More of your skin may be under wraps in winter but that doesn’t mean it’s in hibernation. In fact, the opposite is true. Your skin works hard 24/7, shedding millions of cells and renewing itself in the space of about a month, providing a barrier against infection and irritants. As the temperature drops, it’s a reminder that it’s time to show your skin some extra TLC, to support it in its crucial role to provide a barrier against infection and irritants.. This is particularly true for people with diabetes. "As it is a chronic condition, diabetes can impact on skin by reducing wound healing and circulation, and compromising the skin’s protective barrier function," says Dr Michael Freeman, a spokesperson for The Australasian College of Dermatologists. "Add freezing weather, heated rooms, chilling winds and cold viruses to that mix and skin issues such as dryness, itching and cracking may be triggered or worsened." Reduce the risk of flare-ups and stay well this winter by giving these at-home skin soothers a try.
IN YOUR BEDROOM:
Keep your toes toasty: Walking barefoot on cold floors increases your risk of cuts and scratches, and can inflame conditions such as chilblains. Having chilly feet also increases your chance of developing a cold, according to research by the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University in the UK. Keep your skin and your immune system healthy by slipping on boot-style slippers with a soft inner lining or a pair of non-slip socks. A tip from the experts? Avoid nylon socks – these can cause you to perspire, which may lead to fungal infections and skin breakdown. Instead, opt for an 80% cotton or wool blend, which will allow your skin to breathe. Maximise comfort by buying seamless socks with relaxed top bands and cushioning. Remember to check your feet daily, too. Watch for fungal infections, keep blisters covered until they heal and avoid shoes that are tight or cause pressure, says Dr Freeman.
Invest in a humidifier: Heated rooms may feel cosy, but arid indoor air can dehydrate your skin, making it itchier and drier. Ditch the itch by using a humidifier overnight. "Don’t keep it on all day and night or the extra moisture could lead to mould growing," cautions Dr Freeman. "If there is too much moisture in the morning, open windows for an hour or so. Make sure you change the water daily and clean the humidifier according to the manufacturer’s instructions."
IN YOUR BATHROOM:
Shorten your showers: "Long, hot baths and showers strip your skin of natural oils, leaving it dehydrated and more prone to dryness and itching," says Dr Freeman. To counter this, keep your showers short and avoid hot baths altogether. It’s a good idea to go soap free, too, and instead use a hypoallergenic lotion. And don’t forget to dry off thoroughly. "Moist skin can be more prone to fungal infections, so dry yourself carefully all over your body," says Dr Freeman. That means also drying under the arms, between the toes and skin folds and behind the ears.
Just add moisture: Keeping your skin hydrated and supple is the best way to combat dryness from winter winds and heaters. When you finish your shower, apply a hypoallergenic moisturiser – these don’t contain perfumes, preservatives or other chemicals that may inflame skin. "This helps lock in additional moisture under your body lotion or face cream,’ Dr Freeman says. To get the most out of your moisturiser, remember to rub downwards. "This ensures you are rubbing in the direction the hairs grow," says Dr Freeman. It also prevents you from damaging hair follicles, which can lead to infection. "Apply moisturiser several times a day or several times an hour if needed," he adds.
IN YOUR KITCHEN:
Stock up on soup: Eating soups and stews helps increase your intake of vegetables and antioxidants, keeps you feeling full for longer and encourages stable blood glucose levels. This in turn gives your skin a healthy boost. Why? "High blood glucose can increase the risk of infections and slow down healing," says Diabetic Living diabetes educator Dr Kate Marsh. "It can also cause dehydration, leading to dry skin, which is more likely to develop cracks and infections."
By Stephanie Osfield