By Sadie Balken, as told to Kara Meyer Robinson
The emotional effects of psoriasis affect me almost every day, if not every day. But I also learn something new every day, like how to reduce flares, new products that are available to help cover my psoriasis, and new medications that can help treat it.
How My Psoriasis Journey Began
I discovered I had psoriasis 5 years ago. At first, I was confused. It started with little spots that looked like chickenpox and were very itchy. I went to my general doctor and they used liquid nitrogen to try to freeze the spots.
When that didn't work, I went to my dermatologist. They knew it was psoriasis right away. They did a biopsy to be sure and to narrow it down to the specific type of psoriasis.
Nobody in my immediate family has psoriasis, so it was hard to know which medications to try, how to handle the condition, and what can make it worse.
When I was diagnosed, it was the middle of summer. Psoriasis covered about 75% of my body, and it left pigmentation marks. I had light therapy (phototherapy) two to three times a week to help fade the spots, but seeing them every day made me insecure when I wore short sleeves, swimsuits, or shorts.
Psoriasis can be embarrassing. In social settings, it’s uncomfortable to have dry patches that itch. People often ask what it is or if it's contagious.
I’m open to talking about it now. I also tell myself that everyone has something they’re insecure about. One of mine just happens to be psoriasis, which is out of my control.
For the most part, I’ve learned to accept it. Since the marks on my skin faded, I’m more comfortable wearing short sleeves, swimsuits, and shorts. If my flares are really obvious, I’ll put foundation makeup over them.
The Emotional Ups and Downs
I manage the emotional ups and downs of psoriasis by taking it day by day. I try to remember that it will get better with time.
Some days can be difficult, like when I notice a flare coming and I have plans. It’s hard when friends and family want to go out of town when I have an injection of my biologic medication scheduled. If I’m supposed to have an injection, I usually push it off until I get back. But that can cause a flare.
When I’m stressed, it triggers a flare-up. This results in even more stress as I try to ease the flare and feel insecure about the spots. And stress can make the flare even worse.
I try to manage stress as well as possible. I tell myself there's nothing I can do to get rid of psoriasis. There’s no cure, but there are ways to reduce it and manage the symptoms.
How I Manage Flares and Cover Skin
I have a lot of tools to manage flares and cover up marks.
When a flare begins, I start using hydrocortisone cream. If my skin is still itchy or red, I use a prescription cream from my dermatologist. I tend to get flares on my scalp sooner than on my body, so I use oil products and a shampoo prescribed by my dermatologist.
I’ve noticed that scented detergents, body wash, and lotions trigger flares. I use unscented body wash, a mild moisturizing cream for my body, and gentle daily lotion and hydrating cleanser for my face.
To cover spots on my skin, I use body foundation. But first, I apply hydrocortisone or petroleum jelly on dry patches. That helps eliminate flaking and uneven texture.
Makeup can be frustrating and difficult to navigate, especially since there are few brands made for dry, flaky psoriasis skin.
I use unscented, clean makeup and makeup remover to avoid irritation. I find that these products are always changing and there are often new products available.
It Helps to Talk About It
I still get insecure about my psoriasis, especially around new people, but my perspective has changed. I'm more willing to talk about it instead of hiding it. I try to compare it to a broken bone. When people ask about it, it’s not to be mean. It’s because they care.
Before I was diagnosed I had no idea what psoriasis was, so now I take the opportunity to inform people about it. I’ve realized more people have it than you’d expect, including celebrities.
Kim Kardashian has been outspoken about her struggles with psoriasis, which inspired her to create her body foundation. Stassi Schroeder has been open about her psoriasis and shares photos of her flares when she gets them. They’ve both helped me learn to embrace it and be comfortable in my skin.
As I've been more willing to speak about it, people often tell me they have it themselves or respond with, "My family member/friend/colleague has psoriasis." It’s nice to know someone else is going through the same struggles as you.
It Will Get Better
My best advice to someone who's just found out they have psoriasis is to know that it’ll get better. Right now, it may seem daunting and overwhelming, but you find ways to manage it.
Photo Credit: Ekaterina Goncharova / Getty Images
Sadie Balken, 23, public relations account executive, St. Louis Park, MN.