Mobility and independence are two of the most powerful and prevalent goals of individuals with limb loss. Caring for the skin on your residual is a necessary and important part of working toward and achieving those goals. The residual’s skin takes on extreme tension and stress when placed in a prosthesis, so it needs extra attention to stay resilient.
Every amputation is unique, so it might take time to develop a skincare routine that works for you. However, like everything, there are skincare practices you don’t want to skip and those that get in the way of healthy skin.
Residual Skincare DO's
Do regular skin checks of your residual.
The skin on your residual can change without warning. A hot day spent outside or unexpected swelling easily creates sore spots that, if not addressed early on, can develop into a problem that requires staying out of your prosthesis. Check the residual skin from all angles. Grab a friend or use a mirror if there are angles you can’t see on your own.
Do wash your residual every day.
The environment inside the prosthesis socket easily creates a breeding ground for bacteria or fungus. Daily washing of your residual removes perspiration, bacteria, and irritants from the skin. A clean socket environment can help prevent irritation and infections that sideline you from your favorite activities. Be sure to use a gentle cleanser that’s soap-free, reducing the chances of drying or irritation.
Do use moisturizer.
Moisturized skin is stronger and more flexible than dry skin. It’s also more resistant to chafing, scratches, and scrapes that can create entry points for infection. Apply a day moisturizer before donning your prosthesis. VitalFit’s Daily Moisturizer hydrates and creates a protective barrier over the skin. It also has antifungal and antiseptic properties as extra protection from infection.
At night, after you’ve washed your residual, apply more moisturizer to nourish the skin while it heals. VitalFit’s Night Moisturizer works with the body’s natural healing process to supply antioxidants, vitamins, and natural ingredients that reduce inflammation and discoloration.
Do plan in advance for perspiration.
Individuals with limb loss tend to perspire more due to the trapped heat of the prosthesis and the extra work it takes to move with an artificial limb. The skin on your residual can easily develop heat rash, chafing, and other heat-related issues that make it painful to wear your prosthesis.
Always start with a clean residual and clean socket. In the summer or on days when you know you’ll be fighting the heat (weather-related or your own), apply VitalFit’s Liquid-to-Powder Plus. It applies like a lotion but dries to a powdery finish that acts as a friction barrier that helps reduce perspiration and irritation.
While you’re out and about, keep extra liners, socks, and supplies with you so you can clean your residual or change the prosthetic interface if needed. You might also need to shower more frequently to keep your residual clean if you’re perspiring more than usual.
Do clean the prosthetic socket daily.
A clean residual won’t do much good if the prosthetic socket isn’t kept clean, too. The warm, moist environment in the socket can easily lead to bacterial or fungal growth. Wash your socket every day. You can use the same soap-free cleanser you use on your skin on your socket.
Do wear and adapt your prosthetic interface to the season and activity.
It’s normal for the size of your residual to fluctuate. Adapt your prosthetic interface as needed to maintain a good fit. In the summer, when swelling is more common, you might need a thinner sock. In the winter, you may need a thicker sock or to wear two pairs to maintain the fit of your prosthesis. However, if making these daily adjustments doesn’t help, call your prosthetist to find out if you might need a fitting.
Do stay hydrated.
Your hydration level can help or hurt your skin. A lack of water can make the skin dry and brittle even if you’re using moisturizers. Consistently sip water throughout the day, especially in temperature extremes or you’re particularly active. Drink extra when it’s particularly hot outside, and sip warm drinks during the winter when it’s easy to forget that the air also gets dry when it’s cold.
Do develop and follow a consistent routine.
Residual skin care can and should be a part of your daily routine. Consistency will help you avoid skin injuries. It can also alert you to a problem long before it’s had time to progress.
Residual Skincare DON'Ts
There aren’t as many don’ts, but they’re important ones you don’t want to forget.
- Don’t use cleansers with drying ingredients like alcohol, soap, or anything that irritates the skin.
- Don’t shave your residual. Shaving creates microscopic injuries to the skin. Those injuries can create openings for infection.
- Don’t ignore a rash, crack, or other changes in the residual skin. If you notice a change in your skin, act immediately. Keep an eye on red spots. Moisturize dry spots, and call your doctor if a spot doesn’t get better after a couple of days.
Your residual skin deserves special care. It keeps you up and running (sometimes literally), but to stay that way, it has to be nourished and kept clean. Build a healthy skincare routine into your daily habits, and you’re helping yourself stay mobile and active.