Psoriasis often improves in the summer, but there are still triggers to be aware of.
For many people with psoriasis, symptoms tend to improve during the summer. Warm and humid air, along with increased exposure to sunlight, tends to help psoriasis symptoms.
Your symptoms may be improving and your calendar may be full with outdoor plans with family and friends. It might be easy to forget about your psoriasis management altogether. However, you don’t want to let up your guard completely: There are still a number of psoriasis triggers that can happen during the warmer months.
Psoriasis Triggers in the Summer
Anything that irritates the skin can trigger or worsen a psoriasis flare. That’s why cold, dry, winter air is so triggering for many people. That said, summer isn’t free of skin irritations. Summertime triggers include:
- Insect bites
- Dry skin after swimming
Plus, unhealthy habits can affect psoriasis year round. For example, one major trigger in the summer is excessive alcohol intake. Heavy drinking at pool parties, July 4th cookouts, or summer birthday parties could increase inflammation and lead to a flare.
The Effects of the Sun
Sunlight in moderate amounts can help reduce symptoms. That’s because ultraviolet B (UVB) exposure is actually good for psoriasis. In fact, many people who struggle with psoriasis in the winter will receive phototherapy, which is a treatment that uses UVB light on the skin.
That said, it's possible to have “too much of a good thing.” In large amounts, sunlight can obviously lead to sunburn, which is very irritating to the skin. Not only can it lead to a flare, but it can also increase your risk of skin cancer and overall skin damage.
Tips to minimize the sun’s effects include:
- Wear sunscreen meant for sensitive skin
- Don’t sunbathe for more than 15 minutes at a time
- Wear clothing that will protect you from the sun (wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirts, etc. )
Other Tips to Manage Psoriasis Flares in the Summer
Many people with psoriasis actually find that swimming is helpful for their psoriasis. However, both salt and chlorinated water can dry out the skin, which may trigger symptoms. Rinsing off in the shower and applying a thick moisturizer after swimming can help prevent dry skin from swimming.
Then, you want to try and avoid bug bites. Bites from mosquitos and other insects can aggravate psoriasis, especially if they cause you to scratch your skin aggressively. To make it worse, insect repellents that contain DEET (as many do) can also trigger symptoms. Stay indoors when bugs are most active (dawn and dusk), use DEET-free insect repellent, and avoid scratching yourself in order to minimize flares.
If you are having difficulty managing your psoriasis during the summer (or any other time of year), talk to your doctor. If you’re extremely sensitive to triggers, it may be a sign that you haven’t found the right treatment option. Your doctor can help you identify your triggers, find habits to avoid triggers, and pinpoint the right treatment for you.
Lindsey Bordone, MD, is a dermatologist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
- Life with psoriasis. National Psoriasis Foundation. (Accessed on July 1, 2021)
- Taking care of your skin in the summer. National Psoriasis Foundation. (Accessed on July 1, 2021)
- Are triggers causing your psoriasis flare-ups? Schaumburg, IL: American Academy of Dermatology Association. (Accessed on July 1, 2021)
- Psoriasis statistics. National Psoriasis Foundation. (Accessed on July 1, 2021)