Summer Psoriasis Smarts: How to Avoid Flares
Some of us with psoriasis fare better in sunnier weather while others (like me) may experience more spots. Either way, being mindful of your sun exposure is always smart - not only do we want to feel good about our bodies now that we’re wearing shorts and swimsuits, we also don’t want to increase our risk of skin cancer.
Quick tips on managing your psoriasis during the warmer months:
Know your sun threshold. Ever since my first psoriasis flare occurred following a bad sunburn as a teen, I’ve been hyper aware of avoiding too much sun. This hasn’t always been easy, though, since I love being outside and going to the beach. And I do know that my psoriasis responds well to some sunlight (my in-home ultra-violet phototherapy unit cleared my skin after a flare a few years back). What’s worked best for me: finding a sunscreen that’s gentle enough for my sensitive skin (Aveeno products are tried-and-true standbys for me; there are lots of other brands, too, that contain ingredients that calm sensitive skin). I also re-apply sunscreen after swimming or building up a sweat. Thankfully, I have not experienced a bad sunburn that’s turned into a psoriasis flare in quite some time. Keep in mind to use a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above.
Are your prescriptions sun-friendly? Some medications used to treat psoriasis make the skin extra-sensitive to sunlight. These include psoralen, tazarotene, coal tar, pimecrolimus (Elidel), and tacrolimus (Protopic). Check with your doctor before going out in the sun If you’re taking one of these medications, or if you have questions about how sunlight may affect any other kind of prescription you may be taking.
Moisturize. The summer heat can dry out our skin even further, so be sure to use lotion morning and night to keep your skin moisturized. Find a brand that works well for you. I’ve found that my scalp and face psoriasis typically worsen come summer - perhaps it’s the hotter weather, who knows? - so even during the lazier days of summer when schedules are looser, I’m adamant about using face moisturizer (often with a built-in sunscreen) during the day, thicker face cream at night and medicated conditioning shampoo and conditioner several times a week to best manage my psoriasis.
Avoid shaving nicks, bug bites. Because psoriasis can form at the site of a minor skin injury, be it a razor nick or insect bite, be extra careful. For me, using fragrance-free, ultra-moisturizing shaving cream, makes a big difference. If shaving is difficult given the extent of your psoriasis, consider asking your doctor about laser hair removal. To avoid bug bites, I wear long sleeves and capris or longer pants in bug-infested areas. If you use insect repellent, choose one with a low percentage of DEET, the active ingredient in most insect repellents. As little as 4.75 percent DEET can provide 90 minutes of protection. Definitely don’t apply insect repellent to open sores or irritated skin.
Heather wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Psoriasis.