Cosmetic Cover-up Tips for Psoriatic Arthritis: Look and Feel Your Best

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on June 30, 2008
5 min read

They say looking good is the best revenge, so why not get back at your psoriatic arthritis? Though you may be concerned over the ways psoriatic arthritis affects your appearance, there are ways to camouflage problem areas and enhance your looks and your self-esteem.

Because most people with psoriatic arthritis also have the scaly skin patches that come from psoriasis, you may find both your skin and your joints look different.

Psoriasis often causes red, scaly skin plaques, often on elbows, knees, head, and back. Less common forms of psoriasis can cause red spots or blisters.

Psoriatic arthritis affects your joints, causing them to become swollen and inflamed. Fingers and toes may swell, taking on a sausage-like shape. Adults with psoriatic arthritis also can have separation of the nail from the nail bed and the nail may become pitted. Some people with psoriatic arthritis may develop spondylitis, an inflammation of the spine, which can cause stooping or slouching. In severe cases of psoriatic arthritis, joint damage can be permanent and disfiguring.

For many people with psoriasis, the embarrassment they feel over how their skin looks is as bad as the discomfort from the disease itself. Worrying about how people will react to their appearance can put a damper on even the most enjoyable occasions, from trips to the beach to romantic weekend getaways. Using cosmetic cover-ups can help, especially in summer.

"In the summer, patients are often embarrassed by their psoriasis," says Mark Lebwohl, MD, professor and chairman of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine of New York University. "They don't want to be exposed with their plaques visible to the world."

Psoriatic arthritis can take a further toll on your body image if your joints are swollen and red. If the pain and stiffness have made it hard to exercise, you may be struggling to control your weight as well.

If psoriatic arthritis has you feeling down, you may not feel like investing the time in camouflage and cosmetic cover-ups. But, it turns out mom was right when she said looking good will help you feel better. And, when you feel better emotionally, you may even find that your psoriatic arthritis symptoms improve.

One of the best ways to look and feel better with psoriatic arthritis doesn't involve camouflage or cosmetic cover-ups. Maintaining a healthy weight will help you feel better emotionally and physically. It will also reduce the stress on your joints and may help lessen some of your psoriaticarthritis symptoms.

If you need to lose weight, getting regular exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet is the safe way to drop those pounds. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity, five days a week. Even if psoriatic arthritis pain makes it hard to exercise, there are low-impact ways to move your body without stressing your joints. Swimming and other water exercises are good for people with painful joints, because the water helps support your body. A combination of strength-building activities, like lifting weights, and aerobic exercise, such as walking or swimming, is best for your health.

There are a number of ways to camouflage and cover up parts of your appearance that make you uncomfortable, even when your psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis symptoms flare.

You can use special cosmetics to camouflage skin plaques that aren't open or blistered. Talk with your dermatologist to learn more about the options and how to use them.

"If you have scalp psoriasis, it can be helpful to avoid darker-colored clothing," says Melissa Magliocco, acting chief of the division of clinical pharmacology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants can cover up skin lesions on your arms and legs, even in the summertime. Long sleeves and pants can also help hide swollen, red joints affected by psoriatic arthritis. Choose light fabrics, such as cotton or linen, when the mercury rises.

Of course, when your joints are stiff and swollen from psoriatic arthritis, the idea of pulling on a turtleneck or applying makeup can sound like too much. Fortunately, there are tools that can help, including cosmetic brushes with long handles and reachers or hand-grip tools.

If your psoriatic arthritis is causing your toes to swell, it may be impossible for you to wear traditional shoes. Sandals or flip-flops won't provide the support you need or the camouflage you want. You may need to look for shoes that have extra room in the toe box, both for comfort and to cover up your toes.

Psoriatic arthritis often affects the finger or toe joints that are closest to the nail, and many people with psoriatic arthritis may also have nail psoriasis. In nail psoriasis, the fingernail or toenail may be discolored, pitted, or have lines running across the nail. Sometimes the skin underneath the nail grows thick, which causes the nail to come loose.

In many cases, you can help cover up nail psoriasis with nail polish, or by gently buffing your nails. Avoid pushing back your cuticles or scraping underneath your nails, because injury to your nails can cause a flare-up. Depending on how psoriasis is affecting your nails, you may be able to use artificial nails. Ask your doctor if that is an option for you.

Psoriatic arthritis may also cause you to slouch or stoop, especially if it has affected your spine or caused osteoporosis. One way you may be able to camouflage some of the damage is by practicing good posture whenever possible. When you are sitting or standing, try to keep your head balanced and your chin in line with the floor. To get a sense of how good posture should feel, stand with your back to a wall.

There are more than 2 million people with psoriatic arthritis in the U.S., so you're not alone in coping with physical changes brought on by the disease. You can find additional advice and support at the National Psoriasis Foundation and the Arthritis Foundation.