Ditch The Itch: Healthy Routines For People With Psoriasis

According to the World Psoriasis Day consortium, over 125 million people have psoriasis. This chronic disease attacks the immune system and overproduces skin cells. Patients suffer from itchy, burning skin that make even showering painful. Buying the right lotion, getting sun, and other simple remedies can soothe symptoms. For instant relief, follow these healthy habits for psoriasis.

Stop Scratching! Here’s How

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, 90% of psoriasis patients experience itching. Inflammation causes itching, which is why you should not scratch it. Scratching will exacerbate the inflammation, making your symptoms (and psoriasis) worse.

A man wearing sunglasses scratches his face.
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The American Academy of Dermatology recommends doing anything you can to prevent scratching. Apply moisturizer or a cold compress. If you feel itchy when your skin gets dry, try to shower less often. Itch-relieving creams and medications can also help in a pinch.

How To Not Pick Or Exfoliate

Many patients pick at or scrub off the itchy, scaly psoriasis patches. But try not to do this. Penn Medicine says that over-exfoliating can damage the already inflamed skin, which might trigger a flare-up. Do not pick, and do not scrub off the skin with a loofah or exfoliator.

A woman examines her psoriasis in the mirror.
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Marcus Hessenberg/BarcroftImages / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

If the patches are bothering you, and you want some exfoliation, take a bath. A 15-minute warm (not hot) bath will moisten the scales and help them fall off naturally. Add some oatmeal or Epsom salts for extra moisture.

Get Some Sun

In 2015, a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that psoriasis patients tend to feel better in summer. Thank the sun. UV rays and vitamin D have anti-inflammation effects that can heal the skin.

A woman sunbathes on a lawn chair in a London park.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Dermatologist Julie Moore advises her psoriasis patients to sunbathe daily. “Thirty minutes is adequate to improve the skin; you do not need to sit out for hours,” she said. Remember to put on sunscreen! Burnt skin will ruin the health benefits that sun gives you.

Sunscreen Will Not Block The Sun’s Health Effects

Although sunbathing can help psoriasis, patients should also wear sunscreen. The Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance explains that UVB rays heal psoriasis symptoms. However, UVB rays also cause sunburns. If that happens, your symptoms will become worse.

A person rubs sunscreen into their hand.

Sunscreen does not block all UVB rays. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, SPF 30 inhibits 97% of UVB rays. So you can apply a sunscreen with SPF 30 or more and still benefit from sunbathing. Buy a sunscreen with no fragrance that is made for sensitive skin.

Bathe In Warm Water, Not Hot

Many people believe that a hot shower will hydrate your skin. But the University of Utah says no; hot water can dry out your skin, especially if you stay in it for a long time. If you have psoriasis, hot showers or baths can worsen symptoms.

Water sprays out of a shower head.
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“Any skin condition characterized by a defective skin barrier can be worsened by a hot shower,” explains dermatologist Shari Marchbein. The hot water strips natural skin oils, which dehydrates it. Lower the water temperature to make it lukewarm.

Take Shorter Showers And Baths

If you drink a lot of water, your skin will get hydrated. But if you sit in water for a while, it will get dehydrated. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, the co-founder of Specific Beauty skincare, told Huffpost that long showers can exacerbate conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

After a shower, a woman puts on makeup in the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her hair.
kevin laminto/Unsplash
kevin laminto/Unsplash

Dermatologist Rashmi Unwala, who specializes in treating psoriasis at Cleveland Clinic, advises patients to limit showers between five and 15 minutes. “It can make already inflamed skin feel even worse.” For baths, adding oatmeal, coal tars, or hydrating bath oils can alleviate symptoms.

Choose The Right Lotion

Many psoriasis patients use lotion to soothe itching and burning. But if you use the wrong lotion, it could worsen your symptoms. The National Psoriasis Foundation advises patients to avoid scents, chemicals, and dyes. Essential oils can also irritate psoriasis because they are so highly concentrated.

A woman rubs lotion onto her hand.

Dr. Bruce Strober, the chair of dermatology at UConn Health, recommends the brands Cetaphil, Eucerin, Aveeno, Neutrogena, and CeraVe. Buy lotions that are made for psoriasis and have no fragrance. Apply it in the morning and night, and after showering, Strober says.

Shaving With Psoriasis: How To Make It Painless

For some psoriasis patients, shaving can be painful or risky. But it doesn’t have to be, says dermatologist Michelle Pelle. She advises patients to get a psoriasis-friendly razor. Get “electric razors or razors with the fewest blades—three or less,” she told Everyday Health.

A man shaves his face while looking into the mirror.

For many patients standard shaving cream is too irritating. Dermatologists recommend using shaving gel instead of cream, or even using conditioner. Shave slowly and avoid nicks. Immediately after you finish, moisturize the area.

Always Use Medications As Prescribed

Psoriasis patients have a variety of medications available. According to the National Health Service, psoriasis medications come in three categories: topical (creams and ointments), systemic (oral and injected drugs), and phototherapy.

A man applies a medication ointment to psoriasis on his knee.
BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images
BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images

These drugs are designed to lower inflammation and slow the rate of skin cell growth, which causes the dead skin in psoriasis. Dermatologist Harold Farber recommends getting some medications along with moisturizers and other natural remedies. Apply lotion at least twice a day, and use prescriptions as directed.

Wash With Gentle Cleansers

Psoriasis patients might not react well to standard body and face soaps. Dermatologist Joshua Zeichner told Bustle that commercial soaps can aggravate already inflamed skin. “You want to stick to gentle, hydrating face washes that will effectively clean the skin without disrupting the skin barrier or cause inflammation,” he said.

A woman washes her face with a foaming cleanser.
Getty Images
Getty Images

Choose cleansers without fragrance, and never exfoliate; it will only worsen your symptoms. Face washes that are labeled “cleanser” that foam upon contact should be gentle enough. Cerave, Cetaphil, and Eurcerin offer appropriate washes for psoriasis.

Be Gentle With The Towel

After a shower or bath, you might want to quickly rub yourself dry. But this could be harming your skin. Dermatologist Shereene Idriss says that rubbing your skin with a towel “can lead to worsening of dryness or sensitivities.”

A man dries his face with a towel.
GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images
GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images

The American Academy of Dermatology Association tells psoriasis patients to pat their skin dry. Gently blot the water off your skin, and leave a little bit of dampness, which will evaporate and leave more moisture. Also, this is the perfect time to apply lotion and trap the moisture beneath your skin.

For The Cold Months, Invest In A Humidifier

Two in five psoriasis patients have worse symptoms in the winter, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. The dry weather, cold temperatures, and strong winds dehydrate already irritated skin. A humidifier can keep your skin moisturized throughout winter.

A person holds their hand over humidifiers that are on display at an electronics show.
DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images
DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images

In 2013, a study in Skin Research and Technology provided mist therapy for people with skin conditions, such as dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis. Mist therapy restored the skin’s hydration. You can imitate this study by using a humidifier during the colder, drier months.

If The Sun Isn’t Out, Try Phototherapy

Phototherapy, also called light therapy, uses UV rays to heal skin conditions such as eczema, vitiligo, and psoriasis. In 2019, the American Academy of Dermatology tested phototherapy on patients. They discovered that it was more effective than the biologic medication Humira.

A person puts their hand in a phototherapy machine.
Health & Beauty Products/Pinterest
Health & Beauty Products/Pinterest

During an interview with Everyday Health, dermatologist Jenny Murase encouraged her patients to try phototherapy, especially during the winter. Many healthcare providers offer a light therapy clinic. If you cannot find one, talk to your dermatologist about affordable options.

Wear Light, Breathable Clothing

Did you know that clothing can influence psoriasis? Depending on the fabric you wear, irritated skin might start bleeding. “Because the skin is dry, cracked, and oozing at times, clothes will stick to the open areas, further contributing to the bleeding,” explains Dr. Erin Boh, the chairman of dermatology at Tulane University.

Shirts hang from a clothesline to dry.

While shopping, choose breathable fabrics such as cotton, nylon, polyester, and silk. Avoid thick ones like wool. When symptoms flare up, wear loose clothing. Buy an unscented laundry detergent to prevent irritation.

Here’s What To Do In Hot Weather

While cold weather can irritate arthritis, hot weather can also trigger flare-ups. Both dry heat and humidity can aggravate the skin, according to Keys Dermatology. When the sun evaporates sweat and humidity, it leaves the skin dry and cracked.

During a hot day, a man holds a cold water bottle to his forehead to cool down.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Keep yourself cool by limiting time in the sun. Psoriasis patients can (and should) go swimming, but you must apply sunscreen beforehand and apply lotion afterward. Remaining moisturized and lowering the AC can stabilize your symptoms during the warmer months.

If Your Head Is Itching, Change Your Shampoo

While many people associate psoriasis with the hands and knees, some people get it on their face and head. In that case, it might help to get a psoriasis shampoo. These over-the-counter shampoos can remove scaling, relieve itching, and get rid of flakes, says dermatologist Meghan Feely.

In this photo from the 1950s, a woman washes her hair with shampoo in the sink.
Debrocke/ClassicStock/Getty Images
Debrocke/ClassicStock/Getty Images

If you want a psoriasis-friendly shampoo, the National Psoriasis Foundation recommends hunting for certain ingredients. Hydrocortisone alleviates itching; salicylic acid removes scales, and coal tar slows down skin growth and exfoliates dead skin.

To Manage Psoriasis, Manage Stress

Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin disorder. When another condition causes inflammation, such as stress, it intensifies the disease. In 2017, scientists analyzed 12 surveys and 39 studies on psoriasis. In them, 46% of patients said that their skin becomes worse after stressful events.

A woman presses her fingers to her temples.
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Matteo Vistocco/Unsplash

If you want to manage psoriasis, tackle your stress levels as well. Mindfulness, meditation, yoga, tai chi, and other relaxing hobbies can reduce the amount of flare-ups you get. If you need help, talk to your doctor.

Protect Your Skin; But If You Get Cut, Do This

Psoriasis patients are especially susceptible to skin wounds and bleeding. To manage your symptoms, try your best to avoid injuries. Wound Source Academy claims that taking care of your skin, like applying lotion and bug spray when appropriate, will reduce skin lesions and bleeding.

A person wraps a Band-Aid around their finger.
Diana Polekhina/Unsplash
Diana Polekhina/Unsplash

If you start bleeding, don’t panic. WebMD recommends pressing a cloth or bandage on the wound for around ten minutes. After, seal the cut with a Band-Aid or liquid bandage. For a quick remedy, lip balm can close the cut temporarily.

The More You Drink, The Worse Your Symptoms Get

In 2019, researchers from Karolinska Institutet discovered that most psoriasis patients drink alcohol. But this habit might worsen their disease. The scientists noticed that, the more patients drank, the more their psoriasis flared up.

Empty wine glasses stand on a table.
Louis (EclipX) Hansel/Unsplash
Louis (EclipX) Hansel/Unsplash

Alcohol increases inflammation in the body, as well as stress. Of all the psoriasis patients studied, between 17% and 30% of them attributed alcohol to stress. Either stop drinking or limit it. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, women should have no more than one drink; men, two.

What To Know About Tattoos And Piercings

Many psoriasis patients wonder whether they can get tattoos or piercings. For doctors, the greatest concern is the Koebner phenomenon. According to Clinics in Dermatology, the Koebner phenomenon creates skin lesions when the skin receives trauma. Researchers still cannot predict who will get the Koebner phenomenon or why it happens.

A man has multiple tattoos on his arms and the back of his neck.
JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images
JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

In 2013, a study in CMAJ found that only 25% of psoriasis patients get the Koebner phenomenon after being tattooed. Some artists will not tattoo or pierce patients because of this risk. If you get one, do not do it during a flare-up, and practice the appropriate aftercare.