For starters, bundle up when you go outside!
It’s starting to get chilly, and you know what that means: Your psoriasis is going to start acting up. Every year at this time, your symptoms seem to worsen no matter how well you stick to your usual routine. Before you subject yourself to solitary confinement until spring, here are a few things you can try to manage psoriasis in cold weather.
What Happens to Psoriasis in the Cold
When the weather gets cold, there’s less humidity in the air. This can strip even more moisture from your skin, and dry skin increases the risk of a flare. To make it worse, indoor heating dries out the air even more. Then, going back and forth between indoor heat and outdoor chills can trigger symptoms on its own. Finally, winter clothes made from wool can irritate the skin and trigger symptoms.
This is why it is important for psoriasis patients to make sure they’re on top of their treatment regimen during cold months. During this time, you may be even more sensitive to your triggers. Sticking to your moisturizing routine and medications is important, but there are also extra habits that you may want to add during the winter.
How to Prevent Flares
A few things you can do when the cold weather rolls around include:
1. Try a humidifier
Some individuals find that using a humidifier can be helpful in adding moisture back into the air. In turn, this will help strip away less from their skin.
2. Be careful with your shower routine
It is recommended psoriasis patients use a gentle, non-soap cleanser. You only need to use it on the parts of the body that are necessary, like under the arms, in the groin, and your feet. Also, remember to keep your showers to under 10 minutes and to use warm—not hot—water. Long, hot showers strip away the skin’s natural oils.
3. Dry yourself gently
Instead of vigorously drying with a towel, you want to pat yourself dry. Leave a little bit of moisture still on the skin. This way, you have some moisture to “lock in” with a moisturizer.
4. Liberally moisturize
Adding a moisturizer immediately after showering can create a barrier to lock in moisture on the skin. Choose your moisturizer carefully. Ointments are going to be the most moisturizing. If those are too greasy for you, you can use a thick cream. Creams and ointments are oil-based, so they are better for the skin than water-based lotions. Finally, use a moisturizer that is fragrance-free in order to reduce any risk of a reaction.
What to Do If You’re Still Struggling
These suggestions are good for psoriasis year round, but sticking to them during the cold weather is especially important. If you find that nothing seems to be working no matter how hard you try, talk to your doctor to reassess your treatment options. Unmanageable psoriasis in cold weather may be a sign that your treatment isn’t right for you. There may be another option that will give you better results.
Heather Summe, MD, is a dermatologist in New York City. Dr. Summe is the Chief of the Division of Dermatology at Lenox Hill Hospital. She is also an Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.