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What Is Waxy Skin?

By Misty Wiser
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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Waxy skin is a dermatological condition most often caused by excess blood sugar levels in diabetics. Skin appears much thicker and feels tighter than the surrounding healthy tissue, frequently making it difficult to move the affected area. It will look waxy and slightly shiny as the tissue thickens. The tightening is most noticeable around the finger joints. Treatment involves lowering blood sugar levels through diet, exercise, and medication.

The location of the waxy skin is an important factor in obtaining a correct diagnosis. When it is found on the hands, fingers, feet, or toes, the condition is called digital sclerosis. Some diagnosed with digital sclerosis also report a buildup of thick skin on the forehead. If the waxiness is located on the back of the neck and the upper back, it is called scleroderma diabeticorum. Most people that are diagnosed with scleroderma diabeticorum are also overweight and have diabetes.

Diagnosis of a waxy skin condition is usually made after a visual examination by a physician. Confirmation of the skin disorder is occasionally obtained through further testing. Additional thickening of the skin can be measured by a non-invasive test called high-frequency ultrasonography. Before the test, a technician will apply a lubricating gel that aids in the transmission of sound waves to the area and sends results to the ultrasound machine. Images are projected onto a nearby computer screen, allowing the results to be immediately available to the physician.

Treatment for waxy skin caused by diabetes begins with lowering blood sugar levels. Most physicians recommend a diet and exercise program as the first step in controlling blood sugar. Medication and insulin may be needed for some diabetics in order to achieve normal blood sugar readings and relief from waxy skin.

There are other steps a diabetic can take to promote skin elasticity and moisture, including avoiding bathing or showering in hot water. Smoking may cause an increase in the incidence of tight dry skin, and most physicians advise diabetics to quit smoking as soon as possible. Increasing the daily amount of water and other re-hydrating fluids may help the skin retain its moisture.

Coping with waxy skin can be made easier by following a few easy tips. Much of the discomfort caused by waxy skin may be relieved by using a moisturizing skin lotion on a daily basis. Allowing for additional time for tasks involving the hands may help some diabetics eliminate the frustration of being unable to complete activities at the rate they were once accustomed.

Does Waxy Skin Caused by Diabetes Go Away?

Unfortunately, waxy skin does not go away once you have it. Once you have developed this condition, it will be permanent. Your doctor may prescribe medication to alleviate discomfort if your waxy skin becomes uncomfortable or painful.

Can Diabetes-Related Waxy Skin Be Prevented?

Maintaining healthy blood glucose levels can prevent diabetes complications. A high blood sugar level, particularly if not managed correctly, can result in waxy skin. In addition, excessive levels of fatty acids may damage the protective barrier function of your skin by destroying its natural oils. 

If these oils are not quickly replaced by other means, such as moisturizers, this can result in dead skin cell buildup, which can cause itching and cracks in which bacteria can thrive. However, even if blood sugar is well-controlled, there is still a possibility that waxy skin will develop.

Things You Can Do to Manage Diabetes-Related Waxy Skin

Waxy skin caused by diabetes can be a frustrating and distressing condition to endure. It is essential to care for your skin if you have diabetes-related waxy skin. Try the following if you have diabetes and your skin has become waxy or dry.

Use Moisturizer

One of the first steps to take if you have waxy skin due to diabetes is to apply moisturizer daily. Moisturizers restore moisture to the skin's outermost layer, which helps prevent dryness and flaking. 

Additionally, they regulate oil production so that your face does not become excessively oily or dry on a daily basis. Finally, choose a moisturizer that contains natural anti-inflammatories, such as aloe vera or cucumber extract, to reduce irritation caused by dryness or irritation when sleeping.

In addition, moisturize your skin daily with a lotion or cream that contains glycerin or urea. These ingredients help break down the waxy buildup on your skin and keep it hydrated by trapping moisture into your pores.

Stay Hydrated

It is necessary to maintain hydration to treat waxy skin. To prevent or treat waxy skin, you should consume copious amounts of water. Water is an excellent starting point for improving the appearance of your skin.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your skin properly hydrated and prevent dehydration from occurring. In addition, your body will be able to flush out any excess glucose from your system more easily than if you were dehydrated due to insufficient water intake during this time.

Avoid Products With Sugar-Based Ingredients 

When you have diabetes, your blood glucose levels are not as steady as they should be, which can cause your body to be more sensitive to insulin, which means that it will take longer for your system to get rid of excess glucose.

Sugar-based ingredients are a common cause of waxy skin, so avoiding products with these ingredients is essential. Sugar-based ingredients include dextrose, glycerin, glucose, lactose, maltose, and sucrose. These ingredients can exacerbate the problem by making your skin more permeable and allowing more moisture loss.

Avoid Harsh Soaps or Cleansers That Can Dry Out Your Skin

If you're struggling with waxy skin, one of the best ways to manage diabetes-related waxy skin is by avoiding harsh soaps or cleansers that can dry out your skin. Instead, use gentle cleansers that leave your skin feeling soft and smooth without stripping away its natural oils.

Using gentle cleansers and moisturizers daily to improve skin barrier dysfunction may help diabetic patients avoid complications by treating them early in the disease's progression. Moreover, those with waxy skin will benefit the most from cleansers containing ceramides, which strengthen the skin barrier.

Wear Shoes and Clothes That Fit Properly

Properly fitting shoes and clothing can aid in managing diabetes-related waxy skin. However, if your footwear is too tight, the skin on your feet may become itchy. The same is true of tight clothing as they can irritate the skin and cause flaking or peeling by rubbing against it and causing irritation.

When trying on shoes or clothing, ensure that they are comfortable. If they are too small, try on a different size or style of shoe or article of clothing in that store; you may find something that fits better.

Don't Neglect Diabetes Management

Working with your doctor to ensure that you're receiving the proper treatment for your diabetes is another great way to manage waxy skin caused by diabetes. 

Your doctor can help you determine if there's a specific problem with your blood glucose that might be causing the skin issues or whether it's just an average side effect of living with diabetes.

In addition to getting the proper treatment, ensure you're taking good care of yourself with proper nutrition and exercise. Remember that while exercise is essential for everyone, it's vital for people with diabetes. And be sure that any exercise you do is supervised by a medical professional if necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is waxy skin?

Waxy skin is a medical condition characterized by thick, yellowish, shiny, and greasy skin that is caused by a buildup of lipids or fats in the skin. The underlying causes of it may include heredity, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and certain drugs.

What are the symptoms of waxy skin?

Waxy skin is characterized by thick, yellowish, glossy, and oily skin that may feel waxy or leathery. Additional signs include skin peeling, irritation, and dryness. Waxy skin occasionally comes with additional symptoms, including numbness, tingling, and burning sensations.

How is waxy skin diagnosed?

Waxy skin is often diagnosed after a physical examination and a review of your medical history. Other disorders that could be causing your symptoms may be ruled out through testing, including blood tests, skin biopsies, or skin scrapings.

How is waxy skin treated?

The underlying reason for waxy skin affects how the problem is treated. In certain circumstances, modifying one's lifestyle to maintain a healthy weight and take care of underlying illnesses may be sufficient to alleviate symptoms. It may also be advised to use topical lotions or ointments to treat symptoms like dryness and itching. Rarely, it may be necessary to have surgery to remove extra fatty deposits from the skin.

Is waxy skin preventable?

It might not always be possible to prevent waxy skin because the problem is frequently linked to underlying medical issues. Nevertheless, controlling these problems with medication and lifestyle adjustments may help lower the likelihood of getting waxy skin. In addition to keeping the skin healthy and preventing dryness and flaking, good skincare habits like frequent washing and moisturizing can also assist.

TheHealthBoard is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By profess — On Sep 26, 2012

Does anyone know of any natural remedies for treating waxy skin?

In general I try to stay away from processed skin care products because I never know how they will make me react.

If there was a solution I could mix up on my own that would be great. Thanks!

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