Tips for Winter Psoriasis

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on November 02, 2015

Winter can trigger psoriasis flares, but you have many ways to combat the drying effects of cold temps and indoor heating.

Smooth on moisture. Keep your skin moist to ease redness and itching, and heal psoriasis patches. The thicker the cream or ointment, the better it is at locking water into your skin. Use moisturizing soap and a creamy lotion after you shower, bathe, and wash your hands. Choose fragrance-free products to avoid allergic reactions.

Choose soothing baths over hot showers. Long showers in hot water remove moisture from your skin. Shower in warm water just long enough to soap up and rinse off. You can relax in the tub, though. Sprinkle oil, finely ground oatmeal, Epsom salts, or Dead Sea salts in a warm bath. Soak for about 15 minutes to slough off scales, soothe itching, and unwind. Apply moisturizing cream or lotion right after to lock the water in.

Use a humidifier. To wake up with smooth skin, use a device to keep indoor air moist. Run it in your bedroom at night to counter the drying effects of indoor heating. Be sure to follow the directions for cleaning the humidifier to avoid a buildup of bacteria.

Wear soft layers. Cold weather and wind can irritate your skin and trigger flare-ups. They can also make psoriasis in your joints more painful. Bundle up in a soft scarf, hat, and gloves when you go outside to protect exposed areas of skin. Dress in layers you can peel off to avoid getting too hot -- sweating can make psoriasis worse. Choose cotton over wool, denim, and other fabrics that are more likely to bother your skin.

Drink water. To pump up moisture, drink plenty of H2O. You'll know if you're getting enough because your urine will be a pale yellow. If your urine is bright yellow or dark-colored, you may need more water.

Ease stress. The winter holidays are full of cheer, but they also bring stress, which can make psoriasis worse. Plan time to relax. Try a massage or spa treatment to moisturize your skin and beat the winter blahs. Also, exercise relieves stress and may reduce flare-ups.

Lighten your mood. Psoriasis can make you depressed. If you also have seasonal affective disorder -- depression linked to less sunlight in winter and fall -- these months are an extra challenge. If you're sad often, talk to your doctor. Light therapy or an antidepressant may lift your mood.

Improve your treatment plan. If your psoriasis always gets worse in winter, talk with your doctor. You may only need to adjust your medications a little or get some light therapy.

Show Sources


Alan Menter, MD, chairman, division of dermatology, Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas; clinical professor of dermatology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas; past president, International Psoriasis Council.

Lakshi M. Aldredge, MSN, nurse practitioner, Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Oregon.

National Psoriasis Foundation: "Over-the-counter (OTC) Topicals."

Psoriasis Connections: "Weather and psoriasis."

American Academy of Dermatology, PsoriasisNet.

Environmental Protection Agency: "Use and Care of Home Humidifiers."

U.S. Army: "Are You Hydrated?"

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