These lifestyle tweaks may help keep skin symptoms in remission.
Biologics, phototherapy, and topical creams are obviously a key component to managing psoriasis, but don’t underestimate the role your lifestyle choices can play in maintaining smoother skin. Not only can certain habits reduce psoriasis flare-ups, but studies consistently show they may help make your psoriasis treatment more effective.
Here are the daily habits that dermatologists recommend to help control and heal psoriasis symptoms, according to Suzanne Friedler, MD, a dermatologist in New York City.
Prioritize stress relief. “When patients tell me they’re under stress, their psoriasis almost always flares up,” says Dr. Friedler. Inflammation is the body’s coping mechanism for stress, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation, and the immune system of someone with psoriasis will “over-respond,” which can cause a flare-up of psoriasis symptoms. Dr. Friedler suggests relaxation techniques like massage and meditation, which have been shown to improve psoriasis symptoms.
Take shorter showers. As good as that hot water feels after a long day, it strips away the natural oils from your skin and hair. That dries skin out, which exacerbates your psoriasis.
Moisturize after you shower. “Moisturizers that contain salicylic acid can help break down some of the scales and allow better penetration of your medications,” says Dr. Friedler. The best time to moisturize is in that narrow window after the shower and before your skin is dry. Applying a moisturizing while the skin is still a little damp can help lock in moisture. (Here’s how to pick a moisturizer to prevent dry skin.)
Soak up some sunlight—safely. A derm telling you to hit the beach? Yep—it’s kinda true. “Psoriasis patients are the dermatologists’ one exception to the rule of staying out of the sun,” says Dr. Friedler. That’s because vitamin D from sunlight can help reduce inflammation and stimulate the immune system. Ten minutes a day should be sufficient for getting the benefits of sunshine, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. However…
Avoid sunburn. Get your sun, but do it safely. “Use sunscreen on the areas that don’t have psoriasis, such as your face, which may be prone to wrinkling and sun damage,” says Dr. Friedler. Injuries to the skin, including sunburn, can trigger psoriasis symptoms. This is called the Koebner phenomenon, which means psoriasis can develop in any area where the skin has been injured. Here’s how to pick the perfect sunscreen for your skin type.
Listen to your derm. Your dermatologist may give specific instructions for treating psoriasis based on your unique circumstances. Sticking to treatment is crucial because it can prevent the condition from progressing. “Once the thick scale of psoriasis is formed [and] psoriasis plaques have become very thick, it’s harder for medication to penetrate and to get the skin back to normal.”
Want more lifestyle tips for healthy skin? Here are derms’ diet tips for psoriasis.
Dr. Friedler is a dermatologist and clinical instructor at The Mount Sinai Hospital and St. John's Episcopal Hospital.
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(upbeat ukulele music)
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-: Lifestyle choices can dramatically effect
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the severity of your psoriasis.
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Stress is a huge contributor to psoriasis.
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When patients tell me they're under stress,
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their psoriasis often flares up and goes crazy.
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Psoriasis is directly affected by the immune system.
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When people are under stress, their immune systems
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are not as strong as they once were and so,
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stress can lead to psoriasis flare-ups.
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In fact, studies have shown that massage, meditation,
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and other relaxation techniques
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can actually help psoriasis get better.
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So, hot showers and hot baths can reduce the amount of oils
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and moisture that you have in your skin
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and when your skin becomes dried out,
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that can adversely affect your psoriasis.
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Your psoriasis can become worse due to
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the dry skin conditions and it can make
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the psoriasis more uncomfortable as well.
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Choosing the right moisturizer can make a big difference.
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Moisturizers that contain salicylic acid can help break
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down some of the scales and allow better penetration
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of your medications.
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But make sure you're moisturizing as soon as you step
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out of the shower while your body is still moist
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to lock in that moisture.
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During showers, we do lose some of our natural oils,
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so putting them back in immediately after a shower
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can be very helpful.
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So, psoriasis patients are the dermatologists' one
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exception to the rule of staying out of the sun.
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We want psoriatic patients to get sunlight for all
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the benefits you get in reducing inflammation,
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stimulating your body's immune system
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and increasing your vitamin D levels.
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But do take care to use sunscreen on the areas that
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don't have psoriasis, such as your face,
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which may be prone to wrinkling and sun damage.
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So, while mild sun exposure can help your psoriasis,
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getting sunburned is never a good idea.
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Sunburn is an injury that can trigger
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more psoriasis to develop.
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Psoriasis is very sensitive to skin injuries.
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This is called a Koebner phenomenon.
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That means that psoriasis can develop in any area
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where the skin has been injured,
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such as in an area of a sunburn.
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So, following your dermatologist's treatment plan
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can help keep your psoriasis under control
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and prevent it from worsening.
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Psoriasis is easier to treat when you catch it
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at its early stages.
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Once the thick scale of psoriasis is formed
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and once psoriasis plaques have become very thick,
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it's harder for medication to penetrate
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and to get the skin back to normal.
Chi CC, Ko SH, Yeh ML, Wang SH, Tsai YS, Hsu MY. Lifestyle changes for treating psoriasis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2015;11.
Diet and psoriasis. Portland, OR: National Psoriasis Foundation. (Accessed on April 12, 2021 at https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/treatments/alternative/diet-supplements.)
Life with psoriasis. Portland, OR: National Psoriasis Foundation. (Accessed on April 12, 2021 at https://www.psoriasis.org/life-with-psoriasis.)Stress and psoriatic disease. Portland, OR: National Psoriasis Foundation. (Accessed on April 12, 2021 at https://www.psoriasis.org/life-with-psoriasis/stress.)