There’s no cure for psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune condition, and it’s often a case of trial and error to find the treatment method that works for you. This can take time — and requires patience and positivity in spades.
However, there are many things you can do to help manage the disease, improve the condition and appearance of your skin and boost your mindset at the same time. “There is ample research that shows living a healthy lifestyle improves many conditions, including psoriasis,” dermatologist Fayne Frey tells SheKnows.
Here are 10 healthy habits everyone with psoriasis should develop.
1. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize
The first thing any dermatologist will tell you is to keep your skin moisturized to boost hydration and help repair the skin barrier. Go for a gentle, fragrance-free emollient to avoid irritating and inflaming your already sensitive skin. Dermatologist Debra Jaliman recommends Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Soothe Lotion, which contains anti-inflammatory aloe and microdroplets of petroleum jelly for hydration.
2. Stick to warm (not hot) baths
Jaliman also recommends taking daily baths to help soothe inflamed skin. “Avoid using super-hot water; instead, try soaking in a warm bath with soothing ingredients such as colloidal oatmeal and bath oils to help with scaly patches,” she tells SheKnows.
3. Be kind to your skin
Whatever you do to your skin, do it with care. According to Dr. Lawrence J. Green, a National Psoriasis Foundation board member, it’s time to give up the exfoliator — at least on areas of skin affected by psoriasis. Exfoliating can irritate the skin and make the redness spread, so avoid harsh scrubbing.
“Skin with psoriasis skin is dry and irritated,” says Frey. “Anything that may make it even dryer skin should be avoided, like long, hot or frequent showers, harsh soap and the use of harsh agents like astringents and toners.” When you shower, apply a mild, soap-free cleanser using your hands only — no loofahs, buff puffs or washcloths.
4. Eat more fatty fish
What you put inside your body can have just as positive an effect on your skin as what goes on the outside. A well-balanced diet will help to reduce inflammation in the body, says Jaliman, so start by limiting your sugar and alcohol intake and eat more food high in anti-inflammatory Omega 3s.
5. Keep stress levels low
Up to 78 percent of people with psoriasis believe stress aggravates their condition. Of course, it can be a vicious cycle when psoriasis flares make you even more stressed. Figure out what’s most effective at reducing stress in your life: yoga, breathing exercises, long walks, massage, creating more “me time” and building a strong support network are all things that might help.
You might want to try meditation, too. One 2014 study from Carnegie Mellon University, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, found that 25-minute meditation sessions performed three days in a row helped study participants lower their stress levels.
6. Make exercise a regular thing
One well-known way to help reduce stress is to exercise regularly. “Keeping fit helps with the stress and anxiety associated with psoriasis and helps maintain a healthy weight and prevent heart disease,” says Frey.
A 2017 review in Brain Plasticity found that participants’ stress levels dropped and brain function and mood improved after only one workout session.
Exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight. A 2012 review published in Nutrition and Diabetes found that people who are obese are at increased risk for psoriasis and that being overweight may also make psoriasis more severe, accelerate its progression to psoriatic arthritis (which affects about 30 percent of people with skin psoriasis) and reduce the effectiveness of medications.
7. Talk about it
Psoriasis may be a physical condition, but it can take its toll on your mental health, too. In fact, a 2016 analysis published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology found that people with psoriasis experience more stress and anxiety than people without it, which may lead to depression. The National Psoriasis Foundation says that people with psoriasis are twice as likely to develop mental illness as the rest of the population.
Don’t ignore the warning signs of depression, such as pervasive sadness, overwhelming fatigue, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, unexplained irritability and a lack of interest in your usual hobbies. Confide in a trusted friend or relative, make an appointment with your primary health-care provider for advice and consider counseling.
8. Quit smoking
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, smoking may increase your risk of developing psoriasis, and if you already have the disease, it may make it even worse. Although more research is needed to establish a direct link between smoking and psoriasis, previous studies suggest that nicotine alters the immune system and affects skin cell growth.
9. Don’t skimp on the SPF
Yes, natural light and UV light can be therapeutic for psoriasis, but too much of it can have the opposite effect. Any form of trauma to the skin can trigger a psoriasis flare, including sunburn. Always apply SPF before going outdoors, and build up your exposure to high temperatures.
Too much sun can also make certain drugs ineffective or exacerbate side effects, while other medications can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so it pays to take special care. And stay away from tanning beds, which increase your risk of skin cancer.
10. Stay in control
It’s your skin, so it’s your job to take care of it. Besides adopting as many healthy habits as possible, make sure you stick to the treatment plan recommended by your physician or dermatologist and attend regular appointments to review your progress and figure out whether any changes are necessary.
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