Nourish your skin more in winter

Kate Bristow, a diabetes nurse educator, shares easy and practical tips to nourish and care for your skin during the colder months.

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Skin 101

Did you know that your skin is an organ? In fact, it’s the largest organ of the body, packed with blood vessels and nerves and is the centre for your senses (touch and pressure, pain and temperature).

The skin sheds about 40 000 skin cells every day and is a protective barrier that is capable of continually replenishing itself. Its primary role is temperature regulation, but it’s also a shield from disease, infection and the sun.

When we talk about the effects of diabetes on all organs in the body, this includes our skin. Your skin is a very good indicator of general health. If you notice skin changes have them checked out. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential in preventing complications from skin problems caused by diabetes.

How does winter affect your skin?

As we go into winter, the changes in temperature and humidity may change your skin’s texture and it will need a bit more care. Winter can make your skin drier and more irritated, and heaters will further dry out your skin.

If you suffer from eczema, rosacea or psoriasis, these conditions can flare in the winter. Note, these conditions are common conditions of the skin, not isolated to persons with diabetes.

Tips to take good care of your skin in the cold weather

  1. Go easy on cleansing of the skin – A daily wash/cleanse is important, but don’t wash multiple times in a day. Moisturising cleansers instead of foaming face wash will strip less of the natural oil off the skin. Also using a thicker moisturiser may help prevent dryness.
  2. Don’t forget the sunscreen – Shorter days and a weaker sun may make you slacker with using sunscreen. Although the UV rays are less, they are still there, and sunscreen remains an essential part of skincare management. Remember to re-apply it every two hours and pick shade where possible.
Did you know that sunscreen loses its properties of protection when it is expired? So, check the expiry date. A sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher is recommended.
  1. Use a humidifier with heaters – If you are using a heating device, such as a gas heater or an air conditioner on heat, have a humidifier going in the same room to keep the skin more comfortable. Remember this rule applies for an open fire too.
  2. Avoid soaking in the tub – Long hot showers and baths which are so divine in winter can actually dry the skin out. So, try keep soaking in the tub to a minimum and keep the water lukewarm and not piping hot. Try to use your moisturiser while your skin is still damp to seal the hydration in. If you have a dry skin, this is important all year round.
  3. Switch to fragrance-free products – Certain products may be more irritable to your skin. Know how you react and if you have an irritable skin, avoid products, such as laundry detergent with fragrances.
  4. Take care of your nails – Often, we don’t look at our nails until it’s time to wear sandals but things like fungal infections can start developing in winter. Foot care and nail care is important; if you notice brittle, yellowing or nails lifting check in with a doctor.
  5. Wear gloves and keep your skin warm – It’s also a good idea to wear gloves for doing dishes or with use of any cleaning products.
  6. Remember your lips – Use a gentle lip balm on a regular basis. Try not to use products that sting or make your lips tingle.  Suggested ingredients include glycerine, shea butter, beeswax, olive oil, castor oil and coconut oil.
  7. Be patient with dry, cracked skin – If your skin is already irritated, please be patient; badly cracked and dry skin or broken skin barrier may take months to heal properly. If you suffer from any diagnosed skin conditions (rosacea, eczema, or psoriasis), it’s important to get specialised treatment from a dermatologist.
  8. Stop smoking – Smoking makes you look older and contributes to wrinkles. It also narrows the tiny blood vessels in the skin, decreasing blood flow and increases the risk of squamous cell skin cancer. In the words of the Mayo clinic, “The best way to protect your skin is to quit!”
  9. Manage your stress levels – This may be the hardest one, but stress can increase your skin’s sensitivity and trigger acne and other skin conditions. Try to get a balance: enough sleep, exercise and time to do the things you enjoy.
  10. Follow a healthy eating plan – Plenty of vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and some fruit. Drink enough water to keep your skin hydrated.


Sister Kate Bristow is a qualified nursing sister and certified diabetes educator.


Sister Kate Bristow is a qualified nursing sister and certified diabetes educator.

Header image by FreePik


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