You’re not imagining it: Psoriasis may worsen in the winter.
You might feel like a pro at managing your psoriasis for most of the year. Still, it seems like a flare always happens as winter comes around. If this is the case for you, you’re not imagining it: Winter comes with a lot of psoriasis triggers that may be challenging for you.
Good psoriasis management is easier when you have plenty of moisture in the air and comfortable, steady temperatures. This is simply not the case during winter in many parts of the United States.
Cold, Dry Air
One of the ways that winter may affect psoriasis is with the changes in the air. Cold air is usually drier and less humid than warm air. Many people struggle with dry skin during the winter, and dry skin is a psoriasis trigger.
There’s not much you can do to make the outside air less dry. However, there are a few ways you may be able to add some moisture back into the air at home. Consider these tips to improve dry skin indoors during the winter:
- Try using a humidifier. Humidifiers help to add moisture back into the air. This isn’t helpful for everyone with psoriasis, but it might be worth a try for you.
- Put out bowls of water. Don’t want to splurge on a humidifier? Setting out bowls or tubs of water throughout your home can also help add moisture as it evaporates into the air.
- Avoid sitting right next to heaters or fireplaces. The blast of heat from a radiator, furnace, or fire can have a drying effect on your skin.
- Set heaters at warm, not hot. The severe temperature change when you go from inside to outside can be triggering for psoriasis. Try to keep your home just warm enough to provide some comfort, but don’t blast the heat. Instead, dress in layers if you’re chilly.
Other Psoriasis Triggers During the Winter
It's not just dry air you need to consider. In the winter, psoriasis triggers include:
- Lack of sunlight: Ultraviolet exposure has an anti-inflammatory effect that can help with psoriasis.
- Stress: Stress exists 12 months a year, but you may particularly struggle with holiday stress. Many people also experience mood changes during the winter months, especially those with seasonal affective disorder.
- Alcohol: Again, this is a year-round trigger, but holiday parties in particular may be a time of heavy drinking, which can trigger a flare.
Obviously, the best thing to do is try to avoid these triggers. Find ways to relieve stress, such as prioritizing your tasks, saying "no" when you're getting stretched thin, and practicing meditation or yoga. Limit or avoid alcohol, and be cautious about participating in heavy drinking at holiday parties. For lack of sunlight, you may benefit from getting phototherapy during the winter months.
Of course, some habits are good all year round, like moisturizing regularly and using steroid creams when you're having a flare. These can help protect your skin during the cold winter months, despite pesky psoriasis triggers.
What to Do If You’re Still Struggling
If you’re making these lifestyle changes and still struggling to keep psoriasis flares at bay, talk to your doctor. It’s possible you need to reassess your treatment option. There are many treatments available for psoriasis, so if one doesn’t work for you, there’s a good chance you can find another option that does.
Lindsey Bordone, MD, is a dermatologist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.