Psoriasis can be a frustrating disease to manage if you don’t have the right tools to treat it.
There are numerous ways you can calm down your psoriasis in addition to medications or phototherapy.
- Quit smoking: Smoking worsens psoriasis and makes certain psoriasis medications less effective. Quitting and avoiding tobacco products can reduce the number of psoriasis flares you experience.
- Eat a well-balanced diet: Maintaining a moderate weight and eating a well-balanced diet will help your psoriasis remain calm.
- Avoid triggers: Avoiding your triggers, especially stress, is another way to help manage your psoriasis symptoms.
- Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated helps retain your skin’s moisture and makes you less prone to itching and scratching, which can aggravate psoriasis. Drinking plenty of water will keep your skin hydrated.
- Keep your skin happy: Daily lukewarm showers, gentle cleansers, and moisturizing your skin immediately afterward will help keep your skin moisturized and help prevent flaring.
- Get some sun: Getting about 10–15 minutes of natural sunlight can also help control psoriasis flares. Remember to do this before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. to reduce exposure to harmful UV radiation, which can put you at risk for skin cancer.
There’s no cure for psoriasis. There will be periods of flares alternating with clear skin throughout your lifetime. This can make you depressed and feel isolated. Joining a psoriasis support group can help you feel less alone and boost your confidence. Besides making a new friend (or two!), you may also learn new strategies to keep your psoriasis in check.
Ideally, you want to keep your psoriasis spots moist, not dry. Psoriasis can make your skin dry and itchy. Keeping these areas well moisturized with a strong emollient, such as Vaseline or cream-based moisturizers, will soothe these symptoms.
People often complain about their psoriasis spots being so dry their skin cracks, which is uncomfortable and can put you at risk for infections.
The skin is our body’s first defense against harmful bacteria and other pathogens. Sealing these cracks will protect you from future skin infections, such as impetigo.
Also, dry, itchy skin can prevent you from getting a good night’s rest. Sleep is essential to your health, and having disrupted sleep because of dry, itchy skin can worsen your psoriasis.
Keeping your skin and psoriasis spots moist will soothe your skin and prevent your psoriasis from waking you in the middle of the night.
This is a great question that my patients with psoriasis often ask. Everyone is different, but most people with psoriasis enjoy taking a shower or bath every day to remove the scale on top of their psoriasis spots, especially those with scalp psoriasis.
I advise against more frequent bathing as this can overly dry out and irritate your skin. Remember, you want your skin as happy as possible to prevent potential psoriasis flares. Other helpful tips include:
- keep your showers brief (10-15 minutes)
- use lukewarm (not hot) water
- use gentle, fragrance-free, non-soap cleansers, such as Dove for sensitive skin
- gently pat your skin dry (no scrubbing!) before applying your topical medications and moisturizers
I recommend applying your medications to your psoriasis spots and moisturizing the rest of your skin with a strong emollient, such as CeraVe, Cetaphil, or Vaseline.
Although there’s no cure for psoriasis, there has recently been an explosion of research to develop effective and quick treatment options.
Several newer biologic medications boast rapid clearance of psoriasis spots, with many offering significant improvement or completely clear skin in as short as 3 months. (Sorry, nothing is going to remove your psoriasis spots overnight!)
It’s important to note that these medications are processed throughout your body and can have unwanted side effects, such as an increased risk for infections. There’s also no consensus on when these drugs should be stopped, making it a difficult decision as to when to start a biologic medication because psoriasis is a lifelong condition.
These newer medications are also considerably more expensive, so it’s important to keep this in mind when discussing biologic treatment with your dermatologist.
There are many triggers for psoriasis, and not everyone has the same triggers. Many of these triggers can be avoided with lifestyle modifications.
- Smoking: Smoking is a common trigger and should be avoided as this not only makes psoriasis worse but can also make certain psoriasis medications ineffective.
- Alcohol: Alcohol is also known to make psoriasis worse, so drink in moderation. A common medication used for psoriasis is called methotrexate. This medication can damage your liver, so drinking alcohol while on this medication is a big no-no.
- Excess weight: Having excess weight can worsen psoriasis. Maintaining a moderate weight is super important when managing psoriasis. Certain psoriasis medications are dosed based on your weight, so the less you weigh, the less medication you will need and the fewer side effects you will experience.
- Diet: Eating a well-balanced diet will also help keep psoriasis flares at bay. The data on whether
glutenmakes psoriasis worse is still unclear, so I tell my patients to eat a well-balanced diet.
- Stress: Stress can also worsen psoriasis. Stress-busting activities — such as practicing mindfulness, yoga, exercise, or talking with a friend or therapist — can help manage stress and psoriasis.
- Weather: Cold, dry weather tends to dry out your skin, which can worsen your psoriasis. Make sure your skin is well moisturized, and use a humidifier when possible.
- Medications: Certain medications can trigger psoriasis, such as beta-blockers and lithium (avoid, if possible).
- Infections: Infections, such as Streptococcus bacteria (Strep), can trigger a variant of psoriasis called guttate psoriasis, which is more common among younger people.
- Skin injuries: Skin injuries — such as a piercing, tattoo, sunburn, cut, or surgery wound — can trigger psoriasis to develop at these sites through a process called the Koebner phenomenon.
- Hormones: Hormones can either make psoriasis flare or improve it, so it depends on the person.
There are many psoriasis triggers, but many can be avoided with lifestyle changes.
Dr. Joan Paul is an ABMS board certified dermatologist who specializes in psoriasis, skin cancer, skin of color, and global health. She has also completed seven medical missions in the countries of Haiti, Trinidad & Tobago, Mexico, Malawi, Uganda, India, and Botswana.