Managing Water Sports With Psoriasis

by Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Writer

Exercise can be a game-changer for those with psoriasis. Even 20 weeks of exercise can reduce psoriasis. If you have psoriatic arthritis, exercising in the water can help reduce the stress on your joints. The following tips and tricks will help you more fully enjoy water sports if you have psoriasis.

Chlorine tablets on pool deck.
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Protect your skin from chlorine

Both swimming and water aerobics are great choices to get in better shape. Both exercises can happen easily in a nearby pool. However, the chlorine in pools can cause skin dryness. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, it might help to protect your skin before you swim by applying a thin layer of petroleum jelly to your areas of psoriasis. When you get out of the pool, immediately rinse the chlorine from your skin.

Woman at beach with sunscreen sun drawing on shoulder.
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Wear sunscreen

Many water sports happen outdoors. Sun exposure can be a welcome relief to those with psoriasis. However, too much sun on unprotected skin can lead to sunburn, which can make your psoriasis worse. Since the water will tend to rinse some of your sunscreen off, you may need to reapply your sunscreen frequently to stay protected.

Female hands getting moisturizer from jar.
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Apply moisturizer

When you are finished with your activity, it is a good idea to have your moisturizer nearby. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, moisture works by trapping water in your skin. For best results, you should apply your moisturizer while your skin is still damp.

Dark fruits and vegetables around smoothies.
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Enjoy dark fruits and vegetables

Psoriasis presents on the outside of your skin, but begins inside of your body. As you think about fueling your activities, try to consume foods that help with inflammation and give you the nutrients you need to perform at your best. Try this smoothie for a quick pre-workout snack.

Aerial view of hundreds of people at ocean beach.
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Protect yourself from saltwater

The sun and the sea together can make almost anyone feel better. It is also a great combination for those of us with psoriasis. However, if your water sport involves the ocean, be sure to thoroughly rinse the salt from your skin afterward. Saltwater can make your skin dry and flaky if it stays on you for extended periods of time.

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Reduce gluten in your diet

Eating as many whole, unprocessed foods as possible can be beneficial for most athletes. Reducing your gluten consumption may also help your performance. According to the British Journal of Dermatology, the symptoms in some psoriasis patients can be improved by a gluten-free diet. However, eliminating gluten from your diet can be difficult. Talking to your rheumatologist about whether you would be a good candidate to try a gluten-free diet may be a great first step.

Overhead view of woman swimming laps in pool.
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Don't get discouraged

If you have psoriasis, you know that your skin can go through cycles where it can be worse for some weeks and then go into remission for some time. If you attempt a water sport and it makes your psoriasis worse, this does not necessarily mean you should avoid that activity. Instead, it could may mean that your psoriasis is in the middle of a flare-up, or that you need to take better care of your skin before and after the activity to be successful. Patience may be the key.

Female surfer on board waiting for next set of waves.
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Reduce skin chafing

Skin injury makes psoriasis worse. Therefore, be cautious if you are doing a sport such as paddle boarding or surfing that may involve frequent rubbing of the skin that could lead to chafing. Even poor-fitting life jackets can cause excess rubbing on the back or under the arms. Applying a fragrance-free mineral oil or petroleum jelly to skin areas that might get chafed could provide the protection your skin needs.

Woman relaxing in hot spring.
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Pay attention to the water temperature

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, hot water can make skin irritation and dryness worse. However, finding the perfect water temperature for your sport can be tricky because if you have psoriatic arthritis, cold water can make your joints stiff. Finding a body of water that matches your skin and joint needs may take some time, but eventually you will find the right combination that feels good to you.

Woman walking by pool in robes talking.
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Be prepared to educate your friends

If you participate in a water sport, most likely you will be wearing less clothing than you usually wear. Your sport may involve wearing only a bathing suit, so covering your psoriasis is not an option. Some of your friends may ask you about your skin condition. They most likely are curious or just want to be supportive. This might be a great opportunity to educate them about the condition. However, what you tell others about your psoriasis is always a personal choice.

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.
Meet Our Writer
Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.

Davenport is the founder of Tracyshealthyliving.com. Using the latest scientific research, she helps people live their healthiest lives via one-on-one coaching, corporate talks, and sharing the more than 1,000 health-related articles she's authored.