Living with psoriasis isn't easy. But with the right strategies, it's possible to keep your psoriasis under control — and manage the stress that comes along with having a chronic skin condition. In addition to working with a dermatologist and taking or using your medication as prescribed, that means a healthy dose of self-care.
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"At-home strategies can be important to help with psoriasis, as we know it is important to care for the skin and avoid trauma to the skin," explains Manhattan-based dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD.
The right at-home regimen, for instance, helps stop skin irritation before it starts, which can reduce flare-ups and help you feel better overall.
It's always a good idea to work with your dermatologist to develop a psoriasis care plan that works for you. But these psoriasis self-management strategies can be a good place to start.
1. Stick to One Warm Shower or Bath per Day
Unlike people with eczema, those with psoriasis don't need to worry about stretching the time between showers or baths.
"It's OK to shower or bathe every day," Dr. Garshick says.
Just limit your total bath or shower time to 15 minutes or less and be sure to moisturize as soon as you get out.
2. Wash With a Mild Cleanser
Gentle, moisture-rich soaps deliver cleansing power without irritating your skin or drying it out.
"It's best to avoid harsh soaps and abrasive scrubs, as they can contribute to worsening redness and inflammation," Dr. Garshick says.
In this case, cleansers with fragrances, sulfates, alcohol or essential oils fall into the "harsh" category.
She recommends using Dove Irritation Care Body Wash ($6.93 at Walmart.com or $26.36 for a 4-pack at Amazon). "The microbiome nutrient serum works to strengthen the skin's natural moisture barrier," she says.
Other good options include:
3. Use Salicylic Acid a Few Times per Week
Plaque and scale buildup can contribute to itching and irritation. Using a cleanser containing scale-softening agents like salicylic acid a few times per week can help break down thick plaques, Dr. Garshick notes.
A cleanser containing 2 percent salicylic acid, like CeraVe Psoriasis Cleanser ($14.99, Amazon), should do the trick.
"It reduces flaking and scaling and soothes skin while also strengthening the skin barrier," she explains.
Have scalp psoriasis? Try one of these 6 psoriasis shampoos recommended by dermatologists.
4. Make Heavy-Duty Moisturizers Your Best Friend
Get in the habit of slathering up within five minutes of getting out of the shower or bath and throughout the day as needed, including right before bed, recommends the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
A thick, fragrance-free ointment or cream like CeraVe Psoriasis Skin Therapy Moisturizing Cream ($19.97, Amazon) is best.
A few times a week post-shower, treat your skin to an exfoliating moisturizer like Bliss Texture Takedown Skin Smoothing Body Butter ($15, Ulta.com), Dr. Garshick recommends. "It contains alpha-hydroxy acids to reduce skin roughness."
You can use this kind of exfoliant preventively or on active plaques and rough patches — either way, the key is to be gentle and avoid scrubbing, which can make things worse.
5. Don't Let Itch Get You Down
Scratching or picking at dry, itching skin can irritate it further, leading to worsening rash and inflammation. That's why the AAD recommends applying a moisturizer or cool compress when you get the urge to scratch.
Anti-itch lotions containing menthol or pramoxine like Cortizone 10 Anti-Itch Lotion for Psoriasis ($8.14, Amazon) may also be useful, but check with your dermatologist before trying an over-the-counter product, Dr. Garshick says.
"Prescription options are also available and may be helpful," she says.
Aloe extract cream can also be helpful for fighting itch and inflammation, notes the Mayo Clinic, but it can take a month or more of regular use before you notice a difference.
6. Spend Time Outside
You'll reap psychological benefits too. Spending time in natural settings can boost your mood and help you de-stress, per the American Psychological Association, which can help you better cope with the challenges of managing your skin.
The key here is to keep sessions short — don't spend so long in the sun uncovered that you risk getting a burn.
7. Keep It Cool
Hot skin is more prone to become itchy or irritated. Wear lightweight, breathable clothing and spend time in air-conditioned settings on hot days. You can even store your moisturizer in the fridge to give it a cooling effect, the Mayo Clinic notes.
8. Fill Up on Fish
Make it a point to enjoy fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring or sardines a couple times a week. (Just make sure to stick to low-mercury options, especially if you're pregnant.)
"Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids are thought to be anti-inflammatory, suggesting that they may help reduce inflammation which may impact various skin conditions such as psoriasis," says Dr. Garshick.
9. Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Excessive alcohol consumption might exacerbate your symptoms. Alcoholic beverages have a pro-inflammatory effect that may worsen psoriasis and can also compromise the health of your skin's natural barrier, according to an August 2019 in Psoriasis. (It can also make your skin more susceptible to damage from the sun's UV rays.)
If you choose to drink, stick to no more than two drinks per day for people assigned male at birth or one drink per day for people assigned female at birth, recommends the AAD.
10. Find Stress-Management Tools That Work for You
Whether it's keeping up with a regular yoga practice, journaling before bed or gardening, activities that keep your stress levels low can help your skin, suggests a November 2017 paper in the British Journal of Dermatology.
Regular exercise may be particularly potent. In addition to boosting your mood and helping to keep stress in check, it can support your efforts to maintain a healthy weight. And that may help keep psoriasis flares at bay, the AAD says. (Just be sure to focus on your skin health both before and after working out.)
11. Connect With Others
Join an in-person or virtual support group to find other people who share your skin challenges.
Psoriasis can be isolating, especially when you feel like your friends and family don't get what you're dealing with. Connecting with others can help you feel less alone, and you might pick up some skin-care tips or other advice you didn't know about.
- American Dermatology Association: "8 WAYS TO STOP BATHS AND SHOWERS FROM WORSENING YOUR PSORIASIS"
- Mayo Clinic: "Psoriasis"
- American Psychological Association: "Nurtured by nature"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Can Changing Your Diet Help Treat Your Psoriasis?"
- Psoriasis: "Psoriasis and alcohol"
- British Journal of Dermatology: "Psychological stress and psoriasis: a systematic review and meta-analysis"
- American Academy of Dermatology: "HEALTHY DIET AND OTHER LIFESTYLE CHANGES THAT CAN IMPROVE PSORIASIS"