Psoriasis is a long-lasting skin condition that causes sore, inflamed patches on the skin. According to the NHS, psoriasis affects around two in 100 people in the UK, and most commonly develops in adults aged 20-30 and 50-60.

The severity of psoriasis can vary significantly. For some people, it’s nothing more than a minor irritation, while for others it can have a significant impact on daily life.

With this in mind, we’ll be taking a closer look at what psoriasis is and offering ideas to help you cope.

What is psoriasis?

What is psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition, where inflamed, flaky patches of skin form into scales.

The condition can look different depending on skin tone. For example, skin patches may appear red or pink with white or silvery scales on lighter skin, while on darker skin they can also look purple or dark brown with grey scales.

Psoriasis can occur anywhere on the body but most commonly affects the knees, elbows, scalp, and lower back. Due to its visibility, some people with psoriasis also find that the condition impacts their mental wellbeing and self-esteem. For example, this study found that people with psoriasis have a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression.

There’s currently no cure for psoriasis. However, many people find that their symptoms come and go – for example, experiencing mild symptoms followed by a period of the condition being more severe.

What can cause psoriasis?

What can cause psoriasis

Psoriasis is caused by an increased production of skin cells. While skin cells are typically made and replaced every three to four weeks, for people with psoriasis, this process takes between three and seven days. This can cause a build-up of skin cells that results in patches on the skin.

The exact reason behind this rapid production of skin cells isn’t yet fully understood, but experts believe that it’s connected to problems with the immune system. It’s thought that the immune system may mistakenly attack healthy skin cells.

Research suggests that psoriasis can run in families, but the exact role of genetics is currently unknown.

Many people with psoriasis also find that their symptoms start or become worse due to certain triggers or events. Potential triggers can include skin injuries, throat infections, and taking certain medicines.

Psoriasis isn’t contagious and can’t be spread between people.

How is psoriasis treated?

How is psoriasis treated

If you suspect you have psoriasis, it’s important to book an appointment with your GP. While there’s currently no cure, there are a range of treatments that can help people improve or manage symptoms.

In the majority of psoriasis cases, initial treatment will involve using a topical cream or ointment, such as vitamin D or steroid creams. If these don’t work, a treatment called phototherapy – which involves exposing the skin to particular types of ultraviolet light – can also be used.

In more severe cases, systemic treatments like tablets, capsules, and injections may also be considered.

12 ways to cope with psoriasis

ways to cope with psoriasis

Alongside professional treatment for psoriasis, there are a number of self-care methods that can help people cope. In some cases, these home remedies are enough to keep psoriasis at bay.

We’ll cover some ideas below…

1. Keep your skin moisturised

Keeping skin hydrated is one of the best ways to manage psoriasis symptoms. This is because when the skin is dry, it can become more inflamed and itchy – and increase the chance of psoriasis flare-ups.

For maximum benefits, try to moisturise your skin throughout the day. For example, while it may already be part of your current routine to moisturise after showering, consider doing the same for your hands each time you wash them.

Moisturising is especially important during the winter months as cold, dry weather can be extra harsh on psoriasis skin.

If your psoriasis is mild, over-the-counter moisturisers may be enough to manage symptoms. In more severe cases, moisturising can be a useful tool alongside medication.

If you haven’t yet found a moisturiser that works for you, check out this guidance on the best creams for psoriasis from Lloyds Pharmacy.

2. Enjoy warm – but not hot – baths and showers

Soaking in a warm bath or shower can help to soothe psoriasis lesions by hydrating and softening skin. However, it’s important to get the right temperature as bathing in water that’s too hot can have the opposite effect and exacerbate symptoms.

This is because hot water dries out the skin and can increase irritation. It’s also best to avoid the use of washcloths, exfoliators, and scrubs as these can inflame skin and lead to more psoriasis.

Instead, experts recommend gently applying products with your hands and rinsing thoroughly. It’s also softer on the skin to pat your body dry with a towel instead of rubbing.

3. Try aloe vera products

Aloe vera has long been championed for its ability to reduce inflammation and soothe skin. And when it comes to psoriasis, research suggests that aloe vera may help to reduce redness and irritation.

For example, this study found that aloe vera gel cream was actually slightly more effective at improving symptoms of mild to moderate psoriasis than a steroid cream.

More research is needed to confirm more widely whether or not aloe vera can improve psoriasis symptoms. However, since aloe vera gels or creams are unlikely to have any side effects, they may be worth a try.

4. Get some sunshine, but not too much

You may have heard that vitamin D from the sun is beneficial for your skin. And it can be particularly beneficial for psoriasis because the UVB rays in sunlight slow down the growth of skin cells, which can help with scaling and inflammation.

That being said, it’s important not to spend too much time in the sun as, aside from the general health risks, sunburn can trigger psoriasis.

Whenever you’re in the sun, remember to protect yourself with suncream, sun hats, and sunglasses.

5. Limit stress where possible

Stress is one of the most common psoriasis triggers and is known to make symptoms such as itching worse.

Experts are currently unsure why stress can cause psoriasis flare-ups, but studies have suggested that it may be down to cortisol (stress hormone) levels being out of check, which can lead to inflammation.

Other research indicates that people with psoriasis have issues with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA axis) – the system responsible for controlling the body’s reaction to stress.

The connection between psoriasis and stress can also go both ways as living with psoriasis can cause stress itself – so, some people find themselves in a bit of a vicious cycle. As a result, finding ways to manage stress levels can be a particularly beneficial skill.

If you’ve been struggling with stress recently, you might like to have a read of our articles; 7 tips for coping with stress and anxiety and 9 simple stress relieving activities. Other useful activities for stress management include mindfulness and breathing exercises.

6. Add more anti-inflammatory foods to your diet

Research has suggested that diet can play a role in managing psoriasis symptoms.

Health experts advise that one of the most beneficial approaches is to reduce your consumption of pro-inflammatory foods. This is because inflammation (and the immune system’s response to it) can trigger psoriasis flare-ups.

Some foods that can cause inflammation that you could consider limiting include red meat, dairy, gluten, alcohol, and processed foods.

For example, this study found that the polyunsaturated fatty acid, arachidonic acid (found in red meat, eggs, and dairy) may play a role in creating psoriasis lesions. Other studies have also found a link between processed foods and chronic inflammation in the body, which can trigger psoriasis flare-ups.

Though, it’s important to seek the advice of your doctor before cutting out entire food groups like meat, dairy, and gluten from your diet, because this may not be beneficial for everyone.

It is worth noting though, that almost all anti-inflammatory foods have been found to help reduce the severity of psoriasis. Check out our article, 14 anti-inflammatory foods, for ideas on what to eat.

Add more anti-inflammatory foods to your diet

7. Avoid using fragrances and alcohol-based products

Fragrances can be problematic for anyone with sensitive skin, but particularly so for people with psoriasis.

Fragrant products to look out for include shampoos, bubble bath, handwashes, cosmetics, and household cleaning products.

Experts also advise against using lotions or cosmetic products that contain alcohol. This is because alcohol can cause your skin’s protective barrier to dry out and make it difficult to retain moisture. Some ingredients to look out for include ethanol, methanol, and isopropyl alcohol.

For further guidance, you might find these healthy bath tips and products for psoriasis from Health Central.

8. Maintain a healthy weight

Some studies have suggested that being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing psoriasis – and research has also linked obesity with more severe psoriasis symptoms.

One reason for this is that fatty tissue releases a particular type of cytokines called adipokines, which are known to cause inflammation. Naturally, the more body fat you have, the more adipokines will be released into your bloodstream.

Therefore, studies have found that becoming a healthy weight can improve psoriasis symptoms.

Simple lifestyle swaps such as adding more exercise to your routine, improving your sleep, upping your step count, and eating a balanced diet are all effective methods for healthy weight loss. You can find more information on all these topics on the fitness and exercise, sleep and fatigue, and diet and nutrition sections of our website.

9. Avoid wearing heavy fabrics

Heavy fabrics, such as wool, can irritate sensitive skin and make you feel itchy. For this reason, some people find it useful to wear lighter fabrics that allow their skin to breathe.

Experts recommend trying cotton, silk blends, or cashmere, and if you want to wear wool for warmth, consider layering it over a lighter, softer fabric.

10. Try adding turmeric to your diet

Turmeric has gained significant popularity in the health and wellness world in recent years – and there are a number of studies which suggest that its active ingredient curcumin may be an effective natural remedy for psoriasis.

For example, this study found that after using curcumin gel for 16 weeks alongside topical steroids, antibiotics, and avoiding allergens, psoriasis symptoms of over 72% of participants disappeared.

Another study, which involved 34 people with plaque psoriasis using a topical version of curcumin, found that participants experienced improvements in symptoms like redness, scaling, and thickness, compared to a placebo group.

11. Avoid scratching your skin where possible

It’s natural to want to scratch your skin when it’s itchy, but doing so can worsen psoriasis symptoms.

When you notice yourself feeling itchy, try to apply moisturiser instead to soothe the skin. It’s also worth keeping your nails trimmed to avoid any accidental scratches.

12. Quit smoking

Aside from improving general health, there are many psoriasis-linked benefits to quitting smoking.

Excessive smoking is linked with more severe psoriasis symptoms. For example, this study revealed that people who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day were two times more likely to have severe psoriasis than those who smoked fewer than 10 cigarettes a day.

According to experts, even if you’ve smoked for a while, when you quit it’s possible that your psoriasis symptoms will improve, and treatment will be more effective.

Final thoughts…

Psoriasis can be uncomfortable and frustrating to live with. And while the condition currently has no cure, there are a number of things you can do to help make symptoms more manageable.

For further reading, you can head over to the general health section of our website. Here you’ll find information on everything from bone health, gut health, longevity, and staying safe in the sun.