When it comes to diabetes, we often think of blood sugar levels, the heart, insulin, and even kidney and nerve issues. But, the truth is diabetes, whether Type 1 or Type 2, is a disease that can have a serious impact on the skin.
Diabetes is best known for causing excessively sensitive and dry skin. And, this is only made worse by the cold winter weather. But, people with diabetes can also contract unique skin conditions from the disease that can lead to serious complications. Luckily, you don’t need to lose hope quite yet!
We did our research and came up with a variety of diabetes skincare tips that can help you achieve youthful, radiant, and hydrated skin regardless of your condition. But, before we tell you our diabetic skin care tips, let’s take a closer look at what diabetes truly is, how it affects the skin, and what skin conditions are associated with the disease.
What Is Diabetes & How Does It Affect the Skin?
Diabetes is a long-lasting disease that affects how your body makes insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas that helps us turn food into sugar, releasing it into our bloodstream and fueling us with energy.
People with diabetes don’t make enough insulin, causing something experts like to call insulin resistance. This means that too much sugar stays in the bloodstream, leading to serious health conditions such as kidney and heart disease, skin issues, as well as vision loss.1
There are three types of diabetes. Here’s a short breakdown of each:
Type 1 Diabetes
In type 1 diabetics, the body starts attacking itself accidentally, stopping the production and secretion of insulin. This is the most dangerous form of diabetes and symptoms and health problems develop extremely quickly in these cases. Type one diabetics have to take insulin on a daily basis to survive.2
Type 2 Diabetes
While also a serious condition, type 2 diabetes is far more manageable but also far more common. People with type 2 diabetes still produce insulin, their body just doesn’t use it well. As a result, they can’t keep their blood sugars in check leading to additional health problems. Luckily, type 2 diabetes can be managed with a healthy lifestyle although people with the condition are more prone to skin ailments and infections.3
Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women - even if they’ve never had diabetes before in their life. Luckily gestational diabetes normally goes away after birth. But, there’s a catch. This condition increases the risk of health problems in both mother and child.
In fact, children are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes as they get older so it’s important to speak to your healthcare provider and get your blood sugar levels checked regularly during pregnancy.4
So, What’s the Link Between Diabetes & the Skin?
When blood sugar levels are high, the body doesn’t hold onto moisture as well leading to dry, cracked, and sensitive skin, among other problems. This is especially true when it comes to the feet, legs, and hands.
Some people with type 2 diabetes experience skin issues that their usual skincare products can no longer address. And, even the toughest of moisturizing products don’t make a blind bit of difference. Worse, yet, some even cause unexpected skin irritations, breakouts, and open wounds so it's important to take care of your skin if you suffer from diabetes.
The Different Types of Diabetes Skin Problems
Yes, people with type 2 diabetes often suffer from a dry and sensitive dermis but, unfortunately, the potential skin problems don’t stop there. Here’s a list of some of the skin problems you can expect if you don’t look after your dermis when diabetic:
Necrobiosis Lipoidica Diabeticorum
Necrobiosis Lipoidica Diabeticorum, or NLD, affects the lower legs because of changes in the blood vessels. NLD can be extremely uncomfortable and lead to symptoms such as yellow, waxy, and raised skin with borders that are slightly purple.5
While this may sound terrifying, these symptoms do go away over time. That said, if these sores break open or become painful, it’s essential to take care of the problem area by washing it with soap and warm water to prevent infections. You'll want to avoid hot water at all costs, especially if you suffer from diabetic neuropathy (diabetic neuropathy is a condition that causes numbness and nerve damage in the feet and hands.)
Acanthosis Nigricans affects the entire dermis but is most common around the groin, armpits, and the side of the neck, as well as the knees, hands, and elbows on occasion. This skin condition causes tanned, brown areas of thickened skin. While this condition can affect healthy people it’s most common in people with type 2 diabetes.6
Also known as diabetic blisters, bullosis diabeticorum are blisters similar to burn blisters that appear on the fingers, hands, forearms, toes, feet, and legs. While not the prettiest of sites, these blisters normally heal on their own and are generally painless.
While they do tend to heal on their own, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests that you care for these blisters immediately by cleaning them with soap and warm water to help prevent infections. If an infection does occur, clean the area and apply a gauze pad secured with paper tape. Then, seek medical advice right away.7
As you may well know, type 2 diabetes affects the blood vessels, including those that supply our dermis with blood. When this blood supply is affected, we develop a skin disorder called diabetic dermopathy. This dermopathy leads to problems like red or light brown, scaly patches on the skin.8
Also called skin spots, these patches don’t cause any discomfort and don’t usually require any medical attention.
Candida albicans is the most common fungal infection in people with type 2 diabetes. This infection thrives in moisture, making it most prominent in people with warm skin and those with moist skin folds.9
To take care of candida albicans you must keep the skin dry while also using antifungal medicine. Lifestyle factors can also have a huge impact on this treacherous fungus.
If you notice any breaks in the skin, it's important that you care for these wounds by keeping the area clean with soap and warm water. Then, apply a gauze pad and secure it with paper tape to help prevent infections.
Scleroderma Diabeticorum is most common in people with diabetes and those who are overweight or obese. This condition affects the dermis on the back and neck and causes a thickening or hardening of the skin. Some experts have reported successful treatment of the condition by using products that combine local PUVA and colchicine.10
More helpful reading:
Last but not least on our list of skin problems often seen in people with diabetes is eruptive xanthomatosis. This condition occurs when blood fat levels rise and blood sugar levels aren’t well managed. Small, firm, and yellow bumps with red halos appear on the skin causing itching and discomfort. Daily medication may be needed in extreme cases.11
People with type 2 diabetes are more likely to suffer from atherosclerosis than healthy individuals. There are various metabolic abnormalities in diabetics that lead to this condition, however, it's thought that the prolonged exposure to insulin resistance and hyperglycemia play a key role - as do hypertension and obesity.12
Despite the fact that atherosclerosis is most commonly associated with the heart, it also affects the blood vessels that supply the skin. When these vessels become narrow, fewer of the white blood cells that help fight infection are present. People with atherosclerosis heal more slowly and are, therefore, are more prone to infections.
More helpful reading on blemishes of the skin.
Skin Care Tips for People With Diabetes
So, now that we’ve gone through some of the potential skin problems you can expect to see in people with diabetes, let’s take a closer look at how to address them. As with most conditions, diabetes skin care starts with managing diabetes itself.
With some simple lifestyle changes, you can be sure to keep your diabetes in check while also achieving red carpet radiance on a daily basis!
Learn to Manage Your Blood Sugar Levels
High blood sugar levels aren’t good in healthy people, let alone people with diabetes. The first step to skin care for diabetics is to learn how to manage your blood glucose levels. This is because high blood sugar levels will lead to dry skin which can cause cracks in the dermis. And, cracks in the skin often lead to infections that are far harder to treat.
You can take care of your sugar levels by making some simple yet highly effective lifestyle changes. The first step is to eat a healthy diet packed with nutritious ingredients. Choose ingredients that are lower in calories and have a low glycemic index (GI) to help prevent your sugar levels from spiking. These include:
- Lean meats
- Healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds
- Whole grains
- Small amounts of low GI fruits
You’ll also want to stay hydrated by drinking a minimum of eight glasses of water a day (but we’ll go into this in more detail shortly!) And, undertaking 30 minutes of exercise will help you manage your weight too. This leads us to our next point...
More helpful reading by RenewSkin Inc.: Best diet for clear skin
Keep Your Blood Pressure Under Control
The skin is the largest organ of the human body, meaning that every single little health concern that you may have can manifest itself on your dermis - and blood pressure is no exception.
People with diabetes are more likely to have high blood pressure. And, high blood pressure can lead to skin redness and rashes in some cases.13
To keep your skin tone and texture healthy, you’re going to want to keep your blood pressure under control. To take care of your blood pressure, make sure you take any medication your doctor may have prescribed you. Also, as mentioned above, don’t forget to exercise and opt for healthy food choices. Simply exercising 30 minutes a day will not only lower your blood sugars, it’ll also reduce your blood pressure, and increase blood flow to your dermis.
And, more blood flow to your dermis, keeps your skin cells nice and healthy, ready to fight another day!
Use Moisturizing Cream Everyday
When it comes to diabetes and skin care, keeping the skin moist is essential! While moisturizing your entire body and using lip balm will keep your skin healthy and hydrated, you want to pay special attention to areas that are more likely to crack. For example, your hands, feet, elbows, and the back of the knees. You also want to avoid areas that tend to stay moist such as between your toes and under your armpits.
There are thousands of diabetes skin care products out there for you to choose from that can help keep your skin moist but be sure to read the labels before making a purchase. Any products with sulfates, parabens, alcohol, and various other chemicals will dry out your skin even more and, therefore, should be avoided at all costs.
Repair, Protect, & Hydrate Your Skin With Taut
While these diabetes skin care products are now available worldwide, they’re not necessary when trying to achieve smooth, hydrated skin. Instead, opt for a natural moisturizer and lip balm with plenty of healing ingredients such as our Taut Intensive Recovery Serum.
Specifically designed to repair, protect, and hydrate the skin, our serum contains 7 powerful botanical herbal extracts all proven to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These ingredients help repair stressed and environmentally-damaged skin while also reinforcing the skin barrier so that it can ward off pollutants and chemicals.
Formulated specifically for dry and sensitive skin, this formula promotes skin radiance and clarity that your makeup kit can’t!
Stay Away From Very Hot Water
During the winter months, a hot bubble bath is like a dream come true! There’s nothing better than soaking in some warm water with essential oils and Epsom salts. But, while this relaxing soak may come with some benefits, it definitely won’t do anything for you if you suffer from dry skin.
If you’re trying to put together the best diabetic skin care routine, you’ll be sad to read that hot water actually dries out the skin. Temperatures higher than 120 degrees open up the pores, pulling out moisture so if you suffer from dry skin, it’s time to start giving the bubble baths a miss.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the temperature of the water that’s the problem either. Soaking for more than 10 to 15 minutes can strip your skin’s natural oils, leaving it dry and, in some cases, irritated.
Excessively hot water can also burn the skin which is a huge risk for those with diabetic neuropathy. With this in mind, always test the temperature of the water on your forearm rather than your hands or feet before jumping into the shower.
A great tip to reduce the water temperature in your entire home is to turn down your water heater altogether.
Make Sure Your Skin Is Clean & Dry
Moisture and dampness thrive in dark warm areas - and the body is no exception! We never thought we’d say this but too much moisture can be a diabetic's worst enemy! From the skin folds on your belly to your armpits, under your breasts, and between your legs and toes, there is such a thing as too much moisture.
Why, you ask? Well, excess moisture can lead to yeast and fungal infections that can make your skin more susceptible to rashes, oozing patches, pimples, burning, and itching.14
To help prevent these nasty skin infections from taking hold of your dermis, take care of your skin by drying it thoroughly after every single shower, bath, or swim. You’ll want to focus special attention on these dark, warm areas and if you have to, use your hairdryer - just make sure it’s on a cold setting!
Pay Special Attention to Your Skin Care Routine During the Colder Months
In winter, humidity is low, meaning our skin doesn’t have as much moisture to cling onto for hydration. Worse yet, we’re prone to turning up the heat in our home, leading to an even dryer environment for our skin.15
While winter is a nuisance to most people’s dermis, it’s especially tough when it comes to skin care for diabetic patients because they’re skin tends to already be dryer than most. This is why it’s extremely important to pay special attention to your skincare routine during the colder months of the year.
The first step is to use a moisturizer every day. And, if you have to, bump up your moisturizing routine to twice a day! You’ll also want to spend more time focusing on areas of your body that are prone to dryness. For example, your feet and hands.
If you suffer from chapped lips, lip balm will become your new best friend and, whatever you do, don’t hold back! You can really go to town on your skincare routine during winter. Whatever chemical-free products make you feel and look good are plus in our books!
Another tip is to use a room humidifier - unless you live in a damp building. A room humidifier will make sure the air stays nice and moist so that your skin doesn’t dry out.
Last but not least, pay special attention to your hands and feet during the winter. Whether you have diabetic neuropathy or any other kind of nerve damage, the cold may be damaging your hands and feet without you even knowing it.
With this in mind, keep your hands and feet safe every time you leave the house by putting on some waterproof gloves and natural cotton socks with waterproof shoes. You can also apply a layer of moisturizer or petroleum jelly to your feet before putting your shoes on to lock in the moisture. Just make sure to wash your feet regularly and dry the spaces between your toes to prevent fungal infections.
More helpful reading:
Regardless of the season, it’s important you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids! Specifically, you’ll want to aim for at least eight glasses of water per day - or more if you can.
Stocking up on fluids will keep your body hydrated which will shine in your skin. But, water isn’t only good for your skin either…
When you are dehydrated, your blood glucose becomes more concentrated. This, in turn, leads to higher blood sugar levels, a common issue in diabetic patients. And, this applies to both mild and severe dehydration.16
So, why does this happen?
Well, when we are dehydrated, our body produces more of the hormone vasopressin. This, in turn, pushes the liver to overproduce blood sugar and can cause kidney issues. These issues are high-risk factors for various renal disorders as well as for people with type 2 diabetes.17
The key takeaway here is to stay hydrated. Aside from water, herbal, non-caffeinated teas also count towards your daily fluid intake. Just make sure to steer clear of caffeine and drinks that contain sugar and chemical-based sweeteners.
Hydrate Your Skin From Within With Taut
While there is no replacement for extra fluids in your daily routine, there are ways you can hydrate your skin and body from within. One of these is with our Taut Hydrate vegan supplement.
Taut Hydrate contains a potent dose of plant-based hyaluronic acid, a moisture magnet that fills the free space between our elastin fibers and collagen. This keeps the collagen in our skin and body flexible and pliable. But, while hyaluronic acid is naturally present in our skin, joints, and eyes, our levels decrease as we age, leading to fine lines, wrinkles, loss of volume, and a sagging, sunken appearance.
Supplementing with Taut Hydrate can help combat these early signs of aging by fighting off moisture loss. The result is a plump, radiant complexion that you can be proud of!
But, that’s not all. We’ve combined our hyaluronic acid with grape seed extract, an antioxidant that wards off free radical damage. This collagen protecting ingredient is key to healthy, luminous skin.
Follow a Healthy Diet
We touched on diet a little bit above but it is one of the most important factors of diabetes management. By keeping your blood sugar levels in check, you’ll be able to reduce your symptoms and maintain a beautiful complexion.
A diet with a good balance of whole grains, proteins like chicken and turkey as well as fewer saturated fats and plenty of vegetables and fruits will help keep your body and mind healthy.
But, while fruits may seem like a healthy option, it’s important to note that not all fruits are the same. And, this couldn’t be truer for people with diabetes.
Some fruits are high GI, meaning they will affect your blood sugar levels more drastically. The GI of fruit also depends on its ripeness and whether or not it’s fresh or dried.18
Typically, ripened fruit like a banana is higher on the glycemic index. This also goes for pears, apples, and grapes, just to name a few. Dried fruits are much higher GI than fresh ones so it's best to avoid these altogether if you can. We recommend you stick to berries as you can eat a substantial portion without increasing your blood glucose levels.
Unfortunately, fruits aren’t the only ingredients that can make your sugar levels spike. With diabetes, you’ll also want to avoid food like:
- Sugar (of all kind! That includes your honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar)
- Sweetened breakfast cereals
- White bread, white rice, and highly processed pasta
More helpful reading: A Dietitians Tips for Healthy Skin
It’s Not All About the Glycemic Index
As diabetes can also affect heart health, you’ll also want to steer clear of foods that can clog your arteries. It’s been proven that small amounts of saturated fat can have benefits, however, trans fats are extremely bad for you.
Not only this, many trans-fat foods are high on the glycemic index so you’ll be putting your health at great risk by eating them. Think of trans fats as fast food. These include frozen pizzas, microwave meals, baked goods, fried foods, and even coffee creamer. You’ll also want to cut out margarine and shortening.17
Check Your Skin Daily (Especially on Your Hands & Feet!)
Diabetic neuropathy affects the nerves and causes numbness in the hands and feet specifically. This nerve damage can be very dangerous because you may not be able to feel cuts, blisters, and burns which can open you up to a whole host of complications.
With the above in mind, one of the most important steps in skin care for diabetes patients is to check your skin regularly. And, while you should do a once over of your entire body at the end of each day to check for open wounds, you must pay special attention to your hands and feet.
Missed cuts and blisters to the feet and toes specifically can be a huge cause for concern as if left untreated, they’re more susceptible to gangrene and staph infections. If you do notice an old cut that is going red, oozy, or is clearly infected, book an appointment with your health care provider right away.
In the meantime, if the injury you've sustained can be cared for at home, make sure to wash it with soap and warm water, not hot water. Then, disinfect the area with the correct products and cover it with gauze pads and hypoallergenic or paper tape. In case soap and water aren't available, opt for a disinfecting ointment that won't dry the skin.
Treat Injuries Right Away With Your First Aid Kit
If you do get injured, whether a small cut or large burn, you must pull out your first aid kit to treat it right away. Many people with diabetes who wait to treat an injury can suffer from serious complications.
Caring for Cuts
If you have a cut, you should wash the area with gentle, chemical-free soap and warm water, not hot water. Then, pat the area dry before applying an antibiotic cream or ointment recommended to you by your healthcare practitioner. In case soap and water aren't available, use a disinfectant that won't dry out the area.
Try and avoid using alcohol, antiseptic solution, or iodine on clean wounds because these chemicals are too harsh and can make the skin dry, making the injury worse.
Once you have cleaned the area, you will want to pull out a clean gauze pad from your first aid kit and fix it in place with some hypoallergenic or paper tape. And, finally, clean the injury and replace the dressings with new ones at least once a day (twice if the wound oozes a lot.) It's important you replace both the gauze AND the paper tape to avoid any infections.
Caring for Blisters
When it comes to caring for blisters, the goal stays the same: to fight off any chance of infection.
Whatever you do, do not try and pop the blister as this will leave the wound open and more susceptible to bacteria.
Instead, leave the blister as it is and gently wash the area with soap and warm water. Then, it's time to get your gauze pads out again. Remove a clean gauze pad from its packaging and apply it loosely on top of the blister, securing it with paper tape.
Remember to replace the gauze pad and the paper tape in the morning when you wake up and in the evening before jumping into bed. If the blister is on your foot, wear comfortable shoes that do not rub up against your gauze pad.
When Should You Book an Appointment With Your Health Care Provider?
Because many people with diabetes are at higher risk of contracting an infection, it’s essential that you know when it’s time to call your doctor for medical advice. In most cases, you can treat small wounds at home with the steps above. However, you should seek medical attention if:
- The wound continues to get redder after two days
- The injury is accompanied by significant pain and swelling
- You have a fever
If the injury is bad from the get-go, i.e. a large burn, you should see a doctor right away. Quick treatment is the key to avoiding serious complications.
The American Academy of Dermatology also recommends that you seek medical advice for calluses on your feet and toes as these may crack, leading to an increased risk of infection.19
Keep Your Body Fighting Fit for Radiant, Beautiful Skin
As with all matters of the dermis, diabetes skincare starts with the right lifestyle. And, an important aspect of your healthy lifestyle includes the products you use. More importantly, this includes the skin care products you use both on your dermis and those you put in your body.
At Taut, we’re true believers that optimal skin health and beauty really do come from within which is why we created our Taut Collagen Anti-Oxy Foxy Kit.
Designed to provide you with a wealth of restorative goodness, our Taut Collagen Anti-Oxy Foxy Kit includes three boxes of our Taut Premium Collagen Advanced Formula. Made using hydrolyzed marine collagen sourced from wild-caught Red Snapper, this potent liquid collagen provides a 13,000mg dose of marine collagen peptides designed to plump, hydrate, and rejuvenate your skin.
We went one step further by combining this marine collagen with hyaluronic acid to strengthen the epidermis and lock in moisture, as well as DNA from salmon which defends our skin against free radicals, and ceramide which protects the outer layer of the skin.
We’ve also included a healthy dose of vitamin C, a co-factor of collagen that supports wound healing, and grape seed extract, a powerful antioxidant that protects collagen from free radical damage.
And, on the topic of antioxidants, this amazing kit includes one box of Masquelier’s French Pine Bark Original OPC which helps neutralize free radicals in the body.
What is a free radical? RenewSkin Inc. explains.
This supplement has been proven to be more effective than vitamin E as well as 20 times more potent than vitamin C for its antioxidant properties. Its incredible powers allow it to strengthen the vascular system while also enhancing waste removal in the body.
Masquelier’s French Pine Bark Original OPC is an antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, and anti-allergic that helps fight infections in the body, making it the perfect addition to any diabetes skincare routine. It also helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while improving skin suppleness and overall quality.
Have questions about diabetics skin care or maybe you’d like to know more about our transformation programs? If so, contact our team today for answers to all of your queries!