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Patient Education Library

Preparing Your Skin for Winter

1. Humidify. The major culprit behind your dry skin is a lack of humidity. When you crank up the heat in the winter, the moisture held in the outer layers of your skin evaporates. This is especially problematic for elderly adults and people with diabetes, who are more susceptible to dry skin because of high blood glucose levels that dehydrate the body or because of high blood glucose levels that dehydrate the body because of nerve damage. One solution: “Run a humidifier,” says Elaine Gilmore, MD, PhD, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “Sleep with it running and your skin can soak up eight or so hours of humid air each night.”

2. Think Warm, Not hot. Hot water zaps moisture, too. It may sound odd-after all, whether hot or cold, water is, well, moist. Gilmore says the heat is the problem. “When you get out of the shower, the skin is still heated up,” she says. “More moisture escapes with hotter skin.” Long, hot showers leave your skin more susceptible to evaporation and strip away your skin’s natural oil barrier. Instead, use lukewarm water.

3. Buy a Body Moisturizer. Investing in a moisturizer can go a long way toward preventing and treating parched skin. Stick with creams, which are made with less water than lotions and so are thicker. If you’re prone to dry skin or if your skin is already dehydrated, Gilmore recommends ointments, which provide a better barrier against the outside elements and prevent further water loss, giving the skin a better opportunity to heal itself. Keep in mind: You don’t need to moisturize between your toes; too much moisture there ups the risk for fungal growth.

4. Focus on your Face. While the skin on your face may need a heavier moisturizer than you use during the rest of the year, it’s not always a smart idea to use the same cream or ointment you put all over your body. Extra-greasy ointments may clog pores on your face. Instead, opt for a thick facial moisturizer.

5. Look at the Ingredients. “Really dry skin has microscopic cracks, so it can be much more susceptible to sensitivity,”Gilmore says. For that reason, opt for fragrance-and dye-free moisturizers. Another ingredient worth paying attention to: alpha-hydroxy acid (commonly referred to on packages as AHA), which can smooth skin by sloughing off dead skin cells but may burn or sting extra-dry skin. Opt instead for creams and ointments containing urea, which many health care professionals recommend specifically for people with diabetes.

6. Cover Up. It may sound obvious, but a good way to protect your skin from elements is to minimize exposure. Warm gloves can prevent red, raw, or otherwise chapped hands.

7. Wear Sunscreen. Everybody knows the significance of wearing sunscreen in the summer, but Gilmore says it’s equally important during the winter months. “You’re getting sun exposure when you’re out skiing,” says Gilmore. “the sun can reflect off of the snow and burn under your chin because of it.” You don’t have to apply sunscreen to areas of your body under clothing. But wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 on your face.

Source: Diabetic Forecast October 2013 Issue

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