Summertime can offer benefits for psoriasis. There’s more moisture in the air, which is good for dry, flaky skin. The weather is warmer, so you’re more likely to spend time in the sun. Moderate ultraviolet (UV)) ray exposure can be good for you — as long as you’re wearing sunscreen.
With the sun high in the sky, you might be ready to hit the beach or pool. There are many benefits to swimming if you have psoriasis. Cool water can relieve itchiness and scales, and warm water can decrease inflammation. Swimming is also a great way to exercise with psoriasis.
If you’re looking to take a dip, these tips can help you keep psoriasis flare-ups from interfering with the rest of your summer plans.
Swimming in salt water or a chlorinated pool can dry out your skin, but salt water may be better for your psoriasis.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), swimming in salt water can help remove dead skin and improve the appearance of psoriasis.
Saltwater pools are increasing in popularity for health clubs and individual homeowners. If you have access to a saltwater pool, you’ll be less likely to have a flare-up after (compared to swimming in a chlorinated pool).
Naturally occurring salt water is even better, and therefore the ocean is a great option. Not everyone lives near the ocean, but if you do, consider taking a dip as often as you can.
If you aren’t near a beach, take advantage of the natural soothing powers of fresh ocean water on your next coastal vacation, or take a quick soak in a Dead Sea salt bath.
The chlorine used in traditional pools can be harsh on psoriasis skin. The chemicals used can increase skin irritation and dryness.
That doesn’t mean chlorinated pools are off-limits. Just keep your swim short, rinse off after you get out, and moisturize after swimming.
Overexposure to salt water or chlorine may bring on a psoriasis flare-up. Taking steps to care for your skin both before and after a swim can help keep flares at bay.
Try these tips before you dive in to help protect your skin.
Wear sunscreen when swimming outdoors
Wearing sunscreen is important to help prevent photoaging, sunburns, and cancers of the skin. When you have psoriasis, sunscreen can also help prevent lesions from worsening.
Use a fragrance-free, broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30. Apply it 15 minutes before heading outside. Put on a little extra around your skin lesions.
When swimming, you’ll want to reapply your sunscreen every hour or each time you dry off with a towel.
Apply a skin protectant before heading in the water
No matter what type of water you end up swimming in, you’ll want to add a skin protectant over your plaques and lesions. This is especially important if you end up swimming in a chlorinated pool. Basic mineral oil or petroleum jelly (think Vaseline) will do the trick.
Use these tips to reap the benefits of swimming without triggering a psoriasis flare after.
Shower immediately after swimming
Showering right after your swim session can help your skin recover without setting off a flare-up. If you don’t have time to take a full shower with soap, simply rinse yourself off with fresh water. You should make this a priority if you swim in a chlorinated pool.
Use chlorine-eliminating shampoos and soaps
You can buy certain shampoos and body soaps to help remove chlorine and other chemicals from your skin post-swim. These can help keep skin lesions at bay.
If you don’t have access to chemical-removing soaps, you’ll at least want to avoid putting more chemicals on your skin. Try to avoid cleansers with color or fragrance.
Pat skin dry
Bring your own towel that’s been laundered in your psoriasis-friendly detergent. Use your towel to blot water gently from your skin. Don’t overdo it: Leave your skin feeling damp.
Apply lotion immediately after showering
You’ll want to apply lotion as soon as you shower or rinse off your skin. Damp skin retains lotion and seals in moisture better than skin that’s already dry.
Use a fragrance-free lotion to help trap moisture in your skin, which can be lost during any type of swimming (fresh, salt, and chlorinated water).
Once you’re out of the pool, keep these precautions in mind to protect psoriasis skin.
Don’t spend too much time in the sun
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can have positive effects on psoriasis skin if used in moderation (up to 10 or 15 minutes at a time). Any more UV exposure than this can make your lesions worse. A sunburn can actually bring on a psoriasis flare.
Another reason to stay out of direct sun: Overheating is another psoriasis trigger. Scout out some shade to take refuge in.
Don’t let flare-ups keep you out of the water
Friends and strangers may be curious about any skin lesions you have. It’s completely up to you how much or how little you’d like to share about your condition. Psoriasis isn’t contagious, and that’s all they really need to know.
Try not to let your anxiety of other people’s curiosity keep you from the activities you love, like swimming.
Don’t soak for too long
In some cases, swimming can be quite soothing for psoriasis symptoms, especially if it’s in salt water. But you’ll want to be mindful of how much time you spend in the water. Soaking for too long can worsen your symptoms. This is especially the case in hot tubs and chemically treated water.
Try to keep your time in the water to 15 minutes or less.
If you follow these tips, swimming might not only be safe for psoriasis skin, it can also offer many benefits.
If your symptoms get worse or you experience a flare-up after a swim session, talk with your doctor. They can offer you more insight on how to protect your skin so that you don’t have to miss out on any fun in the sun.