What to Wear When You Have Psoriasis

Fashion gets complicated when you're trying to dress for your sensitive skin. Here's help.

by Jennifer Tzeses Health Writer

For any fashion maven, the change in season is an excuse to shop the latest drops. But when you have super-sensitive skin or suffer from a condition like psoriasis (see: red, itchy, and scaly), the struggle to find comfortable clothing is real. Fabrics like wool, polyester, and rayon can irritate like a stage-five clinger—and especially if they’re tight-fitting.

But just because certain materials or details (we’re looking at you beads and sequins) can be scratchy, that doesn’t mean you should let a flareup foil your best-laid wardrobe plans (where there’s a will, there’s a way—just ask psoriasis patient Kim Kardashian). The moral of this story is, regardless of your skin status, you can still make your fashion voice heard. Here’s a little fabric know-how, according to season, to keep your wardrobe (and skin) in the game.

Winter Layering Tips

Come the winter cold and unforgiving dry air, your skin is all but (audibly) crying out for moisture. “Skin is typically drier in the colder months, so it’s easier to irritate,” says Manhattan-based dermatologist Ellen Marmur, M.D. founder of MMSkincare. “You should wear something loose so it won’t rub against your skin too tightly.”

But what to do about layering up for the cold? Your best bet: Make sure the base layer next to your skin is cotton or silk. It may be tempting, on those negative-degree mornings, to slip on the heaviest, thickest wool cable-knit sweater you can find, but don’t. Wool can be itchy and irritating, especially if you’re having a flare. “You have to be careful about clothing with fibers like wool, which can snag and pull on psoriasis plaques—ouch!” says dermatologist Kaylan Pustover, D.O., of Spring Street Dermatology in New York. Try a cotton long-sleeve t-shirt under a cashmere sweater, paired with your favorite (cotton) jeans for a look far more forgiving against tender skin.

Another way to add warmth: Slip on a pair of opaque cotton tights to wear under skirts or baggy boyfriend jeans. They’ll do double duty protecting your skin while fending off the frosty air. And instead of a turtleneck, opt for a cowl neck, which is the same idea but won’t hug your neck too tightly so your skin can breathe.

Seek These Spring Silhouettes

The birds are chirping, the buds are blooming, and the temps are rising—which also means it’s time to put those heavier sweaters and winter outerwear into hibernation mode. While shedding a few layers comes with the season, your goal is to still go for fluid over skin-tight when it comes to fit. Anything that lies against the skin can cause overheating and irritation, triggering a psoriasis flare. “Loose clothing is less likely to catch on psoriasis plaques, minimizing discomfort,” says Pustover.

Now for a bit of fashion good news: Slouchy silhouettes are storming the runways for Spring ’21. Roomy high-waisted pleated pants, baggy utility jumpsuits, flowy doll dresses, and billowy blouses cut from breezy cottons and smooth silks should be on your daily rotation. If you’re ever unsure whether a fabric could trigger a skin situation, there’s always the option of wearing a dress or blouse over a lightweight cotton tee for extra insurance.

Let the Summer Breezes Blow

Psoriasis and sweat go together like, well, oil and water. So the last thing you want to do in the mid-summer heat is don non-breathable synthetic fabrics (rayon, polyester, and spandex) or clingy clothes that can block your pores and make you sweat, worsening your psoriasis, Dr. Marmur says.

Giving skin room to breathe is the number one commandment of summer dressing. Linen is a great choice, as well as sea island cotton. Both are breathable, porous, and prevent moisture buildup. Equally important? Choosing the right undergarments that a made from natural, breathable fibers. (Ladies, if you ever wanted an excuse to splurge on silk bras, now’s the time!) If silk is too decadent, cotton will also form a skin-friendly barrier between your psoriasis and your clothing.

When summer weather sends you outdoors to exercise, opt for moisture-wicking materials to help your skin stay sweat-free. “These keep the skin dry and psoriasis-safe by preventing the growth of bacteria and fungi,” Dr. Marmur says.

Headed out on the town? Think breezy maxi dresses, linen cargo pants, cropped three-quarter cotton tops, and breezy silk blouses. While you may be self-conscious about exposing any affected areas, it’s actually in your best interest to show a little skin: Moderate sun on plaque psoriasis can help improve symptoms, says Dr. Marmur. (We say wear those plaques with pride.)

Fall Fashion You’ll Love

Autumn temps can be as fickle as fashion itself (global warming and all). Some days can be downright balmy; others deliver a bone-chilling wind. But as the temperatures start to drop, humidity levels changes as well, and that can make psoriasis symptoms worse, thanks to dry air that zaps the moisture right out of your skin. Couple that with a decline in sun exposure, and your skin is primed for a PsO flare.

The best way to handle fall’s fickleness is to dress in multiple lightweight layers, all of which sit away from the skin. Go for a cotton cami, underneath a silk-knit sweater, beneath an oversized cashmere cardigan. If you’re having a flare—flakes and all—go for a fun print, which will help hide plaque shedding.

What else to wear? Stock up on chunky knits, pleated silk skirts, cropped cardigans, and stylish joggers to slay your fashion goals and (most importantly) show your psoriasis a little love.

Jennifer Tzeses
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Tzeses

Jennifer Tzeses is a writer and content strategist specializing in health, beauty, psychology and lifestyle. She's written for The Wall Street Journal, Mind Body Green, CNN, Architectural Digest, Barron's, Cosmopolitan, Harper's Bazaar, Psycom, Elle, Marie Claire, and more. Follow her on Instagram @jtzeses.