Summer Sun Skincare Tips

For many of us, summer means more time spent outdoors.  But if you have diabetes, time in the sun may put you at higher risk for sunburn, infections, and other problems. Check out these summer sun tips to help you protect yourself during the warm days of summer:

  • Pick the right sunscreen – Choose sunscreen with broad-spectrum coverage – that means it blocks both UVA and UVB rays.  And pick an SPF of at least 30.  The higher the number, the better protected your skin will be.  As a diabetic, it is especially important to avoid getting sunburned.  Your skin provides a protective layer to keep infection out of your body.  Sunburn, especially if it blisters or cracks, can open that layer and let an infection in.  The higher sugar level in your blood can help that infection grow faster and make it harder for your body to recover.
  • Apply plenty of sunscreen – The point of wearing sunscreen is to protect all of your skin, not just the parts that are easy to reach. Remember to put sunscreen on the tops of your ears and in the part of your hair if you’re not wearing a hat.  And don’t stop with the top side of your body.   Use sunscreen on the bottoms of your feet, the undersides of your arms, and the lower part of your back where your shirt and shorts can separate. And don’t think you can apply sunscreen once and forget it.  You need to reapply at least every two hours, and every time you get out of the water.
  • Protect skin wounds – The one place you don’t want to apply sunscreen is on an open sore or ulcer on your feet or skin.  If you have an open wound, make sure it is clean then cover it with a bandage to block the sun and keep bacteria out.
  • Stick to the shade – Whether you find a tree to hide under or make your own shade with a giant umbrella, do your best to stay out of the sun.  UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.  The easy way to remember is by looking at your shadow.  If it looks shorter than you are, head for the shade.
  • Slip on sandals – High blood sugar can cause damage to nerves which is known as neuropathy.  Many people with diabetes experience reduced sensation from neuropathy in their feet.  If you have neuropathy, be careful to protect your feet from hot surfaces.  Even standing on hot sand can cause a burn that you may not be able to feel until your skin is damaged.  Even if you don’t feel anything is wrong, check your feet after a day out in the sun.
  • Protect your vision – UV rays in bright sunlight can damage your eyes, especially if you have retinopathy from high blood sugar.  Take care of your vision by wearing sunglasses with 99 to 100 percent protection from UVA and UVB radiation.
  • Prep for your pump – If you use an insulin pump, you may have trouble getting it to hold in place if your skin is sweaty. If you use a continuous glucose monitor sensor, talk to your doctor for advice or a stronger adhesive if your pump won’t stay in place.   For other types of pumps, you might have more success if you prep the insertion site by using skin wipes that leave a tacky residue on your skin.   You may also find that using antiperspirant on the area before inserting a new infusion set can help.    Just remember, either of those methods may interfere with continuous monitoring.  So don’t try them if you use a continuous glucose monitor sensor.

It’s important to note that some medications, including sulfonylureas used to treat type 2 diabetes, can make your skin more prone to burn.  If you do get a sunburn, use a good moisturizer to keep the skin from cracking and watch carefully for any signs of infection.  See your healthcare provider for a bad sunburn or infection. 

Denise DeWitt is a freelance writer for


Diabetes Forecast. 9 Skin Care Tips for Sun Safety. Tracey Neithercott. Web. May 14, 2012.

American Academy of Dermatology. How do I prevent skin cancer? Web. May 14, 2012.

American Diabetes Association. Skin Care. Web. May 14, 2012.

American Diabetes Association. Summer Fun, at Home and on the Road. Web. May 14, 2012.

eMedicine Health. Sunburn. John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP. Web. May 14, 2012.

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