Skin Care Tips for Lupus

Medically Reviewed by Gabriela Pichardo, MD on November 05, 2022
4 min read

Skin changes are common when you have lupus, but you don't have to let them get the best of you. Medical treatment can get rid of some. You can also protect your skin and use cover-up tricks to make them less visible.

Ultraviolet (UV) rays in daylight can trigger problems in your skin, such as a butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks. UV rays can also trigger patches of raised sores and even worsen the disease overall.

Both types of UV rays -- UVA and UVB -- are the culprits for these rashes. Try these prevention tips:

Use sunscreen every day. Do this even if you're only taking a short walk. Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 . To make sure you're protected against both types of UV rays, check the label to see that it contains mexoryl or avobenzone (chemical blockers), or zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (physical blockers).

Reapply sunscreen every 80 minutes, or more often if you are sweating or swimming. Women can put sunscreen on before makeup and reapply with tinted zinc oxide  powder.

Avoid peak sun hours. Try to stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when sunlight is the strongest. Exercise outdoors in the early morning or late afternoon or evening.

Cover up. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when you're outside. Also use UV-filtering, polarized sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat.

Take more precautions if you're taking medicine. Some drugs can make you more sensitive to the sun, such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, or blood pressure medication. So be extra careful about avoiding sunlight.

If you have a butterfly-shaped rash on your face or other rashes, ask your doctor if corticosteroid creams, foams, lotions, ointments, gels, or injections can help.

Uneven skin color, blotches, and scars can be caused by lupus. If you have them, makeup can be a good cover-up.

Try green hues to offset redness. Bleaching creams with hydroquinone can help dark spots.

If you have scars that are lumpy or pitted, your dermatologist can inject filler. You can also consider laser therapy for red or dark spots. But these are only an option if your lupus is not active, so get your doctor's OK first.

Lupus can also affect the skin on the inside of your mouth and nose. If you have sores in your mouth, gargle many times a day with hydrogen peroxide or buttermilk mixed with a little water. Ask your doctor about special mouthwash or dental paste that can help healing. For sores in your nose, try soothing them with petroleum jelly.

You may find that your fingertips turn red, white, or blue in the cold. This is known as Raynaud's phenomenon. To help with this problem, wear gloves and socks in cold weather or air-conditioned rooms. Buy over-the-counter hand warmers to keep in your pockets for warming your hands. Also avoid caffeine and cigarettes, which can make this problem worse.

You may have some hair loss and fragile hair if you have lupus. Try these tips to keep your hair healthy and look your best:

For fragile hair: Avoid pulling your hair. Don't put stress on your hair by using curlers, blow dryers, chemical treatments like coloring or straightening, and hot combs or curling irons. Wash with baby shampoo and a leave-in conditioner with sunblock.

For minor thinning or bald patches: Treat yourself to a new hairstyle. Ask your stylist to suggest a short, layered cut that can help hide the areas and make your hair look thicker.

Hair extensions are an option for thin spots on the side of your head if you aren't actively losing hair. But protect your scalp: Avoid chemicals, glues, and heat, and don't make them tight, or you could pull out weak hair.

For more extensive hair loss: Consider a wig or try scarves or wraps. Hair transplants are not an option, because of the scarring process in lupus patients

See your doctor right away for rashes on the scalp. Early treatment can help you avoid scarring and hair loss.

Consider joining a support group if you find that changes in the way you look are affecting your self-esteem. Talking to a therapist may also help.