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Health & Wellness

Psoriasis and Summer: 5 Tips for Healthier Skin

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Weather can make a big difference for people with psoriasis, and for many of them, summer is the best time of year.

Psoriasis is a genetic, inflammatory skin condition that can cause pink, scaly areas to arise on the body. A sunny day at the beach may actually help skin to feel and look better, but it’s important that those who have psoriasis take a number of precautions. GetOld spoke with Robin Evans, M.D., who is the founder of Southern Connecticut (SoCo) Dermatology in Stamford, Connecticut, and a clinical instructor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, to get advice on how to best take care of your skin in the summer when you have psoriasis.

Spend time in the sun, but always protect your skin. The sun may help reduce symptoms of psoriasis, says Evans. In fact, she says, ultraviolet light therapy has been used to treat psoriasis for a long time. But there is a caveat: it’s imperative to avoid sunburn because it can actually worsen symptoms. Psoriasis exhibits something called the Koebner phenomenon, which describes the development of lesions in response to some kind of skin trauma, like a bug bite, surgery or, in this case, sunburn. “If you get a sunburn, you may spread your psoriasis,” says Evans. She tells her patients to use sunscreen that uses a physical blocker that includes at least 7 to 10 percent of ingredients such as titanium dioxide or micronized zinc oxide, and apply it frequently throughout the day.

Take a dip in the ocean. Saltwater may also help with symptoms of psoriasis, and Evans encourages people to go for a swim if they’re at the beach. “There are psoriasis clinics at the dead sea in Israel,” she says. “Salt helps. Saltwater helps.” Although, she says, if the person has open wounds, the water could burn. “There’s caveats to everything,” she says. If you do go swimming, she suggests rinsing the water off immediately after you get out to avoid further drying out your skin (that applies to sessions in the pool, as well).

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. People with psoriasis have dry skin, says Evans, and summertime activities such as swimming and spending time in the sun may further dry it out. She encourages patients to put on moisturizer as soon as they get out of the pool or shower, because wet skin absorbs moisture better. “You want something thick, something lubricating, something more ointment-based if someone is willing to tolerate that, rather than a lotion,” she says.

Relax. “Stress is a well-known trigger for psoriasis flares,” says Evans, and summer is a great time to kick back and take a deep breath. She encourages people to make time for their favorite stress-relieving activities, like gardening, reading, exercising, exploring, meditating, yoga, and spending time with friends and family. “Whatever it is that de-stresses you, that’s helpful for psoriasis,” she says.

Put your health first. “People with psoriasis have a higher incidence of metabolic syndrome, developing diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiac disease, and more,” says Evans. “So summer is a good time to try to lower your risks of those problems.” To do that, work on incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet, commit to an exercise routine, strive to get more sleep, and work to stop harmful habits, such as smoking.

Most of all, Evans says, summer is a time to relish, especially if you have psoriasis. “Summer is your season. Your skin is likely to be better now than it’s going to be in January," she says. "Take advantage of it.”

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