Sex and a skin condition: not the best bed buddies

S-e-x. This three-letter word can make many people blush, and in fact, you may be covertly trying to read this article right now without letting whoever is next to you know. But there’s no need to be bashful because we’re here to shed some light on what happens behind closed doors for those who may have hesitations about when sex and skin conditions collide.

In a recent study,1 nearly a third of people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis said their skin condition affects their sex life. Relatedly, a study of people living with chronic urticaria revealed that they perceive it to be more difficult to become sexually aroused than those who aren’t combating a frustrating skin condition.2 The impact of these challenges can extend well beyond the bedroom, and it is definitely worth discussing.

So, strip away those inhibitions and let’s talk about sex, baby.

Keeping things in perspective

Navigating relationships and intimacy can be challenging for anyone, with or without a skin condition. However, feeling confident – and let’s face it, sexy – can be nearly impossible when your skin is red and inflamed.

When it comes to taking off your clothes, everyone has reservations. It’s possible that your partner is worrying about their own body, too. Intimacy means something different to each person, but if you’re approaching this milestone with your partner for the first time, it might be helpful to talk about your condition beforehand – and also offer them the opportunity to discuss any hesitations. We hope it goes without saying, but if someone rejects you based on the revelation of your skin condition, then they aren’t worth a second thought.

Talk with your doctor

Psoriasis and urticaria can surface many problems – physical, emotional and everything in between – and many people grapple with how to deal with these issues when they occur. Consider this: nearly half of those living with psoriasis said their libido had declined since developing symptoms.3 Meanwhile, we also know that skin conditions can wreak havoc on mood – and a bad mood may reduce your sex drive.4

It’s easy to see how this could become a compounding issue, and if it is a concern for you, speak to your doctor. They may recommend seeing a therapist to speak about any concerns you have about intimacy, or any other challenges that may impact your emotional wellbeing. Having a tough time with confidence? Your therapist may be able to help you work through the best way to handle it. Not sure about that new relationship? They may be able to talk you through the pros and cons of your potential partner.

Nothing should be off the table when talking to any of your doctors. Much like the bedroom, it should be a judgement-free zone.

Spice it up…

For some people, inflamed skin doesn’t just make sex cringe-worthy, it can make it downright painful, particularly if the genitals are impacted. Psoriasis5 and urticaria6 can both affect the skin around the crotch, causing discomfort during intercourse. In one study, people whose genitals were affected by psoriasis were more likely to avoid sex, even in long-term relationships.7 Speak openly with your doctor and partner about ways you can make things more comfortable, whether it’s keeping certain articles of clothing on, applying barrier cream or opting for positions that minimize contact with inflamed areas. It is also possible that cuddling, massage and foreplay can all be great ways to spice things up. Take time to experiment to find whatever works best for you and your partner.

Enjoy sex with (skin) benefits

Sure, having a skin condition might take the spontaneity out of sex, but it’s worth persevering.  Even your skin may thank you. Research shows intercourse can make you more resilient to stress,8 which is a potential trigger of skin conditions like psoriasis and urticaria. More sex, less stress? It’s a simplified equation, but we’ll leave you to do whatever you’d like behind closed doors. Living with a skin condition can be full of ups and downs, and adding s-e-x to the equation can turn it into a real roller coaster. We all need someone to hold onto for this ride, whether that means confiding in a close friend or your partner, or speaking with your doctor. So, let’s talk about sex, baby, and stop this three-letter word from having all the power in the bedroom.


1Intimacy and Psoriasis. National Psoriasis Foundation

2The problems in sexual functions of vitiligo and chronic urticaria patients. Sukan M1Maner FJ Sex Marital Ther. 2007 Jan-Feb;33(1):55-64.

3Psoriasis and sex: a study of moderately to severely affected patients. Gupta MA1Gupta AKInt J Dermatol. 1997 Apr;36(4):259-62.

4Depression and sexual dysfunction. David S Baldwin. Br Med Bull (2001) 57 (1): 81-99.

5 National Psoriasis Foundation, Genital Psoriasis. Accessed 17 July 2019

6 American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Urticaria. Accessed 17 July 2019

7Sex and the skin: A qualitative study of patients with acne, psoriasis and atopic eczema Parker Magin, Gaynor Heading, Jon Adams, and Dimity Pond Psychology, Health & Medicine Vol. 15 , Iss. 4,2010

8 Blood pressure reactivity to stress is better for people who recently had penile-vaginal intercourse than for people who had other or no sexual activity. Brody S1Biol Psychol.2006 Feb;71(2):214-22. Epub 2005 Jun 14.

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