Ah, summer — the time of year filled with vacations by the pool, backyard BBQs, and baseball games. But if you have psoriasis, summer can be a double-edged sword. While humidity and sunshine can actually help soothe your symptoms, air conditioning and chlorine can dry out your skin and trigger flare-ups. Top dermatology experts share their best tips for finding relief from your irritation during the warmer months so that you can enjoy yourself all season long.
Embrace the Humidity: Ever wonder why your psoriasis feels better in the summer? It has to do with the air. While humidity is a major frizz-causer, it’s good for your skin because the extra moisture makes psoriasis patches less prone to cracking. On the other hand, decrease in humidity can contribute to inflammation and cells that promote itching in the skin. Bottom line: Enjoy the summer weather safely by putting on sunscreen before you go outdoors and keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Schedule time in the sun: Although it’s not a substitute for medical-grade light therapy, Lee says that some people do find that a little sun exposure helps soothe their psoriasis. Just make sure you talk to your dermatologist to formulate a sunscreen and time-limit plan. A good rule of thumb for sunscreen is to apply two ounces of SPF 30 or higher a half hour before you go outside and reapply every two hours. Additionally, limit your exposure to sunlight to avoid sunburn, which has the potential to stimulate your immune system and lead to more psoriasis plaques.
Shield yourself from sunburn: Sunburns are technically an injury to the skin. And for some people, psoriasis forms at the site of an injury (this is known as the Koebner phenomenon — and as many as 50 percent of people with psoriasis experience it). Here’s how to ensure you prevent a sunburn: Choose a mineral sunscreen containing zinc or titanium dioxide (these micro-formulated metals act as a barrier by reflecting the sun’s rays), protect your scalp by wearing a hat, wear a rash guard-style swim shirt at the beach, and cover up with lightweight, loose clothing if you’ll be out in the sun for a prolonged period of time.
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize: While the humidity is good for your psoriasis, many aspects of summer, like air conditioning and chlorine, can lead to dry skin. If you know that you’ll be exposed to any of these factors, compensate by applying extra moisturizer. In the case of chlorine, shower after swimming to minimize any potential irritation. To lock in moisture, apply an ointment or cream within 3 minutes of showering. Lotions tend to have a high water content, which may evaporate rapidly, resulting in drier skin, so better you use thicker formula.
Take a Dip in the Ocean: Soaking in water helps with rehydrating the dry flaky lesions on your skin, Lee says, but a dip in the ocean may be even more beneficial than submerging in your tub. Although more research is needed to evaluate the possible benefits of sea salt on psoriasis, there’s definitely something about salt water that helps soothe the condition.
In fact, according to a 2013 study published in the Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine journal, the level of salt concentration in certain bodies of water can enhance the transmission of UV light therapy. So trek to the beach on your next day off; the combo of salt water and careful exposure to UV rays can make a dip in the ocean a great way to help ease your irritation this season.