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Psoriasis: Tips for Clothing and Bedding

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on July 11, 2021

When you have psoriasis, the last thing you want is for your clothes or the fabrics you come in contact with to make your symptoms worse. Many things, including food, certain textures, sweat, and environmental factors like heat, cold, or dry air, can trigger a flare even if you’re taking medication

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that’s caused by a problem with your immune system. More than 8 million people in the U.S. live with it. While the cause isn’t exactly clear, it makes your skin cells regrow faster than usual. That causes itchy, red, scaly patches. It can show up on your elbows, knees, scalp, and other parts of your body.

Psoriasis and Your Wardrobe

If you have red, scaly, painful lesions on your body, you don’t want your clothes to tug or pull at your skin. This could irritate your sensitive skin and make your symptoms worse or cause a flare.

Being mindful about the kinds of materials you choose to wear and making smart choices can help ease some of your symptoms so you can stay comfortable.

Tips for psoriasis-friendly clothes:

Pick breathable fabrics. Avoid clothes that trap heat, make you sweat, or have harsh fabrics that scratch your skin and cause irritation. Instead, choose clothes made from cotton, linen, or satin that allow your skin to breathe. Soft, cool fabrics can also absorb sweat.

Wear loose-fitting clothes. It’s best not to wear clingy clothes that can stick to your skin and irritate any scaly patches. Opt for loose-fitting clothing that lets you stay comfortable as you go about your day.

Protect your skin from the sun. Even a mild sunburn can trigger a flare or cause your psoriasis to become worse. Wear long sleeves and a hat if it’s sunny out.

Choose exercise clothes carefully. If you do intense exercise, you may sweat a lot. Choose clothes made from natural fibers that absorb moisture. Or pick activewear that pulls sweat away from your skin. Take a shower right after working out, and moisturize to limit any triggers.

Scarves and shrugs come in handy. If you’re going through a flare, grab a scarf or shrug made of cotton or silk to cover patches you don't want anyone to see.

Wear comfy shoes. Tight or uncomfortable shoes that rub against your skin or make your feet sweat can irritate psoriasis plaques. To avoid flares, wear comfortable shoes along with cotton socks if your feet sweat a lot.

Bedding and Other Fabrics

Besides clothes, the kind of fabrics you sleep on or the type of towel you use also matters. People with psoriasis are prone to have poor sleeping patterns. Research shows that pain, itching, dryness, anxiety, and depression that stem from living with psoriasis can affect your quality of sleep.

If the sheets you sleep on aren't breathable or the material or fabric irritates your skin, it can trigger your psoriasis or make existing patches worse.

Follow these tips to avoid flares when you go to bed:

Choose the right material. Bedding that leads to overheating can make you sweat, irritating your skin. One way to avoid this is to choose bedding with a higher thread count. The more threads, the cooler you’ll stay.

Use sheets, pillow covers, and duvets made from natural fibers that are soft, cool, and breathable. This includes bedding made from 100% cotton, bamboo, bamboo mixed with linen, and silk.

In addition to being breathable, fabrics like cotton are washable at high temperatures, which kills dust mites that can trigger flares.

Invest in a good mattress. Mattresses can be pricey, but a good one can help you manage your symptoms and get a good night's sleep. Spring mattresses can harbor dust mites, and memory foam mattresses can cause overheating. Latex mattresses resist both mold and dust mites but can be quite expensive. Some people are also allergic to latex, so check with your doctor before you buy one.

If buying new bedding isn’t in your budget, you can make minor adjustments instead. For example, you can protect your skin from overheating or dust mites by adding a mattress protector made from psoriasis-friendly materials.

Basic Guidelines

Certain fabrics and types of clothing can cause more issues than others. Some guidelines include:

  • Avoid wool or synthetic clothes. The harsh fabrics can irritate your skin.
  • Stay away from clothing with dyes. Dyes are made of chemicals that may cause your psoriasis to flare.
  • Skip elastic. Clothes with tight waistbands or that hug your skin are a no-no.
  • Use cotton towels. After a shower, use 100% cotton towels to pat yourself dry. Don’t rub or pull on the skin as this may irritate it. Make sure to wash towels regularly.
  • Wash clothes after each use.
  • Machine-wash your bedding regularly at high temperatures to keep dust mites and mold at bay.
  • Use fragrance-free detergents. Laundry soap without fragrance can help you avoid chemicals that could cause a flare.

If you notice you’re having more flares, changes in your skin, or allergic relations from the fabrics you wear or sleep in, it may be time to switch to something more soothing for your skin. If you’re not sure where to start, reach out to a psoriasis support group for tips and suggestions, or ask your dermatologist.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

National Psoriasis Foundation: “The Impact of Psoriasis,” “Taking Care of Your Skin in Summer.”

American Academy of Dermatology Association: “8 Ways to Stop Baths and Showers from Worsening Your Psoriasis,” “Psoriasis: Tips for managing.”

Mayo Clinic: “Psoriasis.”

Blackdoctor.org: “Psoriasis and Your Wardrobe: How Clothing Affects the Skin.”

PLoS One: “Sleep Loss and Cytokines Levels in an Experimental Model of Psoriasis.”

Eczema.org: “Such Stuff as Dreams are Made of: Eczema-Friendly Bedding.”

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