What is a good moisturizer for 58-year-old dry diabetic skin?
I don’t know if your skin was dry before you developed diabetes or whether this has effectively caused it, but it is quite likely that you have an impaired skin barrier and if so, you will probably continue to have dry, scaly or even cracked areas of skin.
As with all skincare issues, the most effective treatment will be a combination of the best possible ingredients formulated intelligently, for optimum effect, with nothing in the product that could irritate and worsen the problem.
You can put together a successful treatment at home, by buying a few ingredients and using then together. You will need:
- A humectant - for hydration - this can be vegetable glycerine, or a simple glycol to draw moisture into the skin. After cleansing, rub in a small amount to the affected areas.
- An emollient - to soften the skin and allow a deeper penetration of the humectants- shea or mango butters are good for this, they both contain oleic acid, stearic acid and linoleic acid (fatty acids). Or a nice rich fruit or nut oil: jojoba, argan, rosehip oil - which are all moisturising and nourishing too. Again, take a small amount and thoroughly rub it into the driest areas first and them smooth it over the whole skin. For a smoother, less sticky feel, mix them, by first gently heating a butter and mix in one of the oils 1 spoon of butter to 2 of oil. Let it cool and apply it.
- An occlusive - to protect the skin from further drying - simple petrolatum (petroleum jelly) or castor oil will both do this. They are sticky, so you can either mix a small amount with the emollients or apply a thin layer on top.
You may prefer to simply buy a moisturiser that does all this in one, but you still need to read the ingredients list to ensure they have at least one from each of these categories. A good moisturiser will probably also contain hyaluronic acid, an effective humectant and antioxidants like CoQ-10. These will be helpful to you too, so keep an eye out for these too.
To actually address the problem, so the dryness in your skin improves, rather than simply feels more comfortable after applying products, I would suggest you look for a product that includes a reasonable amount of niacinamide, urea, allantoin and panthenol. None of these are difficult to source or particularly expensive, so it is reasonable to expect to find them (I use them in all of my moisturisers, from the most luxurious to the everyday moisturiser). It is quite likely that you have a compromised skin barrier function, due to the high blood sugar levels in diabetes. A healthy skin barrier does a good job of holding in moisture and oil. By applying something to actually help this repair, seems more sensible, than just soothing the symptoms.
Silicones are not entirely ‘natural’ so not everyone wants to use them (they are considered safe and effective by the EEC and FDA - regulatory bodies), but dimethicone, a commonly used one, will soften and protect the skin. I use two alternatives in my creams for dry skin, Gosulin and Inutec, derived from plants, that give a nice result. They will be less easy to find unless you are buying from a shop with a wide variety of options.
You might find it helpful to use an AHA, like lactic acid, either in the moisturiser, or in a once a fortnight exfoliant, ideally used with colloidal oats, aloe vera or something as soothing. Using a hydrosol instead of a cleanser might also help. If you are cleaning skin with soap or a cleanser with a high pH, they are often quite alkaline, this will further irritate. A calendula, chamomile, rose, lavender or honeysuckle hydrosol will clean effectively, but the pH is much closer to skin so they won’t cause it stress. They also contain soothing, anti-inflammatory properties which will feel good and help the moisturiser to work.
Your age indicates that you may also be lacking oestrogen, which helps skin retain it’s hydration, healing and protective qualities and could make this situation worse. If you are prepared to buy another product, look for a serum with phytoestrogens, like Resveratrol. This is naturally occurring and it binds to oestrogen receptors in the skin to inhibit free-radical damage and help repair the skin-barrier. I put it in a serum specifically for people heading for or already facing the…menopause (‘Jaws’ sound-track required here). You need to find it fairly high up the ingredients’ list as it works best at around 2% (so it should be well above the preservative - at around 1%).
So, the Brand!?
The brand matters less than the ingredients and when you know what needs to be in the jar, it will make sourcing the right product easier. Try not to take too much notice of the marketing blurb or accompanying photograph on skincare products, what matters is the ingredients list and the way in which it has been formulated - so choose a brand with a good track record; that doesn’t necessarily mean expensive, but you are unlikely to get good quality ingredients in a very cheap product.