance on your part when it comes to taking care of your skin. Make consistent skin care part of your daily routine to keep your skin healthy and your life active.