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9 tips for surviving the winter with psoriasis

With the temperatures dropping quickly, now is the time to prepare your skin for the winter months. Check out our 9 tips for staying beating the cold this season:

If you have psoriasis, you might not be a huge fan of winter, and who can blame you? For some people living with this condition, winter can wreak havoc on your skin1, bringing flare-ups, sleepless nights and that dreaded feeling of wanting to hibernate until symptoms improve.2

Why symptoms get worse in winter

There are a number of reasons winter can be bad news for your skin. A drop in temperature is one of them. Turning up the heating dial when it gets chilly strips the air of what little moisture there is, drying out skin and making it more sensitive3. There’s also the fact that reduced sun exposure means your body’s levels of vitamin D (made by the skin in response to sunlight) can drop significantly4. We know that vitamin D deficiency is common in people with psoriasis anyway, but it is especially prevalent during winter5. Since vitamin D plays a role in the growth of skin cells as well as in the regulation of the immune system, it’s no surprise that flare ups are more common during this time of year. 6,7

Short of packing up your belongings and moving to a more pleasant climate, there’s not a great deal you can do to control the weather. The good news, however, is that there are plenty of practical ways you can reduce the impact of winter conditions on your skin:

  1. Be careful with soap

    As well as stripping it of moisture, soap can alter the natural pH of the skin, making it more prone to irritation8. Consider using a soap-free body wash each time you lather up for a gentler cleanse. 

  2. Take a bath…with oatmeal

    It might sound odd, but soaking in an oatmeal bath can be soothing and help loosen scales. Just fill a sock or cloth with oats and put it in the tub or use over-the-counter oatmeal bath products9. When oats come into contact with water they produce a gelatinous film that both protects and moisturizes the skin.10 Just make sure the water isn’t too hot and be sure to apply a moisturizing cream as soon as you get out.

    If you don’t have time for baths, put a call into the doctor, because other quick remedies like applying body oil in the shower and keeping the temperature low may also help prevent skin from drying out afterwards.1

    And no matter whether you take a quick shower or a relaxing bath, be sure to resist the urge to scrub too hard, as this can irritate the skin and might even trigger a flare-up8.

  3. Invest in a humidifier

    Central heating dries out the air during winter, so a humidifier can be helpful2. These handy gadgets force moisture into the atmosphere in the form of an invisible mist, however a bowl of water or a wet towel placed on top of a radiator can also be just as effective.

  4. Slather on skin cream

    Apply a thick moisturizer at least two times a day (ideally when skin is damp) to protect your skin and keep it well hydrated2. Products that contain urea or salicylic acid can help to soften and remove dry skin build up in affected areas12.

  5. Feed your body with psoriasis in mind

    Omega-3 fatty acids may have important anti-inflammatory benefits in autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis13. Eating foods that are naturally rich in these essential fats – such as flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, oily fish (such as salmon and mackerel), walnuts and almonds14 – may  help keep skin healthy.

    Also, be sure to drink plenty of water15 and avoid caffeine and alcohol, which are both diuretics and can dehydrate the body16.

  6. Wear cotton and bamboo

    Although a woolly jumper might be cozy, scratchy fabrics can aggravate sensitive skin. Because of that, it is important to always wear a soft cotton or silk layer beneath to minimize irritation.17. Not only does what you wear matter, but also how you wear it. Wearing tight clothes can rub on existing lesions and cause even more irritation18.

  7. Keep stress in check

    The festive season can be one of the most stressful times of year. We know that stress can aggravate the symptoms of psoriasis19, so try not to take too much on for your skin’s sake. Talk to your doctor and see what you can do to relieve stress.

  8. Go outdoors

    Take advantage of what little sunlight there is by getting outdoors on brighter days to boost your vitamin D levels – as well as your mood. 20

  9. Speak to your doctor

    If your skin condition does deteriorate over the winter, it’s definitely worth making an appointment to see your doctor.  No matter what you do, you can’t always control your flare-ups and your doctor will be in the best position to help.

    There you have it. Nine ways to to survive a winter with psoriasis. Have any tips of your own? Share them on our Facebook page.

  1. Psoriasis. Schön MP, Boehncke WH. N Engl J Med. 2005 May 5;352(18):1899-912. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=15872205 http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra041320
  2. Bedi, TR. “Clinical profile of psoriasis in North India.” Last accessed 11/20/2015. http://www.ijdvl.com/citation.asp?issn=0378-6323;year=1995;volume=61;issue=4;spage=202;epage=205;aulast=Bedi;aid=ijdvl_1995_61_4_202_4207
  3. Website “National Psoriasis Foundation” – Psoriasis in spring, summer, fall and winter. Last accessed: 10.11.15. https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/faqs/weather
  4.   How I treat vitamin d deficiency. Khan QJ, Fabian CJ. J Oncol Pract. 2010 Mar;6(2):97-101. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20592785
  5. Vitamin D status in patients with chronic plaque psoriasis. Gisondi P, Rossini M, Di Cesare A, Idolazzi L, Farina S, Beltrami G, Peris K, Girolomoni G. Br J Dermatol. 2012 Mar;166(3):505-10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22013980
  6.   Role of the vitamin D3 pathway in healthy and diseased skin--facts, contradictions and hypotheses. Lehmann B. Exp Dermatol. 2009 Feb;18(2):97-108. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=19146580http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-0625.2008.00810.x/epdf
  7.   A review of the critical role of vitamin D in the functioning of the immune system and the clinical implications of vitamin D deficiency. Schwalfenberg GK. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2011 Jan;55(1):96-108. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=20824663
  8.   Cutaneous cleansers. Kuehl BL, Fyfe KS, Shear NH. Skin Therapy Lett. 2003 Mar;8(3):1-4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12858234
  9. Website “University of Maryland Medical Center” – Psoriasis. Last accessed: 13.11.15. https://umm.edu/health/medical/ency/articles/psoriasis
  10. Pazyar N, Yaghoobi R, Kazerouni A, Feily A. Oatmeal in dermatology: A brief review. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol [serial online] 2012 [cited 2015 Nov 20];78:142-5. Available from: http://www.ijdvl.com/text.asp?2012/78/2/142/93629
  11. Noori S. Al-Waili “Topical application of natural honey, beeswax and olive oil mixture for atopic dermatitis or psoriasis: partially controlled, single-blinded study” Accessed on 11/20/2015:
     http://www.complementarytherapiesinmedicine.com/article/S0965-2299(03)00120-1/abstract?cc=y=
  12. Website “National Psoriasis Foundation” – Over the counter, not over your head. Last accessed: 13.11.15. https://www.psoriasis.org/otc
  13. Study on the use of omega-3 fatty acids as a therapeutic supplement in treatment of psoriasis. G Márquez Balbás, M Sánchez Regaña, and P Umbert Millet. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2011; 4: 73–77. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3133503/
  14. Website “Medline Plus” – Vegetarian diet. Last accessed: 13.11.15. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002465.htm
  15. Water for Health – Hydration Best Practice Toolkit for Hospitals and Healthcare. NHS & Royal Nursing College UK. Last accessed: 13.11.15. https://www.rcn.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/70374/Hydration_Toolkit_-_Entire_and_In_Order.pdf
  16. Caffeine, fluid-electrolyte balance, temperature regulation, and exercise-heat tolerance. Armstrong LE, Casa DJ, Maresh CM, Ganio MS. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2007 Jul;35(3):135-40. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17620932http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/559762_2
  17. Website “National Psoriasis Foundation” – FAQs: questions about lifestyle and living with psoriasis. Last accessed: 13.11.15. https://www.psoriasis.org/Page.aspx?pid=380
  18. Website “Everyday Health” – How Clothing Can Affect Psoriasis. Last accessed: 13.11.15. http://www.everydayhealth.com/psoriasis/psoriasis-and-clothing.aspx
  19.   Stress as an influencing factor in psoriasis. Heller MM, Lee ES, Koo JY. Skin Therapy Lett. 2011 May;16(5):1-4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=21611682
  20. Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health. Last Accessed 11/20/2015: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/#disc

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