3 Things That Will Improve Your Psoriasis—And 3 Things That Will Make It Worse


Psoriasis—which can cause everything from red, itchy skin to arthritis, and affects as many as 7 million Americans—is a chronic condition. But there are psoriasis treatment options that will improve the condition. In fact, when you’re considering your psoriasis treatment, know that small lifestyle tweaks can make a big difference.

On the flip side, however, there are things that can make your already uncomfortable symptoms even worse.

Knowing the difference between what to do and what to avoid is key to treating psoriasis. Below, dermatologists share three things that will improve your psoriasis—and three that will make it worse.

3 Things You Can Do to Improve Psoriasis

1. Avoid dry, cold weather

Dry, cold air can exacerbate psoriasis symptoms, making dry, flaky skin even worse. Of course, no one is suggesting you move to a warmer climate just to keep your psoriasis in check. Instead, protect your skin when you’re outside—and consider adding a humidifier in your home to alleviate your symptoms, says Alexandra Golant, M.D., the medical director of the dermatology faculty practice at Mount Sinai and member of the National Psoriasis Foundation. “Humidifiers help by adding moisturize to the air and your environment,” which can, in turn, add much-needed moisture to your skin, she explains.

2. Use gentle skincare products

When you suffer from flaky skin, it can be tempting to reach for your exfoliator. But removing your skin’s dry patches can actually make psoriasis worse, warns Golant. She recommends using gentle cleansers and moisturizers without common exfoliating ingredients, such as salicylic acid and alpha-hydroxy acids, and swap your loofah for a soft washcloth or smooth body sponge.

3. Seek professional help

Not only can a board-certified dermatologist help relieve your psoriasis symptoms with targeted treatment plans, such as prescription topical and oral medications or injectables, but she can also help prevent the scariest consequences of the condition, such as heart disease. After reviewing your medical history, a dermatologist can “select the most appropriate treatment for our patients based on their comorbidities,” says Erin Boh, M.D., chair of the department of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine and member of the National Psoriasis Foundation.

3 Things that Will Make Your Psoriasis Worse

1. Excess stress

We get it: Having psoriasis can be stressful. However, letting your stress get out of control can lead to inflammation, which can make psoriasis even worse, says Golant. “Any type of added stress—emotional, physical—can make inflammatory skin conditions worse by generally contributing to overall inflammatory signaling in the body,” she says. Instead of leaning into stress, do what you can to reduce it: Take a walk, do yoga, meditate, or journal—whatever works best for you.

2. Certain medications

Some medications—including lithium (prescribed for mood disorders), beta-blockers (prescribed for everything from anxiety to heart conditions), and anti-malarial medications—can exacerbate psoriasis symptoms, says Golant. So, make sure you tell your dermatologist all the medications you’re taking; that way, she can make sure they aren’t making psoriasis worse.

3. Smoking and drinking

Hopefully, you don’t smoke for a bevy of other health reasons. (Hello, cancer!) But if you smoke, you could be worsening your psoriasis symptoms, too. As Boh explains, smoking can lead to the production of inflammatory cytokines, which leads to metabolic stress—which leads to flare-ups of psoriasis, and makes it harder to treat effectively. Plus, smoking contributes to heart disease, and people with psoriasis already have an increased risk of heart disease, she says. Similarly, heavy alcohol use can increase inflammation and limit treatment effectiveness.

If you can quit smoking and limit alcohol intake, you can improve your psoriasis symptoms—and you’ll be healthier overall, too. And that’s what medical professionals call a win-win.


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