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 skin, bringing flare-ups, sleepless nights and that dreaded feeling of wanting to hibernate until symptoms improve.

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 sensitive1. 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 significantly. We know that vitamin D deficiency is common in people with psoriasis anyway, but it is especially prevalent during winter2. Since vitamin D plays a role in the growth of skin cells as well as in the regulation of the immune system3, it’s no surprise that flare ups are more common during this time of year.

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 irritation4. Consider using a soap-free body wash each time you lather up for a gentler cleanse. 

  1. Take a bath…with oatmeal

It might sound odd, but soaking in an oatmeal bath can have an anti-inflammatory effect.5 Just fill a sock or cloth with oats and put it in the tub or use over-the-counter oatmeal bath products. When oats come into contact with water, they produce a gelatinous film that both protects and moisturizes the skin. You should soak for 15-20 minutes - just make sure the water isn’t too hot and be sure to apply a moisturizing cream as soon as you get out.5

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.

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.

  1. Invest in a humidifier

Central heating dries out the air during winter, so a humidifier can be helpful1. 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.

  1. 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 hydrated1. Products that contain urea or salicylic acid can help to soften and remove dry skin build up in affected areas6.

  1. Feed your body with psoriasis in mind

Omega-3 fatty acids may have important anti-inflammatory benefits in autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis7. 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 almonds – may help keep skin healthy.

  1. 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.8. 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 irritation8.

  1. 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 psoriasis9, 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 survive a winter with psoriasis. 

References

1Website “National Psoriasis Foundation” – Psoriasis in spring, summer, fall and winter. Last accessed: 10.11.15. https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/faqs/weather

2Vitamin 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

3A 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

4Cutaneous cleansers. Kuehl BL, Fyfe KS, Shear NH. Skin Therapy Lett. 2003 Mar;8(3):1-4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12858234

5Pazyar 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

6Website “National Psoriasis Foundation” – Over the counter, not over your head. Last accessed: 17 July 2019. https://www.psoriasis.org/otc

7Study 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/

8Website “Everyday Health” – How Clothing Can Affect Psoriasis. Last accessed: 17 July 2019. http://www.everydayhealth.com/psoriasis/psoriasis-and-clothing.aspx

9Stress 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

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