I’ve lived with psoriasis for much of my adult life. Let’s just say that’s more than a few decades. And it’s not a mild case with a patch here or there — it’s extensive.
Psoriasis is just one indicator of systemic inflammatory disease. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, living with the condition means that you’re also at higher risk for arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In short, it’s not just about the visible scaly, blotchy skin.
I’ve done my best to minimize the cardiovascular risks with a good diet and regular exercise. The aspect of psoriasis that has actually had the biggest impact on my daily life is what it does to my skin.
Because of that, good skin care is a critical part of my daily routine. And there are times when I like to go beyond my ordinary day-to-day skincare habits and treat myself to a little something extra.
Stress doesn’t cause psoriasis, but it can be a trigger for flares, the National Psoriasis Foundation notes. To help reduce stress, I dedicate one full day each weekend to unplugging and having alone time.
For me that means taking a long walk and getting absorbed in a good book. Not only do I love reading essays, history, biography, and travelogues, but I also love preparing for this special time by browsing in my local brick-and-mortar bookshop for ideas.
I love spas. I mean what’s not to like? For me a facial or a massage, or both, can be a real indulgence and the perfect way to zone out and relax both my body and my mind. It’s also a way to have someone pamper me for a change, even for a little while. Over the years I’ve discovered that there are many spa products made for sensitive skin that are perfect for people with psoriasis. I’ve also found staff to be receptive to my needs.
Most people don’t realize it, but the finger nails and toe nails are skin, and psoriasis affects them too. So, it’s important for me to take the same care with my nails as I do with the rest of my body. And what better way to do that than a manicure and pedicure.
I try to do this every few weeks. The same person has been doing my nails for ages. She’s always on the lookout for new colors that complement my skin tone.
Skin with psoriasis is sensitive and easily irritated. Comfort for me means all cotton clothing. OK, silk is good, too. I love finding a new source for 100% cotton items. I’ll try out a blouse, sweater, or even a T-shirt with a silly saying to add to my cotton-centric wardrobe.
Cold weather and steam heating make my skin dry and uncomfortable. My psoriasis just adds to that problem. In addition, some of the complications from psoriasis make my hands and feet feel colder than you might imagine.
One of the best things I ever bought for myself was a pair of silk glove liners. They add another layer of warmth even to down mittens. My feet are the only place I wear wool, and ragg socks are just perfect for warmth and comfort. I also love lined slippers for just hanging out at home.
Nothing soothes dry skin better than a good moisturizer. I use it all over my body every morning when I get out of the shower. But sometimes I like to take it a step further by adding fragrance-free bath oil during my shower. I also like to shop for portable tubes of fragrance-free moisturizer that I can keep in my bag and apply when I’m out and about.
Years ago someone introduced me to an olive oil soap from southern France. It can be difficult to get in the United States, so when I visit France I make sure to pick up a few bars. It smells wonderful and leaves my skin feeling really smooth.
Make no mistake, I find psoriasis very difficult to live with. There are treatments, but there’s no cure. And some treatments, despite the perky television commercials, aren’t for everyone. Some treatments can even have life-threatening side effects. For example, I was diagnosed with skin cancer after using a treatment that significantly increases the risk of the condition.
I’ve made peace with psoriasis and I don’t let it infringe on my life any more than is absolutely necessary. As a result, I have a full, active life that includes lots of travel, close friends and family, a career I love, and for a long time, marriage. It even includes short sleeves and bathing suits.
Toni L. Kamins is a freelance journalist and writer in New York City. She was diagnosed with psoriasis while in college in 1972 and with psoriatic arthritis in the 1990s. She has written two books and is widely published. Some of her journalism focuses on the politics of healthcare, health insurance, and healthcare access. You can read more of her work at tonikamins.contently.com and find her on Twitter @ToniKamins.