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Do you have a dirty little secret? One that you’ve been hiding for years underneath long sleeves and turtle necks? Or do you just keep to yourself to avoid the embarrassment and anxiety caused by the visible sores on your face and neck? Rashy skin doesn’t typically get welcomed with open arms, even if that rash isn’t contagious.
Whether your psoriasis is mild or severe, you don’t necessarily have to use a prescription to calm the symptoms.
What is Psoriasis?
- Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease affecting approximately 7.5 million men and women in the United States that causes raised, red, scaly patches to appear on the skin. These sores typically appear on the outside of the elbows, knees, or scalp, but can also affect the eyelids, mouth, lips, skin folds, hands, feet, and nails. People often report that it is itchy, burns, or stings, and it is associated with other serious health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression. Psoriasis is not contagious.
But you already knew all of that. If your symptoms are mild to moderate, it’s possible that you can drop your prescription completely by giving these eight ways to calm psoriasis a fair shake.
1. Manage the Itch
Chances are that if this article came up in your search for how to calm psoriasis, you’re in the middle of a flare up and want relief. So, let’s address the big question. How do you manage the itch?
The “itch” is incredibly hard to ignore. However, scratching the itch caused by psoriasis will only tear open your skin and cause the infection to spread. As a result, new sores may appear where there weren’t any before. So, if you have the urge to scratch, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and gently rub some moisturizer on your skin instead. Alternatively, if you know that NOT SCRATCHING is not a realistic option (nor is it realistic to expect you’ll wash your hands every time you scratch) keep your nails short and take an antihistamine (such as Benadryl).
2. Keep Skin Moisturized
Let’s take that relief a step further. Keep your skin moisturized. Yes, it’s a no-brainer, but it really is one of the most effective and easiest things you can do to calm psoriasis and keep flare ups at bay. Psoriasis often gets worse when your skin is dry, injured, or unhealthy. Therefore, keeping your skin well moisturized is absolutely the most important step for psoriasis skin care.
And if your sores have reached the burning stage, try storing your lotion in the refrigerator. The cool feeling of the lotion on your skin should bring some much needed relief.
Ointments, Creams, and Lotions:
Your skin soaks in water when you bathe, therefore, when you are done bathing, gently pat yourself dry. Then, before the water completely evaporates, cover your skin with moisturizer to lock in the moisture. Be sure to reapply throughout the day and if you change clothes. On cold or dry days, be sure to apply more frequently.
Choose a fragrance-free moisturizer based on the severity of your dry skin. An ointment will be thick, heavy, and good at locking in moisture. Meanwhile, lotions are typically thinner and will absorb more easily into your skin.
We particularly like the Hydrating Gel Plus HS by Skinifique. This “gel” is specifically designed for sensitive, dry, and damaged skin (including eczema, psoriasis, tattooed skin, burned skin, and more). Unlike many other lotions or steroids we’ve tried, it has a unique creamy and fast-absorbing texture that leaves your skin soft and supple without a greasy after-feel.
The Hydrating Gel Plus HS is based on exclusive patented Activifique technology that allows for a progressive delivery (released over time to the skin) of active moisturizing and soothing agents. Meanwhile, active ingredients are released quicker when the skin needs them. From our experience, you can feel the results: longer lasting results with fewer applications.
Hydrating Gel Plus HS Ingredients:
Suitable for adults, children, and babies, the Hydrating Gel Plus HS has only eight ingredients to minimize the risk of skin reaction that include:
- Aqua (water)
- Ricinus communis (castor) seed oil
- Glyceryl stearate
- Pentylene glycol
While you may not recognize some of the ingredients in plain English, we were happy to discover that this product is:
- Paraben free
- Metal-free: No Nickel, No Chromium, No Cobalt…
- Fragrance free
- EDTA free
- BPA free: no phthalates, no bisphenol, or non-toxic plastic
- Sulfates free: No SLS & SLES
- Gluten free
- Silicone free (no dimethicone)
- Alcohol free
- Mineral oil free
- Lanolin free
- Hypoallergenic, tolerance tested
- Cruelty-free. No animal testing.
For chronic conditions such as psoriasis to which there is no cure (only management), it is critically important to maintain an ongoing skincare routine that includes daily hydration. Not only does this mean using high-quality products which provide the appropriate level of moisturizing, but also to use products with ingredients that have a recognized positive effect on psoriatic skin. The Hydrating Gel Plus HS would certainly qualify.
Now, if your sores are “scaly,” you may want to start with a scale softening product (keratolytic) to reduce excess skin and prevent further cracking and flaking. Over-the-counter lotions that contain ingredients such as salicylic acid, lactic acid, urea, or phenol can help remove scale, although they can also inflame the skin if used too often. Removing scale can reduce itch and make itch-relieving lotions and ointments more effective.
Another way to keep your skin moist is to use a humidifier, especially when the air is hot and/or dry. You probably received one as a baby gift, so now is a great time to use it. Using a humidifier will help your skin retain moisture better.
3. Avoid Harsh Products
While some products are useful in removing scale, in general, you should avoid harsh products that contain alcohol, fragrance, or acids (glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acid). In particular, pay attention to the soaps, lotions, and detergents you’re using. Look for labels that use language like “free and clear,” “fragrance free,” or “sensitive skin.”
Also pay attention to the texture of the fabric of the clothes you wear (avoid wool and mohair) or any other material that may come in contact with your skin. Certain products can inflame your sensitive skin or further irritate already angry skin.
4. Take a Soothing Bath
As long as your skin is “on fire,” avoid hot baths and try to limit your showers to 10 minutes or less. Hot water will make the skin irritation and dryness even worse. However, cold showers and cold packs may offer some relief.
On the other hand, a daily warm bath using a mild soap can help soothe itchy spots and remove dry skin, which as we pointed out earlier, can reduce the itch and make any lotions or ointments you’re using be more effective.
- Spend 15 minutes soaking in warm water.
- Add tar solution, oil, finely ground oatmeal, Epsom salt, or Dead Sea salt to your bath if you’d like.
- Keep the water and soap mild.
- Gently pat yourself dry. Avoid any hard rubbing as it can make sores worse or cause new sores to form.
- Apply moisturizer.
If you don’t have time for a bath, you can still put a wet towel or cold compress on the outbreak to relieve the pain.
5. Reduce Stress
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, at least 10 percent of the population inherit one or more of the genes that could lead to psoriasis. However, only 2-3% of the population actually develop the disease. In order to develop psoriasis, a person must have the “right” combination of genes and be exposed to specific external factors or triggers.
Triggers include stress, injury to the skin, certain medications, infection (including strep throat), allergies, diet, and weather. While most of these triggers can’t be controlled or eliminated, you may be able to calm psoriasis symptoms or reduce the severity of a flare up through relaxation and stress reduction.
There are a number of ways to reduce stress. Methods such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can help, but you may just be committing to too much. Simply saying NO will eliminate anxiety and may reduce the frequency and severity of outbreaks.
6. Stop Smoking and Limit Alcohol
Two other psoriasis triggers include smoking and heavy drinking, so if you’re experiencing frequent or severe symptoms, it may be time to quit (although we could give you even more reasons to quit if that doesn’t convince you).
Quitting smoking cold turkey or trying to quit without being accountable to someone else is idealistic, but rarely works. People tend to do best by using over-the-counter or prescription medications (be careful with nicotine patches as they will make psoriasis worse) to help them stop and seeking support either one-on-one or in a group setting. A good first step might be to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for phone counseling.
An occasional drink may be okay, but any amount of alcohol can be dangerous when combined with certain psoriasis medications, so it’s best to limit your drinking (no more than one drink a day for women or two for men).
7. Maintain a Balanced Diet and Exercise
If we get back to basics, eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, and getting plenty of sleep are often all it takes to heal illnesses and bring us back to a healthier version of ourselves. The same applies here in the case of psoriasis.
Evaluate your lifestyle. Are certain foods triggering flare ups? Are you drinking enough water (remember the point about staying hydrated)? Are you getting 8 hours of sleep every night? What needs to change?
And while we’re at it, are you incorporating exercise into your daily or weekly routine?
Exercise increases the production of endorphins, chemicals that are known to improve mood and increase your energy. In fact, adults who regularly engage in vigorous exercise are less likely to get psoriasis than less active adults. However, for those of us who already have psoriasis, exercise has been shown to improve sleep and decrease anxiety, which could lead to fewer flare ups.
8. Get Some Vitamin D
We hope that these approaches calm your skin. However, if you’ve found additional approaches that are working for you, we’d love to hear them.