Is Psoriasis Contagious? (Spoiler Alert: Its Not)

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Whether you or your pal has psoriasis, you may be wondering whether it can spread from one person to another.

According to the International Federation of Psoriasis Associations, almost 3 percent of the world pop has psoriasis. Let’s break down how you actually get psoriasis and why you can’t give it to someone else.

So, how do you get psoriasis, anyway?

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No.333 - Terminate Acne

The exact cause of psoriasis remains unknown. But some experts think it’s caused by overactive T cells — immune cells that fight off harmful viruses and bacteria in your body.

Basically, the T cells go overboard, attacking healthy skin cells and triggering other immune responses. This causes skin cells to build up, creating inflamed, scaly patches often found on the face, scalp, knees, and elbows.

It typically takes a couple weeks for new skin cells to form, but if you have psoriasis, it can happen within days.

If you already have an autoimmune condition, you’re more likely to develop another one, such as psoriasis.

What triggers a psoriasis flare-up?

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Both genetic *and* environmental factors can trigger psoriasis. That might explain why psoriasis tends to show up unannounced and then completely ghost you .

Some things that might trigger a psoriasis flare-up:

  • an infection
  • tobacco smoking
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • a skin injury (like a cut or burn)
  • stress
  • certain medications (like blood pressure meds, lithium, and iodides)
  • very dry air (either from outside or in your heated room)
  • cold temps
  • vitamin D deficiency
  • obesity

So, psoriasis can’t be contagious sexually or through kissing?

Say it louder for the people in the back: Whether it shows up on the scalp, face, hands, feet, or genitals, psoriasis is never contagious . If your boo has psoriasis, don’t sweat it — you can smooch or bang it out without stress.

But is that rash really psoriasis, though? Psoriasis can often be confused with contagious conditions like these:

  • Dermatophytosis (aka ringworm). The red, circular rash of this contagious fungal infection is sometimes mistaken for psoriasis, especially the inverse type.
  • Secondary syphilis. The highly contagious second stage of syphilis is sometimes mistaken for psoriasis, especially guttate psoriasis. It’s characterized by a scaly, red rash plus swollen lymph nodes and fever.
  • Herpes simplex virus. With its red, itchy sores, psoriasis on the genitals sometimes looks a lot like herpes. Herpes tends to be more blister-like, but always visit a doc to be sure.
  • Varicella zoster virus aka shingles. Shingles, which is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, sometimes looks like psoriasis. Though shingles isn’t transmissible, someone with shingles can give someone else chickenpox, according to the CDC.
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No.363 - Acne Scars

If you think you may have psoriasis or another skin condition, visit a doctor for a complete diagnosis.

How does a doc diagnose psoriasis?

If you have any type of skin rash, it’s a good idea to have a dermatologist check it out. During your visit, the doc will inspect your scalp, nails, and skin and ask you a few questions about your symptoms, family history, and lifestyle.

They might also take a closer look at a small skin sample under a microscope to confirm your diagnosis.

Can psoriasis spread?

Even though psoriasis isn’t contagious, it *can* spread on your body if you already have it.

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Stress, skin injuries, illness, and weather are among the most common psoriasis triggers that make the rash spread. Some people also think allergies, certain foods, alcohol, and other environmental factors make psoriasis worse.

The best way to figure out what worsens and spreads your symptoms is to track them in a journal.

How to stop psoriasis from spreading

These psoriasis treatments may help stop the spread:

  • Nosh on nutrient-rich food. In a 2017 survey of more than 1,000 people with psoriasis, about half the participants reported improvements after curbing their intake of alcohol, gluten, and nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants). Trigger foods vary from person to person, so take time to find a nutritious diet that works for you.
  • Kick your cig habit. According to research from 2016, smoking can worsen psoriasis symptoms. If you needed another reason to quit or ease up, this might be it.
  • Protect your precious skin. To help ease psoriasis symptoms, always use sunscreen, take care to avoid cuts and scrapes, and see your doc right away if you do get wounded to avoid aggravating your condition.
  • Decompress to combat stress. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, stress is a common trigger for psoriasis and can make that un-fun itch even worse. To ease symptoms and feel better, try relaxation strategies like meditation, exercise, or simply taking a warm bath.
  • Get enough shut-eye. Getting enough sleep supports a healthy immune system, which may help curb psoriasis symptoms. The CDC recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
  • Moisturize, moisturize, and — oh yeah — moisturize. No one likes to deal with the cracked, dry, and sometimes even bleeding skin that psoriasis can trigger. Especially in drier months, your skin will need extra hydration to ease symptoms and improve comfort. Look for moisturizers with the National Psoriasis Foundation’s Seal of Recognition to make sure your product selection is legit for your needs.
  • Use psoriasis-approved products. A lot of traditional shampoos, conditioners, and soaps can make psoriasis symptoms worse. Make sure you’re using something dermatologist-approved. And yes, some people have success with tar soap.
  • Try essential oils. The research on this is limited, but it’s possible that peppermint, lavender, or another essential oil could help soothe your symptoms. But essential oils can also cause allergic reactions or make psoriasis worse in some cases. Check with your doc and proceed with caution.
  • Talk with your doc about your meds. Certain medications — like lithium, antimalarial meds, and beta-blockers — are associated with psoriasis flares. Talk with your doctor about your medications to see if there’s a potential link.

Bottom line

Psoriasis is never contagious. Since it’s an autoimmune disorder and has a genetic component, it can’t spread from one person to the next.

There’s currently no known cure for psoriasis, but there are steps you can take to manage it. Doctors recommend using psoriasis-friendly skin care products, understanding your triggers, and treating the condition as recommended by your derm.

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