Psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune condition marked by white, silvery, or red patches of flaking skin, can be itchy, painful, and difficult to manage. Everything from the temperature of your shower to the fit of your clothing can trigger a reaction, so itâ€™s important to take care to prevent and treat your outbreaks, also known as flares. Read on for advice from dermatologist Jessica Wu, MD, ishonest's skin and beauty expert.
Showers and Baths for People With Psoriasis
Showering and bathing can improve psoriasis lesions by softening and hydrating the thick, scaly patches, says Dr. Wu, but staying in the water too long can dry out your skin and lead to more itching and flaking. She advises limiting showers and baths to ten minutes and using lukewarm water, because hot water increases blood flow to the skin, which can make psoriasis plaques more red and irritated. It is also important to use a non-irritating soap. Dr Wu recommends using a body wash instead of bar soap, which can be drying. She recommends Aveeno Active Naturals Daily Moisturizing Body Wash, which contains oatmeal proteins and lipids to help soothe and hydrate scaly skin.
Moisturizer for People With Psoriasis
Applying moisturizer after a shower or bath helps lock in hydration and minimizes the flaking of psoriatic scales. Dr. Wu advises patients to pat dry after a shower â€” rubbing can irritate skin â€” and use a moisturizer with rich emollients, such as glycerin and shea butter. Dr. Wu suggests trying Olay Body Quench Mousse in the morning, because it absorbs quickly, and the heavier Olay Body Quench Body Lotion in the evening.
Clothing for People With Psoriasis
Since psoriasis is often itchy, it's best for those with the condition to avoid clothes made with wool and synthetic fibers, which can trap heat and further irritate skin that's already inflamed, says Dr. Wu. Wear looser-fitting, soft clothing made of lightweight natural fibers such as cotton, linen, and bamboo, which wick away sweat and won't rub against irritated skin. If you're experiencing lots of flaking, stick to lighter colors, which help to hide the flakes. Some people with psoriasis are sensitive to bleach and/or fabric softener, so it's best for them to avoid these products or run clothes and sheets through an extra rinse cycle.
Diet, Exercise and Stress Management for Psoriasis
A high BMI (25 or higher) is associated with an increased incidence of psoriatic outbreaks, so this is another important reason to eat nutritiously, exercise, and maintain a healthy body weight, says Wu. As for specific foods that may ease or aggravate psoriasis, the jury is still out. People may report that omega-3 fatty acids seem to improve their psoriasis, but the evidence so far is inconclusive. Wu suggests keeping a food journal to look for possible links between specific foods and changes in the condition of your skin. One item proven to aggravate psoriasis: alcohol. Those with psoriasis should consider cutting it out entirely during an outbreak.
Stress plays a major role in the occurrence of psoriatic outbreaks, so it's especially important for those with psoriasis to keep it in check. The exact reason is unknown, but stress hormones may stimulate an already overactive immune system and can increase itching, says Dr. Wu. Meditation, yoga, and acupuncture are all effective stress relievers. Although the scientific evidence of the effect of these practices on psoriasis is mixed, some patients have reported that they are helpful.
Smoking, too, aggravates psoriasis, which is yet another reason to quit.
Sun Exposure for People With Psoriasis
Sunlight can be an effective treatment for psoriasis, says Dr. Wu, because it contains ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which have been shown to suppress inflammation in the skin. It is best to receive phototherapy treatments in the safety of a doctor's office. These treatments are time-consuming, however, which makes them impractical for many people. As a substitute, it's okay to get some natural sunlight, but limit your sun exposure to no more than five to ten minutes at a time, two to three times a week, cautions Wu. It's extremely important to avoid getting sunburned, as a sunburn can worsen existing plaques and trigger new outbreaks. Those with psoriasis should always discuss sun exposure and phototherapy treatments with their doctor first; certain medications can actually increase the skin's sensitivity to the sun.
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