Surprise! 9 Psoriasis Triggers You Weren’t Expecting

by Dori Price Health Writer

Sometimes the strangest things can trigger a skin reaction. When it comes to psoriasis, a chronic condition that increases inflammation in the skin, the triggers run the gamut from strep throat to a curling-iron burn (yes, really!). Don’t let a sneaky trigger cause a major flare-up! We went to top docs to find the top nine things to watch out for in your day-to-day life.

sick woman on couch with tissues

Sneaky Trigger: Getting Sick

Sometimes getting sick can be a double whammy: In addition to your actual illness, you could get a psoriasis outbreak, too. Anything that puts stress on the body can flare psoriasis, but infections in particular can exacerbate it, says Adam Friedman, M.D., professor and interim chair of dermatology at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The same inflammation that jumps into high gear to fight the infection can worsen a psoriasis outbreak. Vitamin C, anyone?

Sneaky Trigger: Falling Temps

Baby, it’s cold outside—and that cold weather isn’t doing good things for your skin. The lack of sunlight can cause patients to flare during the winter months, says Omar Noor, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Rao Dermatology in New York City. You can try phototherapy, a treatment that uses a specific wavelength of UVB sunlight to improve psoriasis. Insider tip: moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! Slathering on lots of lotion and using a humidifier in your home can be a big help to prevent flares.

Prescription Medicine - Several Pill Bottles

Sneaky Trigger: Prescription Meds

While your medication may fix one problem, it could be causing another. Dr. Friedman advises those with psoriasis to steer clear of beta blockers, anti-malarials and lithium. Oral steroids are also a big no-no, he adds, as they can cause a severe flare (called pustular psoriasis) when going off of them. It is important to speak with your physician before starting or stopping any medications.

Sneaky Trigger: Secondhand Smoke

And yet another reason to steer clear of cigs: Cigarette smoke, whether it’s from you or someone else, is a proven psoriasis trigger. Not only can it kickstart inflammation, but one study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who were exposed to secondhand smoke as kids had an increased risk of developing psoriasis later in life.

stressed woman at work

Sneaky Trigger: Daily Stress

No shocker here. Stress and anxiety can increase certain hormones that cause psoriasis to flare. It’s unfortunate that psoriasis itself can be very anxiety provoking, causing the condition to feed off of itself, says Dr. Noor. “I suggest stress management techniques, like meditation and self awareness, as they can significantly help my psoriasis patients manage their condition.” Friedman also advises having an effective treatment regimen that is ongoing, not reactive, to decrease the impact of stress.

Sneaky Trigger: Alcohol Consumption

You may want to think twice before ordering an alcoholic drink or using medication that contains it. Alcohol intake has been shown to worsen psoriasis, though withholding it is certainly not a cure, says Dr. Friedman. While it’s not proven that one type of alcohol is worse, you could argue that the carbohydrates in beer could cause inflammation due to the high glycemic load.

Horizontal View of Close Up of Empty Spirals inside the Snack Vending Machine

Sneaky Trigger: Vending Machines

Healthy eating equals healthy skin. “I tell my patients that anything inherently bad for you, like foods with a high-glycemic (sugar) index could potentially flare one's psoriasis,” says Dr. Friedman. Try to cut back on processed foods including white bread, donuts, bagels, and sugary drinks. Some studies also show that curcumin, which gives turmeric its orange color, can be helpful at high concentrations for psoriasis. Pick this super food up in powder form from a health store and mix it into a smoothie with avocado, nut butter or coconut oil for better absorption.

hairdresser curling client's hair

Sneaky Trigger: Curling Irons

Yes, you read that right. Introducing the Koebner phenomenon, an interesting and unfortunate aspect of psoriasis, in which traumatizing the skin can cause you to develop psoriasis in that area, says Noor. A curling or flat-iron burn is the perfect example, along with piercings and tattoos.

Sneaky Trigger: Cabin Fever

If you’ve gone days without going outdoors you might notice your psoriasis flare. The UVB rays from the sun helps to slow down the cell turnover and inflammation in the skin associated with psoriasis. It’s important for you to have a little bit of sun exposure (15 minutes) every day, but don’t go overboard. Too much exposure to UVB rays can lead to sunburn, which is another psoriasis trigger.

Dori Price
Meet Our Writer
Dori Price

Dori Price is a New York-based freelance writer, editor and consultant in the beauty, style and wellness categories. She started my career in public relations but quickly made the move to editorial where she fell in love with testing products, interviewing experts and writing about all aspects of beauty and health. She worked at Family Circle magazine for 13 years, starting as an assistant and working her way up to Beauty & Fashion Director. She has also written for and Spotlyte. She is a skincare fanatic (hello, #selfcaresunday), nail art aficionado, fitness addict and health nut. She is also a new Mom to Benjamin, who lights up her world like nothing else.