Summer can come as a huge relief when you have psoriasis. Sunshine is a friend to scaly skin. Its ultraviolet (UV) rays act like light therapy, clearing up scales and giving you the smooth skin you’ve been missing.

Yet, too much time in the sun might come at the cost of more skin eruptions. That’s why caution is key if you’re headed out to enjoy a day at the beach.

Sunlight is good at clearing up psoriasis scales. Its UVB rays slow overcharged skin cells from multiplying too much.

The catch is, you need to expose your skin slowly for the max effect. Lying out for 15 minutes once a day over a few weeks might lead to some clearing. Sunbathing for hours at a stretch can have the opposite effect.

Whenever you get a sunburn, the lobster-like redness you see (and feel) is skin damage. Sunburns and other skin injuries irritate your skin, which could trigger new psoriasis flare-ups.

If you plan to spend a day at the beach, sunscreen and sun-protective clothes are beach bag essentials. Pick a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunblock with a high sun protection factor (SPF).

Use the Fitzpatrick scale as a guide to which SPF to use, and how long to stay out in the sun. If your skin type is 1 or 2, you’re more likely to burn. You’ll want to use a 30 SPF or higher sunscreen and sit in the shade most of the time.

Don’t be stingy with the screen. Smear a thick layer on all exposed skin 15 minutes before you head out. Reapply it every 2 hours, or whenever you take a dip in the ocean or pool.

Sunscreen is just one element of good sun protection. Also wear a wide-brimmed hat, UV-protective clothes, and sunglasses as extra shields against the sun.

Salt water shouldn’t hurt your psoriasis. In fact, you might notice some clearing after a dip in the ocean.

For centuries, people with psoriasis and skin conditions have traveled to the Dead Sea to soak in its very salty waters. It’s more likely that the magnesium and other minerals in sea water (not the salt) are responsible for the skin clearing. But salt could help rid those dead skin cells.

If you do take a dip in the ocean, take a warm shower as soon as you get home. Then rub on a moisturizer to prevent your skin from drying out.

Heat can irritate your skin and leave you itchy. Try to avoid the beach on super hot days. When you do hang out oceanside, stick to the shade as much as possible.

That’s up to you, and how much skin you’re comfortable showing. A smaller bathing suit will expose more areas of the scale-covered skin you want to clear. But if you’re uncomfortable exposing your plaques, choose a suit that offers more cover, or wear a T-shirt over it.

You definitely want to bring sunscreen and sun-protective clothes, like a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

Carry a cooler filled with water. It will keep you hydrated and cool, which could help prevent your psoriasis from flaring up. Also, be sure to pack a few snacks or a small meal so you don’t get hungry.

Also bring an umbrella. It’s worth dragging along, because it will give you a shady spot where you can retreat between the peak sun hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

A day at the beach could be just the thing to relax you. Exposure to the sun and salty ocean water might help to improve your skin, too.

Before you plop down on your towel and start sunbathing, make sure you’re covered with a thick layer of sunscreen. And limit your time in the sun to 15 minutes or so before retreating to the shade of an umbrella.