Although many people find that the summer months are where they see the most improvement because of the increased exposure to UV light or because of the humidity in the air, others find that their symptoms become much worse with the combination of heat, sweat and the dry itchy skin that comes from sitting in too much air conditioning.
The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), reports that many people see improvement in their psoriasis in the summer due to the greater availability of natural sunlight and, as we know, UV radiation is the very effective healing component of phototherapy treatment.
Swimming in the ocean can be highly effective for psoriasis. Ocean water (as opposed to river water) contains minerals such as sodium, sulphate, magnesium and calcium. The salt water can slough off dead skin and improve the overall appearance.
Pool chlorine has also been known to be beneficial for psoriasis sufferers by softening and clearing the hard, crusty areas on the skin
If there is high humidity during your summer months, this can be good for your skin as the extra moisture makes psoriasis lesions less prone to cracking and bleeding (although it can still play havoc with your hair!).
Longer days for outdoor exercise and fresh air
The sun can be your friend or your enemy when you have psoriasis, as too much exposure to sun can also trigger flare-ups. It’s important to increase exposure slowly and set limits to prevent a flare.
Heat and sweat can make your psoriasis worse, especially on your face and scalp.
Air conditioning can spare you from sweating, but it also tends to dry out your skin
Swimming can be wonderful and cooling and, while salt from the sea and chlorine from the pool can be beneficial, these elements can also dry out the skin and cause more irritation.
A lot of people suffer very real anxiety and stress about how to dress during the summer months. Despite knowing that the exposure to the sun could be very beneficial, the thought of wearing shorts, t-shirts or sandals which expose the damaged skin can be overwhelming. That stress alone can often be enough to trigger flare ups.
MANAGING PSORIASIS IN SUMMER
Sunscreen: The first thing to think of when deciding to expose your skin to the sun is the sunscreen that you must use. It is important to:
- Know your skin type when choosing your sunblock/sunscreen. The sun has different effects on the skin depending on your skin type. The Fitzpatrick Scale was developed in 1975 by Thomas Fitzpatrick MD at Harvard. It was created as a way to divide skin types from fair (type 1) to very dark (type 6). It has not been extensively studied as it relates to psoriasis but knowing your skin type can definitely help you to figure out how long you can stay in the sun and to make informed decisions about how to take care of your skin in the sun.
- Always buy 30SPF or above as 15SPF does not provide enough protection.
- Look for the words Broad Spectrum as this means it will protect you against UVA and UVB rays.
- Make sure you buy Sunblock, not sunscreen. Some products are a mixture of both which can be fine. The point is that sunblock will sit on top of the skin and block the rays which is essential.
- Avoid preservatives, chemicals or fragrances in your sunblock/sunscreen.
- Do not buy the coloured or ‘disappearing colour’ sunblock’s for children as they can cause irritation on the skin.
Air Conditioning: If you spend a lot of time in air conditioning, moisturise with cream or ointment once or twice a day.
Swimming: Both salt water and chlorinated water can leave skin dry and flaky. After swimming, rinse off well and put on a gentle moisturiser or top up with your sunblock.
Bathing: Choose soothing baths over hot showers but don’t bathe too often. It is very natural to want to shower regularly in hot weather but long showers remove moisture from your skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you limit your showers to 5 minutes and baths to 15 minutes or less as soaking in a bath can dry out your skin
Eating: Don’t eat too much cold food. It is natural to want cold drinks and lollies in the summer months as a heat relieving tool. The problem is that, even though they will cool you down, they will also make the heat last and increase sweating which, in turn, aggravates the skin.
Drinking: Drink lots and lots of water and keep your body as hydrated as possible.
Covering up: Wear hats and visors and lightweight cotton clothes to limit your sun exposure
Exposure: Go out in the cooler hours – before 10am or after 4pm
some patients find that keeping their skin covered during the colder months causes less stress and anxiety.
Inverse psoriasis is alleviated a little when the body is not sweating in areas of folded skin
Scalp Psoriasis can also be a lot better in Winter when the scalp is not so hot and the body is not trying to reduce heat through the scalp.
Cold, dry air – stripping the skin of moisture
Reduced sunlight – Days are shorter and time outside is much less which leads to reduced levels of exposure to the sun and Vitamin D. This can cause worsening psoriasis symptoms.
Central heating – central heating reduces the moisture levels in their air, causing skin to become dry and tight.
Overheating – Wearing warmer, heaver clothing can make you hot and bothered which, in turn, can trigger a flare.
Stress – Winter has a way of lowering the mood and the colder, darker days can affect stress levels which makes having psoriasis seem so much worse
Lowered immune system – The winter months bring the season of colds and flu. Strep infections and other illnesses can further weaken an immune system that may already be compromised.
Less exercise and poorer diet – Winter months stop us from getting outside more for our exercise and we feel like eating comfort foods to warm us up and to feel better.
MANAGING PSORIASIS IN WINTER
Humidifier: Invest in a humidifier for your home so that your skin receives moist air all night.
Moisturise: Treat your skin regularly with an intense moisturising, antibacterial cream like our M-Folia. Practise Soak and Seal which is to pat your skin dry carefully after bathing or showering and then applying the cream or ointment to your skin to seal in the moisture.
Showering: As with hot weather, you should still choose soothing baths over hot showers. Long showers in hot water remove moisture from your skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you limit your showers to 5 minutes and baths to 15 minutes or less. Soaking in a bath can further dry out your skin
Clothes: Keep to cotton blend clothes where possible and avoid the warm wool fabrics. The coarseness of wool can irritate your skin and increase inflammation and itchiness of your psoriasis
Supplement: Try and supplement your diet with Vitamin D which is seriously reduced with the lack of sunshine.
Stress: Try and keep stress levels to a minimum with exercise, massage, deep breathing or moisturising spa treatments. Winter is a stressful time with Christmas and New Year for many people anyway and managing psoriasis flare ups only adds to this.