Updated June 2020
We still have many more days of abbreviated sunlight hours, cold temperatures, and dry air in store for us. Unfortunately for many who suffer from psoriasis, it also means many more weeks, until the exacerbating effects winter has on the condition, go away.
There are a number of reasons why psoriasis gets worse in winter. The condition causes skin cells to multiply up to 10 times faster than normal. This could get even worse when the cold, dry air of winter provides a hospitable environment for the growth of skin cells. And since the skin that forms tends to be dry to begin with, the lack of humidity in the air further aggravates the condition.
Winter’s limited sunlight also can make your psoriasis worse, or at least not get any better. Decreased hours of sunlight, staying inside due to the cold temperatures, and bundling up due to the cold when we do go outside diminishes our exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Since many experts believe UV rays actually slow the growth of skin cells, winter robs psoriasis suffers of that benefit.
There are things you can do, however, to help get you through the winter months, including:
- Go Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for moist skin. Use an Omega-3 supplement and eat at least two servings a week of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and Arctic Char. How you prepare the fish may also have an effect, so…
- Don’t Spice it Up: Eating a lot of spicy ingredients such as chili peppers, curry, and paprika in winter makes us feel nice and warm inside, but they can also lead to chronic skin inflammation. Other foods you may need to moderate because they cause inflammation or dryness include sugary sweets, fatty dairy foods, processed foods, alcohol, and gluten products.
- Lather Up: During winter months, switch from your regular moisturizing lotion to a cream-type moisturizer, particularly ones that contain hyaluronic acid and glycerin. The thicker creams versus the thinner lotion means greater absorption for the skin. Also be sure to moisturize at least twice a day, especially right after you shower…while you’re still in the shower, right after you turn off the water, is even better! You can also incorporate other means of augmenting moisture for your skin like using night masks, humidifiers, lip balm, and sunscreen.
- Not so Hot: Speaking of showering, since hot water can strip your skin of natural oils, turn down the temperature in the shower by taking short, warm or even lukewarm showers. Also, avoid astringent cleansers. Cleansers with harsh ingredients or perfumes can dry your skin and aggravate psoriasis. Use gentle, moisturizing soaps or body wash products to prevent irritation.
- Ignore the Scales: The grayish-white scales that top the red, inflamed skin characteristic of psoriasis are often the target of psoriasis suffers attempting to quell the itching by removing the apparently “dead skin.” Using a loofah to exfoliate the skin or picking off those scales, though, can cause bleeding and infections. Your doctor may be able to remove thicker scales, but otherwise, leave them alone.
- Stick to Cotton: Many people like the feel of a heavy wool sweater on a cold winter’s day. Rough materials such as wool, though, can irritate skin already sensitive from psoriasis. Opt for cotton or other softer materials or, if you still want that heavy, cable-knit, or fisherman’s sweater, wear a long-sleeve cotton shirt under it.
- Keep the Doctor Close: While there is no cure for psoriasis, following a treatment regimen prescribed by your doctor is imperative to helping you get through the winter. Check-in with a doctor regularly to make sure you are doing all that you can to keep your psoriasis in check. If you need to see a provider, log on to Amwell and have a visit today.