8 Summer Styles for Your Teen With Psoriasis
Just as the weather’s warming up and their friends are stripping down into tank tops and jean shorts, teens with psoriasis (PsO) might feel like covering up the red, swollen plaques on their skin. “There are two peak ages of psoriasis onset,” explains Dendy Engelman, M.D., of The Shafer Clinic in New York City. The first peak? Age 15, when self-consciousness is at an all-time high. (The second peak happens between 50 and 60, when you're too wise to care about other people's opinions.) So how do you satisfy your kid’s trend thirst while offering them options to cover and protect their PsO symptoms?
Summer Styles to Keep Your Kid Cool
The clothing choices your kids make aren’t only about hiding psoriatic plaques; they’re about preventing them, too, says David E. Bank, M.D., director of the Center for Dermatology in Mt. Kisco, NY. “Psoriasis can be triggered by something called the Koebner phenomenon, which is when a plaque shows up as a response to trauma to the skin,” he says. Trauma can be anything from a scrape to a bug bite to, yes, scratchy or tight clothing. So let’s get comfortable, get loose, and get down to some serious summer styles for teens.
Maxi-mum Look and Comfort
“If you have a choice, lightweight cotton is the best fabric for psoriasis sufferers because it’s so breathable,” says Dr. Engelman. “You’re less likely to get sweaty and irritate your skin.” This lightweight, 100% cotton sunseeker maxi dress (Free People at Nordstrom, $98) barely touches the body, hitting perfectly past the elbows and the knees. It works with colorful canvas kicks (Converse, $65) during the day; with a cute anklet and slides (Reef, $35) for an outdoor get-together; or even over a flattering and full-coverage swimsuit (Venus, $74) for a pool party.
A Matched Set
Excellent news for the fashion-challenged: “Outfits” are back! No need to figure out what goes with what—your tops and bottoms match. And the comfiest outfit imaginable is this slub-knit cap sleeve tee (Yummie, $38) and breezy wide-leg pant (Yummie, $44) set. Might they actually be pajamas? Sure, but your teen can roll out of bed and go straight to a TikTok sesh in style. Plus, the cool-toned blue hue helps play down the redness in her skin, and the tag-free, viscose-poly duo are so soft, they’re like a hug from mom (just not in front of her friends, please).
To Tie-Dye For
Teens have long loved tie-dye, the unofficial flag of the counterculture ... and it’s having a post-COVID moment. “We’ve been sitting around in sweats for a year,” says Jen-Lane Forman, CEO and founder of Charlotte’s Closet, where style-savvy youth rent the latest looks. “We’re finally going out, and teens are switching to ‘elevated athleisure’ in bright colors and fun prints.” Welcome to the tie-dye T-shirt (American Eagle, $24.95) that your kid will live in this summer: crazy soft and loose-fitting, with an eye-catching tie-dye design that will take the focus off her flare-ups.
Under the Hood
Wait, teen boys like hoodies? In July? Shocker. Here’s the thing for PsO peeps: The hood, even worn down, can hide scalp psoriasis that often affects the back of the neck. And lighter shades of clothes are better at hiding any flakes that fall onto his shoulders. Right on trend, this season guys are tossing basic grays and blacks (on the floor, where we parents wind up picking them up, amiright?) and embracing a softer pastel palette, like this mint green relaxed fit hoodie (H&M, $29.99), so it won’t irritate his skin. Bonus: Tons of girls will also want to pull off this on-point pullover.
Big Demand for Denim
Like, literally. Oversized denim has edged out shrunken-fit jackets and skinny jeans. Look for details like tears and frays for the worn-in look that’s Gucci (not as in the designer, as in slang for cool). This non-traditional denim jacket (Zara, $49.90) has a drapey shape that goes over everything and has sleeves that are tapered just below the elbow—a hot spot for plaques. “Elbows tend to get leaned on a lot, and that pressure can set off a flare,” says Dr. Bank. The trend isn’t just for girls: XL denim (Asos, $50) is in for dudes, too.
The Long and Short of It
Much like elbows, knees are a hotspot for psoriasis plaques: “They’re high on the list because they tend to get bumped and banged a fair amount,” says Dr. Bank. But hiding under long pants on a sweltering summer day can feel like cruelty to kids. The good news is that past-the-knee-length shorts are trending and will be easier to find this season than most. Should you strike out, try shorts designed for taller guys—with an inseam of 12” or more. These big & tall belted cargo shorts (Unionbay at Kohl’s, $52) have a 13” inseam for excellent knee concealment.
Heads up: Psoriasis on the scalp may affect as many as 90% of teens with PsO at one time or another. “For some, psoriasis will look a lot like dandruff; others have more bona fide psoriasis plaques,” says Dr. Bank. The excellent fashion news? “Everyone will be wearing a bucket hat this summer,” predicts Forman. Meaning no one will know who’s covering up a scalp flare and who’s simply on-trend. Get two cool looks out of this surfer girls & Bauhaus beach house reversible hat (Robot Bunnies, $87), or you can go with a classic, sun-faded style (Urban Outfitters, $19).
Proms—albeit untraditional and al fresco—are back on the agenda for a lot of high school seniors. It’s an exciting time, but nervous jitters can sometimes trigger a flare: “Stress can activate stress hormones, causing inflammation that sets off your psoriasis, explains Dr. Bank. Yet there are oodles of on-trend options for formal wear: You’ll get great skin coverage that still shows curves in this tiered mermaid gown in deep blue, rentable at Charlotte’s Closet (Aurora, $150 to rent). And if an unwanted flare does happen, this pretty cardigan (Lulu’s, $48) is waiting in the wings.
Psoriasis Age of Onset: Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. (2005.) “Psoriasis: epidemiology, clinical features, and quality of life.” https://ard.bmj.com/content/64/suppl_2/ii18
Koebner Phenomenon: Bioscience Reports. (2019.) “Koebner phenomenon leading to the formation of new psoriatic lesions: evidences and mechanisms.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6893164/
Prevalence of Scalp Psoriasis: Journal of the Dermatology Nurses’ Association. (2018.) “Manifestations and Management of Difficult-to-Treat Psoriasis.” https://journals.lww.com/jdnaonline/Fulltext/2018/07000/Manifestations_and_Management_of.2.aspx