A diagnosis of psoriasis can be a lot to absorb. New symptoms can take a toll on both your physical and mental health.
Though your doctor will help you come up with a specific plan that fits your form of psoriasis, there are some things most everyone can do to help keep symptoms at bay and maintain your mental health.
Tip 1: Keep Your Skin Moist
Dry skin makes the irritation and itchiness worse. Right after your bath or shower, pat yourself dry – don't rub – with a towel. Then put a thick cream or lotion on to seal in water. But don't use too much during hot, sticky summer months. Sweat mixed with thick creams can make your psoriasis worse.
Before you go to bed, wrap your creamed-up skin with a bandage or plastic wrap. In the morning, wash the area gently. Over time, this can help with scaling.
Tip 2: Use Petroleum Jelly for Psoriasis Flares
Though it can feel sticky, petroleum jelly can help manage your psoriasis flare. Petroleum jelly is a type of ointment called an emollient, which helps to moisturize, ease itchy skin, and reduce scaly patches and cracked skin.
It also helps other topical creams work better by staying on your skin. After putting on thick lotions or creams, you can seal in the moisture with petroleum jelly.
Tip 3: Bathe With Care
Baths and showers can dry your skin. To keep that from happening:
- Make sure the water’s not too hot. Lukewarm is best.
- Add non-fragrance salts or oil or finely ground oatmeal to bathwater after you've soaked for a minute. Plain water can suck moisture out.
- Take fewer showers and baths. They can strip your skin of natural oils. Bathe every other day or every third day, especially in the winter.
Tip 4: Stay With the Plan
It may not be a lot of fun to slather thick goo on psoriasis patches day after day. But stick with it. If your doctor prescribes creams or ointments, make them part of your daily routine. If you find that some things work better than others or that certain others worsen your symptoms, talk to your doctor about changing your plan.
Tip 5: Avoid Triggers
Be aware ofwhat may trigger your psoriasis. Once you know your triggers, you can find ways to prevent it. Triggers vary from person to person. They may include infections, weather extremes, injuries to your skin, smoking, heavy drinking, and certain medications.
Tip 6: Avoid Scratching
The urge to scratch may be overwhelming. Take steps to ease the itch. You can use OTC anti-itch creams or ointments that contain hydrocortisone or salicylic acid. Skip the hot showers, which can make itching worse. Instead, opt for a cold compress to soothe itchy feelings. If you have scalp psoriasis, try a medicated shampoo that contains coal tar. If you think you can’t resist the urge to scratch, trim your nails to prevent injury to your skin.
Tip 7: Get Some Sun
Sunlight can treat your skin condition, but sunburns make it worse. No matter your skin color, it is important to use a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher on areas that don't have psoriasis. Limit how much sun you get. Twenty minutes a day, 3 days a week is a good start. Talk to your doctor first, though. Some medicines aren't safe when you get lots of sun.
Tip 8: Quit Smoking
You can add psoriasis to the long list of health problems this habit makes worse. In one study, people who smoked more than a pack a day were twice as likely to have a serious case as those who smoked half a pack or less. The effects were even stronger in women who already had psoriasis.
Kicking the habit is one of the best things you can do to care for your condition.
Tip 9: Drink Moderately or Not at All
Psoriasis is more common in people who drink heavily. Alcohol may affect men's psoriasis more than women's. Women should have no more than one drink a day, and men should stop at two.
Tip 10: Think About Diet Changes
There’s no solid evidence that any one food makes psoriasis better or worse. At the same time, many say their sores got better after they cut back on foods like sugar, white flour, or caffeine. It won’t hurt to try, especially if you cut out not-so-healthy foods.
Tip 11: Tend to Your Mental Health
Don’t let your condition affect your self-esteem. Ask for help if you find it's taking a toll on you. Talk to a therapist, such as a psychologist or social worker, or join a support group. Time with other people who understand what you're going through can help.