Many people with diabetes have problems with dry skin. This problem is more common in people with poorly controlled diabetes, because when blood glucose (sugar) levels are high, the body “sucks up” water, causing frequent urination. The skin then becomes dry and dehydrated.
The skin may also become dry due to poor circulation or damage to the nervous system, which can interfere with the activity of the sweat glands.
Finally, other factors not specific to individuals with diabetes, such as sun exposure and the use of irritating or perfumed products can contribute to dry skin.
How to prevent dry skin
- Maintain proper control of your diabetes by keeping your blood glucose levels as close as possible to target values.
- Avoid very hot water, which tends to dry out the skin.
- Use gentle, unscented soap.
- Be sure to remove all traces of soap. A shower is better than a bath for removing grime and soap from the skin.
- Dry your skin thoroughly by patting with a soft towel, rather than vigorous rubbing.
- Use unscented, hypoallergenic hydrating lotions or creams. A thin layer is sufficient. Excess cream can make the skin too humid and cause it to macerate.
- Some detergents and other chemical products can strip the skin of its natural oils. Wear gloves when handling these products.
- Be active. Exercise gets the blood circulating, helps control diabetes and provides a feeling of well-being.
- Drink plenty of liquids throughout the day.
- Take extra precautions on sunny days:
- Avoid unprotected sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Apply sunscreen and a lip balm with SPF about 30 minutes before going out in the sun and every two hours thereafter.
- When swimming, use a waterproof sunblock.
- Beware of cloudy and windy days. The sun’s rays can penetrate cloud and fog.
Research and adaptation: Diabetes Québec Professional Health Care Team
Last update: June 2014
Adapted from: Tremblay, Louise, M.Ed., Nurse, “Pour une peau saine, même en été”, Plein Soleil, Diabète Québec, Summer 1997, p. 32