The end of a long winter can be good news for people with psoriasis. Warmer weather may mean smoother skin.
"Many people report considerable relief of their psoriasis flares in the summer," says Erin Boh, MD, PhD. She's the Chastain chair of the department of dermatology at Tulane University Medical Center.
But that doesn't mean you can forget all about psoriasis care when summer arrives. Follow these five tips to manage your condition in the summer:
No. 1: Soak Up the Sun -- Responsibly
Most people with psoriasis find that it gets better in sunlight.
"About 15 to 20 minutes a day of unprotected sun exposure can be helpful for psoriasis flares," Boh says.
But sunbathing doesn't work for everyone. And even if it does work for you, be careful not to overdo it. Besides raising your risk of skin cancer, you can make your psoriasis worse if you get a sunburn.
"Any minor skin trauma, including sunburn, can cause Koebner phenomenon -- psoriasis plaques that form at the site of the skin injury," says Kristina Callis Duffin, MD. She's an assistant professor in the department of dermatology at the University of Utah.
"So proceed with caution when you're getting sun," Callis Duffin says. "Psoriasis medications, as well as some other drugs like antibiotics, can also make you more sensitive to the sun in general."
No. 2: Be Water-Wise
Swimming can be a mixed blessing for people with psoriasis. Many say that a soak in a pool or hot tub can soften and help you shed patches of hard, flaking skin. On the other hand, chlorine can further dry out your skin.
"I recommend that my patients rinse off in the shower and use moisturizer immediately after getting out of a chlorinated pool or hot tub," Boh says. "The saltwater in ocean swimming often provides relief from psoriasis, but if you have a bad flare with areas that are open, there's also a risk of infection."
No. 3: Keep Bug Bites Away
Insect bites can also trigger Koebner phenomenon, so protect yourself from mosquitoes and other bugs with a heavy layer of insect repellent.
"If you get bitten, apply a topical corticosteroid right away so that it doesn't get worse," Boh says.
No. 4: Protect Yourself When Gardening
If you love working in the yard or puttering around the rose garden, take care while you work. Scrapes from rose thorns or loose branches, or an unexpected case of poison oak or poison ivy, can trigger Koebner phenomenon.
Protect your skin by wearing long sleeves, long pants, and gloves when you garden. Don't wear open-toed shoes.
Koebner phenomenon is also more likely to happen when you have an active psoriasis flare, so if you're in the middle of one, think about choosing another time to clean out that stubborn patch of bamboo in the backyard.
No. 5: Keep Cool
"People who have inverse psoriasis, which shows up as red lesions in body folds like the armpits, groin, and under the breast, may find that it gets worse when they're hot and sweaty," Callis Duffin says.
Avoid getting overheated, and shower off when you get sweaty.