Psoriasis symptoms may flare more at certain times of the year than others. Try these psoriasis skin care tips for every season.
If you live in a region where the seasons change a lot, you’ll likely find that yourpsoriasis symptoms do, too.
During the winter months when there’s less sunlight and the air is cold and dry, you may experience more psoriasis symptoms, says Donald Belsito, MD, a dermatologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. Come summer, when you can spend time in the sun and the air has more moisture, you may find that your psoriasis improves.
However, you don’t have to switch latitudes to balance weather and psoriasis. Try these tips for seasonal psoriasis skin care.
Fall and Winter Psoriasis Skin Care
Factors both inside and outside your home can irritate your skin during these seasons. Start with these tips to help control your psoriasis during colder months:
Turn down the heat. When you’re indoors, turn down the heat, as it can be drying. The cooler the air, the more moisture it has, which is best for your skin. Try using a humidifier to keep moisture in the air, especially in your bedroom. To keep warm at night, wear socks and use a comfortable blanket.
Hydrate from the inside. Your body will function at its best if it’s well hydrated, so be sure to drink lots of water. Also avoid long, hot showers and baths. They may be hard to resist come winter, but the hotter the water and the longer you’re in it, the more drying it is, washing away your skin’s natural protective oils.
Care for your skin. Use mild cleansers that can add moisture to your skin, suggests Dr. Belsito. Pat rather than rub your skin dry, and apply moisturizer as soon as you’ve stepped out of the bath or shower. The thicker or creamier the moisturizer, the better, and try to moisturize throughout the day, especially in winter, he adds. If your skin is extra sensitive, try fragrance-free products.
Protect yourself from the elements. Cold temperatures and windy conditions can be harsh on your skin, whether or not you have psoriasis. Be sure to wear a hat and gloves and use a scarf to cover your face when going outdoors. To stay comfortable as you go from the cold into a hot indoor environment, layer your clothing, so you can peel off layers as needed. Bottom layers should be soft, breathable cotton or silk — and be sure to keep itchy materials like wool away from your skin.
Minimize stress. Stress can trigger psoriasis flares, and seasons may play a role here, too. Though winter holidays can be a time of great joy, they also can bring on lots of stress. Some ways to reduce stress include meditation and exercise. If the weather is too harsh for outside activities, try taking your exercise routine indoors to the gym or working out at home.
Check in regularly. Ask your doctor if any seasonal adjustments in your psoriasis treatment are necessary. You might consider adding light therapy treatment, which exposes skin to ultraviolet light.
Get a flu shot. This is especially important if you’re on biologic or systemic medications. These drugs suppress your immune system, making you more susceptible to the flu and other infections. Also, avoid close contact with people you know are sick. Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to lower your risk of exposure to germs.
Spring and Summer Psoriasis Skin Care
While warmer months are generally better for psoriasis, it’s still important to follow these steps to manage your condition:
Apply sunscreen. Sunny months can be a boon for your skin, “but remember, too much sun exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer,” Belsito says. Use sunscreen if you’re going to be in the sun for any length of time, and reapply it as needed. Ask your doctor or consult with your pharmacist to find the right sunscreen for sensitive skin.
Keep moisturizing. Maintain your moisturizing regimen in summer, though you may be able to switch to lighter formulas, Belsito says.
Swim for exercise. Consider swimming as one of your warmer-weather activities. Some people find that the water helps remove psoriasis scales. If you swim in a pool, try to avoid those that are heavily chlorinated because the chemical can irritate your skin. After swimming, rinse off in the shower, then generously apply moisturizer to your skin.
Beware of bug bites and scrapes. Be especially careful to avoid hot-weather hazards like bugs and poison ivy, oak, and sumac. If you fall and scrape your skin,take fast first-aid steps to clean and dress the wound. As many as half of all people with psoriasis experience what’s known as the Koebner phenomenon, named after the German dermatologist Heinrich Koebner, who found that skin traumas like bug bites or scrapes can cause psoriasis plaques to form at the site of the injury. To help avoid this, be sure to wear long sleeves and protective clothing when exercising outdoors or working in the garden. If you do get a bite or scratch, don’t pick at your skin — these actions just add to the skin assault, making it worse.
Year-Round Tips for Psoriasis Skin Care
There are additional steps you can take, no matter the season, to help manage psoriasis:
Eat healthy. Although there’s no set psoriasis diet, follow a well-balanced, nutritious diet to reduce inflammation and help keep you healthy overall. Some people with psoriasis find they benefit from eating an anti-inflammatory diet — mostly natural, unprocessed foods. Others feel their skin is better when they avoid dairy, gluten, and nightshade vegetables like eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers. Taking vitamin D and fish oil can also help psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Talk to your doctor if you’d like to try these approaches to be sure that you won’t be missing out on some nutrients or getting too much of others.
Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol acts like a diuretic and can dry out your skin. Also, alcohol doesn’t mix with some medications for psoriasis, such as methotrexate or acitretin. If you do drink alcohol, be sure to drink in moderation, which is usually considered one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Follow your treatment plan. Make sure to adhere to your treatment through each season. Whether you’re on vacation or if you simply feel that you have your psoriasis under control, you might be tempted to skip your medications. But that lapse can cause your psoriasis to flare or your treatment to stop working for you.
“No matter what the season, psoriasis is a chronic condition,” Belsito says. “You may deal with it all year round, but you and your doctor can help control it, no matter what the weather.”