Spring is a welcome change for people with psoriasis, but a new set of concerns come along with the season. Take care of your skin with these simple tips.
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t welcome the shift from winter to spring, and those with psoriasis are no exception. The transition is a favorite time of year for many people with psoriasis because sun and humidity, combined with less stress, can help ease flare-ups of the chronic inflammatory skin condition, says Melissa Piliang, MD, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
“Many people see relief with the changing of the seasons for a number of reasons,” Dr. Piliang explains. “The more-humid air helps all of us. Skin gets less itchy and dry. And the reappearance of the sun also has a beneficial effect on the skin of those with psoriasis.”
While the sun can provide relief, it’s still important to be cautious. Excessive sun exposure can lead to sunburn, which can actually trigger a psoriasis flare-up and increase your risk for skin cancer, Piliang warns.
In addition to increased sun exposure, there are other factors you should consider to ensure a smooth transition from the cold, dry winter to sunny spring. Here are some tips to keep in mind for a flare-free season.
1. Here comes the sun. So how much sun is recommended? People with psoriasis should start with five minutes of sun exposure daily, gradually increasing to 10 minutes per day. For this minimal amount of time, plaques can be exposed to the sun without sunscreen, says Piliang. If you’re going to be out for a longer period of time, it’s important to apply a sunscreen with an SPF of 50, and use it liberally. “A 6-ounce bottle should really only last for six applications,” Piliang says.
2. Don’t sweat it. As the temperatures rise in spring, you will likely sweat more, and that can make psoriasis symptoms worse, Piliang says. In warmer weather, be sure to wear moisture-wicking fabrics or loose, light-colored clothing to help minimize sweating.
3. Keep the bugs off. Any injury to the skin can trigger a psoriasis flare-up, and this includes scratches and insect bites, Piliang explains. “Scratching a bug bite is a double whammy,” she notes. To prevent injury to your skin from itchy or painful bug bites, Piliang recommends the following:
• Wear long sleeves and pants when possible.
• Tuck your pants into your socks if you are outside in wooded areas.
• Use insect repellent that contains DEET — an active ingredient designed to repel insects, offering the best protection against mosquito bites.
4. Get in the swim of things. As temperatures rise, taking a dip in a pool or at the beach can help soften and remove crusty or flaking psoriasis plaques. However, salt water and chlorine can also be irritating and leave the skin feeling dry, Piliang notes. “After your swim, be sure to rise off thoroughly with freshwater and then apply a thick coat of moisturizer,” she recommends.
5. Keep dirt away, but be gentle on your skin. In the dry winter months, people with psoriasis should limit soap to their underarms, groin, face, hands, and feet. But in the spring when people are outside more often, thorough bathing may be necessary, Piliang advises. “If you are out in the garden getting dirty, you may need to soap your legs and arms more than in the winter,” she says. “That’s fine, but use mild soap formulated for sensitive skin.” Piliang also recommends using moisturizer year round — not just in the winter.
6. Find ways to de-stress. Although people with psoriasis are not immune to the misery of seasonal allergies, there is no scientific evidence of a link between the two conditions, Piliang says. One lifestyle factor that is known to trigger not only psoriasis symptoms, but other skin conditions, like rosacea and acne, is stress.
In fact, researchers found that chronic stress and burnout have a significant effect on quality of life among people with psoriasis and could interfere with the success of their treatment. The study, published in October 2015 in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, recommends a holistic approach to psoriasis management in order to help combat stress and the effect that it has on the skin condition.
It’s important to incorporate stress-reducing activities into your daily routine, says Piliang. Luckily, nicer weather and the relaxing activities that come with it make this a little easier to do. Exercise is an activity that not only boosts your mood and alleviates stress, but can help combat metabolic diseases like abdominal obesity and diabetes that are often associated with moderate to severe psoriasis.
In addition to regular exercise, Piliang recommends yoga and meditation to ease stress and control psoriasis. “Get in the habit of taking a daily walk or building five minutes of quiet solitude into your day,” she says. Reading, gardening, visiting the farmers market, or scheduling a hike or bike ride with a friend (while getting some exercise!) are also great stress-busting activities you can incorporate into your schedule this spring.