Skin Smarts for All Seasons

Protect your skin and feel your very best year-round.

Health Monitor Staff
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Psoriasis tends to change with the weather, so it makes sense to adjust your management strategy accordingly. Lawrence Green, MD, a dermatology professor at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, DC, and a spokesperson for the National Psoriasis Foundation, offers these proven tactics for coping with psoriasis year-round.

A drop in humidity coupled with low temperatures can wreak havoc on your skin, so moisturize several times a day during the winter months to prevent outbreaks. Heavy creams and ointments are more effective than lotions because they don’t evaporate quickly and do a better job of locking in skin moisture. Look for products that contain humectants (which soften skin) like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, or ceramides, fatty substances that help restore the skin’s protective layer and prevent further damage.

Daily showers this time of year shouldn’t cause problems as long as you don’t rub yourself dry. Instead, gently pat your body dry so as not to irritate skin; then moisturize.

As the weather warms and you’re able to spend more time outdoors, your symptoms may become more manageable. Too much exposure to the sun can backfire, however, by damaging healthy skin to the point of stimulating fresh outbreaks. Gradually build the amount of time you spend outdoors, and always wear sunscreen or clothing on all non-affected skin. Continue moisturizing frequently.

Summer vacation is the perfect time to try relaxation therapy for dialing down stress—a known trigger of psoriasis outbreaks. Studies suggest that when meditation is added to a drug and phototherapy regimen, the healing time for psoriasis plaque is cut nearly in half. 

Besides limiting sun exposure, keep in mind that chlorine can also dry out the skin, so rinse off immediately after a dip in a chlorinated pool. Salt water may help slough off plaque scales, but you should still moisturize after swimming in the ocean.

When the weather begins to turn cooler and drier, set humidifiers around the house to prevent air from dipping below the 60% humidity level needed to keep skin moist. To head off seasonal flare-ups, ask your dermatologist to review your treatment plan and make adjustments.

And don’t abandon your workouts just because it’s getting chilly. Exercise is one of the best ways to cope with stress, a psoriasis flare up trigger. Consider indoor options to keep yourself moving, like joining a gym or purchasing workout DVDs.

July 2012