Diabetes Forecast

The Healthy Living Magazine

12 Skin Care Tips for Your Hands

Protect your hands and fingers from dry skin

By Tracey Neithercott , ,
pair of hands on a black background

Fotosearch/Getty Images

By keeping your blood glucose on target, you can avoid a major cause of dry skin.

 Our hands sometimes have it rough: Harsh soaps and hot water can zap moisture and produce chapped or cracked skin. And blood glucose checks can leave fingers a little worse for wear. Read on for 12 ways to protect your skin.

1. Maintain Control 

Diabetes control can improve the state of your skin. When your blood glucose is elevated, your body flushes some of the excess sugar by urinating, says Cleveland Clinic diabetes educator Shannon Knapp, RN, BSN, CDE, who has type 1 diabetes. That gets rid of necessary fluids and can lead to dehydrated skin. By keeping your blood glucose in line, you can avoid dehydration that can cause serious health problems in addition to dry skin.

2. Moisturize Often 

Keeping skin hydrated is important because dry skin more easily breaks, providing a perfect entry for harmful bacteria. And people with diabetes are more susceptible to infection than those without. By regularly moisturizing, you can stop dry skin before it starts. Knapp says the type of moisturizer you use doesn’t make a difference—some are advertised specifically for people with diabetes, but you’re not required to use only those. Certain moisturizers may be more appropriate for daytime versus overnight, however. Ointments such as Vaseline, for instance, are oilier than lotions and creams and may leave hands too greasy for daytime use but can be helpful overnight.

3. Skip Scents 

Think twice before slathering on scented moisturizer. “You don’t want scented lotions because that can affect your blood sugar reading,” Knapp says. Testing with fragrant lotion on your fingertips can lead to falsely high readings. Of course, even if you use unscented lotion, wash your hands before checking your blood glucose. But you can skip the alcohol wipes, which can dry out skin.

4. Cover Up 

Next time you do the dishes, protect your hands by wearing dishwashing gloves. They’ll shield your skin from harsh dish soaps, which can dry out skin.

5. Lower the Heat 

Hand-washing is essential, but constantly dousing your hands in hot water can dehydrate them. Instead, wash your hands in warm water, which won’t leave skin as parched.

6. Ask for Help 

If drugstore lotions, creams, and ointments aren’t doing the trick, talk to a dermatologist. These doctors are trained in skin care and can assess your situation, troubleshoot problems, and suggest products for your skin care needs. Your dermatologist may prescribe a special cream if your skin requires it.

7. Rotate Finger Sticks 

Frequent blood glucose testing takes a toll on your skin, but good technique can prevent problems such as calluses. One  best practice is to use different fingers for blood glucose checks. “We’ve got 10 fingers and two sides to each finger,” Knapp says. “So if you want to use all of them, you have 20 spots [for] checks.”

 By rotating through these 20 sites, you give your skin time to heal. Constantly sticking your finger in the same spot can cause trauma to the skin, which can eventually lead to a callus.

8. Stick to the Side 

To lessen your chances of developing calluses, use the sides of your fingers instead of the center. Sure, you can still get calluses on the sides of your fingertips, but you have a lower risk than if you simply use the center of the pads. Not only that, but most people find the side of the fingers a less painful place to prick than the sensitive center.

9. Stay Sharp 

If blood glucose tests are causing problems for your skin, check your lancet. According to Knapp, using a dull lancet can increase your chances of getting callused fingers because it makes bigger breaks in the skin.

10. Pay Attention to Size 

The gauge of your lancet determines the size of the hole it creates in your skin. A higher gauge number (such as 33) creates a smaller hole and therefore causes less trauma to the skin. Still, it may be necessary to use a lower gauge if you have a hard time getting enough blood for a glucose test.

11. Keep It Shallow 

Most lancing devices have a depth setting, which controls how deep the lancet punctures the skin. By using the shallowest setting possible, you cause less damage to the skin and are less likely to develop a callus. If your fingers are already callused, however, you may need a deep setting in order to get enough blood for a glucose check.

12. Try Different Sites 

If tough skin on your fingers makes getting enough blood difficult, try using an alternate site. Some people prick their palms or arms for blood glucose checks, using a lancing device adaptable for this purpose. But, Knapp warns, readings from alternate sites lag behind those from the fingers and are best used when glucose is steady. At times when glucose is rapidly rising (after eating or a hypo treatment) or falling (during exercise or hypoglycemia), it’s best to use finger sticks.


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