It can be frustrating, uncomfortable and even embarrassing at times for those suffering from psoriasis. The variable nature of this chronic condition means cycles of remission and flare-ups are unpredictable. Unfortunately there is neither an absolute means of prevention nor a cure for this condition; however, it is possible to help improve symptoms and reduce the number of flare-ups. Consult a dermatologist for medical treatment to help clear up trademark patches and scales, but also take into consideration the following tips for at-home care to further ease symptoms.
For more about psoriasis and how to help relieve flare-ups, return to our Psoriasis Treatment Center. Do educate yourself first before proceeding with any treatment or skin care!
- Avoid injuring the skin. Injury to the skin is also known as the Koebner phenomenon. Sunburn, vaccinations, scratches, cuts, scrapes, infections (which can actually cause psoriasis) etc. can all trigger the Koebner response. These particular triggers can be prevented and treated if caught early. Always take precaution and take care in all that you do to minimize injury of the skin.
- Don’t pick at your skin. Never pick, pull or try removing lesions and scales. Doing so will only worsen psoriasis, as it irritates and leaves skin raw (and open for infection).
- Moisturize frequently. Psoriasis is characterized by extremely dry skin – symptoms worsen as skin dries out. Retain your skin’s moisture and give it an extra boost by applying creams and lotions whenever and wherever needed. It is recommended that thicker and more emollient formulations are used to help lock moisture into the skin. Moisturizing may be used to remove scales; gently soften and remove psoriasis crusts by applying cream then gently peeling off the loosened bits of skin. Removal should always be done the supervision of a doctor.
Experts also advise that individuals moisturize with therapeutic concentrations of salicylic acid, lactic acid and glycolic acid. All three retain the ability to exfoliate or promote cell turnover rate, and thus, may be helpful in keeping patches moist while reducing the appearance of thickened scales. Never use such products on raw, broken or inflamed skin as it will sting, burn and further irritate already sensitive spots. Take precaution in use of any and all skincare products – only use products recommended or approved by your dermatologist.
- Take care of your skin. That includes your scalp, too. Have your doctor suggest a topical treatment like tar shampoo to treat the scalp. Moisturize skin whenever needed and try soothing bath products to help relieve symptoms. Trim nails carefully but regularly to avoid accidentally cutting or picking at scales and lesions.
- Avoid dry, cold climates. Climate is usually largely for an individual’s current state of psoriasis. Generally, cold and dry weather worsens conditions and hot weather helps improve psoriasis. However, some individuals have shown signs of worsened symptoms with the rise in heat and humidity.
- Sun is a good thing. But too much of it – as will all good things – will only cause a turn for the worse. Ultraviolet rays slow the growth of skin cells; thus, moderate exposure to sunlight can help put a brake on the typically expedited skin cell reproduction. Do keep in mind, however, that overexposure is not only damaging to the skin in general, but especially detrimental to psoriasis skin (for more on how to prepare and protect skin for the sun, visit our Summer Skin Care Guide). Keep exposure under 15 minutes, and use sunscreen (again, be wary because chemical ingredients can exasperate symptoms): sunburn will worsen psoriasis.
- Invest in a humidifier. Since psoriasis skin is extremely dry and flaky, keeping skin moist is of utmost importance especially during the autumn and winter when climate is drier and colder.
- Be aware of what medications you’re using. Certain medications and ingredients can – and will – cause a psoriasis flare-up or further irritate existing conditions. Always consult your doctor and dermatologist to discuss current medications and their potential effects on your psoriasis condition.
- Develop a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, eat balanced and maintain a healthy weight for your body shape and type. Although there is no scientific link between diet and psoriasis, experts recommend that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is followed. Weight can effect the degree of symptoms experienced – flare-ups and lesions are more likely to occur in folds of skin – making it important to maintain a healthy weight.
- Reduce Stress. Although there is no direct, scientific link between stress and psoriasis symptoms, researchers believe there is a correlation between the two. Stress may the externality that causes an individual’s first psoriasis flare-up, or, may further aggravate an existing flare. Take preventative measures by adopting relaxation and stress reduction techniques or practice yoga.
- Reduce alcohol intake. It has been founded that higher alcohol intake can worsen psoriasis, and is dangerous if you are currently taking systemic drugs to treat your condition. Men should limit their intake to two drinks a day, and women should cut down to one a day.
- Don’t smoke. While there are greater health risks at hand, also keep in mind that smoking can and will worsen psoriasis. Not only does the habit increase your chances of developing the condition, but if the psoriasis is already preexisting, smoking will increase the severity and length of symptoms.