Watching a nature documentary on wild reptiles, it dawned on me that my skin had a lot in common with a snake. It was not a good feeling.
I was at home one night, sitting on the sofa, drinking a glass of wine and watching one of the cable TV channels that has shows about animals — I love them all. That night’s show was a nature documentary on reptiles that included many scaly lizards and their cousins, snakes. It’s when they showed footage of a snake shedding its skin that I thought, “Wow, that crumpled-up tube of dead snakeskin sure does look like my forearms. Gross!”
Mammals, particularly humans, shouldn’t relate to small-brained, cold-blooded creatures from the tropics, but the sad truth was that my plaque psoriasis was having a flare-up and I was scaly, like a serpent.
What’s been so distressing is that I’ve always had great skin. I turned 30 with barely a wrinkle on my face and no skin issues to speak of. At 35, everything started to change. Somehow, my metabolism started to slow down, I seemed more dehydrated than normal and I no longer slept like a breastfed baby. My hormones were changing and I didn’t like it one bit.
I started noticing my skin being incredibly dry, particularly on my shins. So dry it began to itch. Like any weak-willed person, I scratched instead of moisturizing and, to my shock and horror, drew blood! This had never happened before.
I made sure not to touch the area for a while, other than to add lotion, but my ill-fated scratching left behind ugly red bumps and scabs. This was not good. I avoided shaving for a few weeks, leggings became my go-to accoutrement, I used thick “deep conditioning” shea butter lotion and my shins eventually cleared up.
Then my forearms became dry and itchy. I thought I was healed, so I gave into the urge to scratch and, again, blood. Horrible! I realized I wasn’t out of the woods and needed to see my dermatologist.
I was diagnosed with psoriasis and given an ointment to treat it. It helps. Keeping hydrated and using lotion, every single day, helps, too. However, summer is the most difficult time for me with wanting to wear sundresses and shorts. Some days, my skin is clear and some days, especially if I shave my legs quickly or carelessly, my skin is rough, red and scaly, so I have to make a decision on what to wear. Mostly, I just wear what I feel and try not to worry about it too much.
My girlfriends have asked if the red blotches are an allergic reaction, to which I say, “No, it’s just a psoriasis flare-up. Runs in the family.” Which is true — both my mother and my aunt have it.
My boyfriend’s big concern is whether or not my psoriasis is contagious — it’s not, though he never seems to be reassured when I tell him that.
It’s now July and I’m trying my best to stay hydrated and moisturized and remember to apply my ointment when there’s a flare-up (instead of ignoring it). I’m also trying desperately to never, ever scratch (harder said than done). But I know I can’t avoid getting older, and dealing with my psoriasis is part of that.
But if you see me in leggings on an 85-degree day, you’ll know I scratched my reptile legs.
Do you suffer from plaque psoriasis? I’d love to hear your management tips in the comments below.
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