Many people with psoriasis are shy about exposing their skin. Often they may feel uneasy being in public, or they may fear negative reactions from strangers. This can be emotionally challenging.

That’s why it’s common for people living with psoriasis to hide from the sun. But since sun exposure can actually improve psoriasis symptoms, you may want to spend some time catching those rays. Here’s how to do it safely while keeping your self-confidence intact.

1. Wear the right clothing

Everyone can benefit from covering up to protect their skin from sustained exposure to the sun. This helps to prevent sunburn and skin cancer, whether or not you live with psoriasis. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, sun-safe clothing can absorb the sun’s ultraviolet rays before they reach the skin.

But as someone living with psoriasis, you may want to get some UV rays, specifically UVB rays, as they have been known to reduce the severity of psoriasis outbreaks. A 2011 study of people with psoriasis showed immediate improvement of local and systemic markers of inflammation after 16 days of controlled sun exposure.

To get the best of both worlds, choose sun-safe clothing that still allows some UVB rays to penetrate through to the skin. Lighter colors and fabrics with looser threads, like bleached cottons, allow some rays to get through.

2. Cover up other areas

To benefit from sun exposure, you don’t have to bare all of your skin. As a treatment for psoriasis, the sun works when it falls directly on the area of the outbreak. UVB rays help slow down the growth of skin cells. Whether you get UVB from phototherapy or from the sun, the result is the same.

When you get sun exposure, you have the added benefit of vitamin D. It also changes the rate of cell growth and boosts the immune system, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation.

To increase comfort level at the beach or out in the community, play with your fashion sense a bit. Wraps, scarves, and other accessories can pull attention from the areas of skin affected by psoriasis. Try keeping psoriasis patches uncovered for limited periods of time. This will help you benefit from UVB exposure.

3. Time your excursions

To get started with natural sun therapy, expose psoriasis patches to noontime sun for about 5 to 10 minutes each day. You may gradually increase the amount of time by 30-second increments, carefully monitoring your skin for bad reactions.

If you’re feeling shy and even a few minutes seems daunting, make a game out of it. Stream some music through headphones and see how many times you can circle the block before two songs finish.

4. Have an explanation ready

Many people aren’t educated about psoriasis. Because of this lack of knowledge, people living with the condition often get stares or even shocked reactions.

If you’re planning to spend time in the sun in a public area, do what you need to make yourself feel comfortable. Having a quick explanation about the appearance of your skin can help put you — and others — at ease.

5. Ask a friend for company

Whenever you feel uneasy, having a friend nearby can do wonders. Ask a close friend to go with you for walks or trips to the beach. Talking with your friend can also be a great way to take your mind off psoriasis.

The takeaway

It’s normal for people with psoriasis to feel shy about exposing their skin on sunny days. UVB rays and vitamin D can help improve the condition, so it may be worthwhile to venture out, as long as you protect your skin. Taking gradual steps can also help you gain confidence around others and feel better overall.