Editor's Note: This article was originally written by patient expert Kristin Donahue.
I have psoriasis all over my face. On my best days, I have minimal patches on my cheeks, around my hairline and it is easily covered by makeup. On my worst days, my forehead is covered, and I have a psoriasis beard
-- jawline to collar bones - it's not pretty. So, I'm pretty motivated to prevent any kind of flaring.
I travel frequently for work and nothing makes my skin more volatile than air travel (except beer). Over the years, I've chalked this up to a handful of reasons: my skincare regime is changed; I get dehydrated during the flight; sleep times are often interrupted; exposure to germs and viruses that may cause my immune system to work overtime. Here are some of my habits that lessen my psoriasis flares and the volatility that can follow air travel.
Please note, I am not a doctor, so please don't take my advice as if it's from a medical professional. That being said, I do a lot of research on psoriasis and I write for the National Psoriasis Foundation, but more than that, I've lived with this disease for all of my life and that's a pretty tremendous amount of experiential data. Everyone will have to find out what works for them, but for the traveler's out there, I'd start here.
Pack the best, most emollient lotion you can find and afford and slather it on often. Since I travel for work, I need to be able to go from airport to meeting and not look like a flaky mess. I have a very fine-tuned skin regime and when I stray from this, it can be disastrous. I used to just pack cheapie lotions from the Target travel section, but using unfamiliar products on my skin is a terrible idea.
I now pack mini-versions of what I always use, and sometimes I pack thesame line of products but the more emollient versions. (Generally, I use Origins face creams in the moisture and moisture plus categories.) Lately, there's been an uptick in the facial moisturizer mists trend - which I love. I don't have time to redo my makeup after applying moisturizer and these area great way to add some moisture to parched skin. I'm still experimenting with brands.
**Drink a ton of water.
As soon as I pass through airport security, I buy a one-liter bottle and do my best to drink it before I reach my destination. (I'll drink more on long-haul flights.)
3**. Pop extra fish oil supplements.** I notice a considerable difference in my skin's moisture when I take fish oil supplements. Pre-trip and during travel, I up my dosage (read bottles for recommended dosages - I prefer Fisol from Nature's Way).**
Snack on nuts. Nuts have anti-inflammatory properties and deliver the minerals and fats that help our skin barrier remain strong. To avoid further dehydration, I opt for lightly salted nuts.
Be mindful of clothing choice. Never wear dark colored wool while traveling. I've learned this the hard way. Wool will make dehydrated skin will itch like crazy and any flakiness or peeling is extremely visible. I've learned to pack a lightweight light-colored pashmina or cotton-linen blend sweater to cover up with on the flight and for needed confidence while traveling - I may not need it, but it's nice to know I have a cover-up.
Deep breathing exercises. To ease any travel anxieties, I always have a mini-meditation exercise that I can go to. It's a great reset button and helps calm the nervous system. I firmly believe all environmental factors play a part in my autoimmune disease, including stress. There are great free and affordable mobile apps for short meditation exercises.
Spend as much time outdoors as soon as you get to your location. This is great for beating jetlag, stress relief, and soaking up much-needed vitamin D. Nothing clears my skin up like sunshine.
Swap out coffee for green tea. Green tea has tremendous anti-inflammatory properties. Unfortunately, loose leaf during travel can be cumbersome, but there are great varieties of organic green tea bags. Many coffee shops generally have a large selection of tea choices as well.
Disinfect yourself. Wash hands frequently. Wear a mask if you have to. Getting sick is a miserable experience, but getting sick when you have psoriasis can be doubly so. For many, it means flaring and skin volatility. (And for me, the psoriasis beard.)
I do anything in my power to prevent this. In my mind, flying is a cesspool of nastiness, so I disinfect frequently with hand washing and even the occasional anti-bacteria gel (which I generally don't use, except in desperate situations).
Get plenty of sleep before traveling.** I often have to catch the 6:30 am commuter flight - which means a 4:00 am wakeup call. That's early. The week preceding my travel, I do my best to make sure that I get a solid eight hours of sleep and mitigate other stressors in my life (as much as humanly possible as a working mom of two young boys).**
Interested in reading more? Check out my blog, The Happy Spot.