Psoriasis is a chronic condition in which the immune system triggers an overproduction of skin cells. While it is a lifelong disease, its sufferers know to expect certain periods of flare-ups and other times when the condition’s symptoms are more manageable. Around this time of year, one question psoriasis patients often have is: How will the warm weather affect my skin? While the answer varies from one individual to the next, here is some information to help you stay comfortable through the coming heat waves.
Does Sunlight Help or Hurt Psoriasis?
Some individuals find that moderate exposure to natural ultraviolet light (sunshine) can lead to an improvement in psoriasis. In fact, light therapy is sometimes even performed under medical supervision as a means of controlling the condition. With that said, the National Psoriasis Foundation warns of overexposure: too much sun can actually cause a flare-up. Of course, prolonged exposure to sunlight can also increase skin cancer risks.
If you’ve experienced positive results with light therapy in the past, you may also find sunlight exposure to be beneficial. However, it’s a good idea to start slowly and gradually increase exposure times to no more than 15 minutes. Try getting five minutes of sunlight first, then build up durations over several weeks.
What Are Some Common Summertime Skin Irritants?
Unfortunately, the benefits of summer sun can be easily offset by increased sweating. In particular, people with psoriasis often experience increased flare-ups on their face and scalp as a result of the heat. Loose-fitting, breathable fabrics are best for keeping the skin cool. If you have scalp psoriasis, consider wearing white clothing during the summer time to keep any flakes undetected. Also, while air conditioning can provide relief, it may also cause skin to dry out. Be sure to moisturize daily if you’re staying in the A/C.
Bug bites are also known summertime irritants. While mosquito bites can be a nuisance for anyone, they can actually exacerbate symptoms in psoriasis sufferers. If you decide to apply bug spray, make sure it’s DEET-free, as the ingredient can also aggravate psoriasis. Should you prefer to keep your skin free of all insect repellents, try using citronella candles to ward off pesky insects instead.
Will Swimming Help?
Swimming can aid in the removal of dead skin, but both salt water and chlorine can also create dryness. To combat these effects, be sure to rinse off and moisturize shortly after getting out of the water. Hot tubs may also cause itchiness as a result of the heat, but for some people, the softening effect it creates on harder patches of skin makes the temporary discomfort worthwhile. Of course, if you have open sores it is best to stay out of the water until they have healed.
Ultimately, many people with psoriasis find that increased humidity levels and sunlight actually tend to outweigh any of the irritants summertime brings. In fact, most individuals find that warmer weather is a relief after cooler, dry winter months. With that said, each person responds to factors differently, so it’s always a good idea to listen to your body first and foremost.