Dealing with psoriasis goes beyond managing chronic sore and itchy skin patches; the impact it has on your relationships, self-esteem, and quality of life can take a much greater toll. The bright side is that you can live a full and active life if you adopt a healthy lifestyle and follow the right skin care routine. Discover seven things you can do to improve psoriasis symptoms while on treatment.
1. Resist scratching your psoriasis skin.
The itching, burning, and painful sensation from psoriasis might tempt you to scratch for that temporary relief. However, scratching the itchy patches can cause sores and cuts, which can damage your skin and might set off new lesions (known as the Koebner phenomenon).1
Tip: Your skin needs more protection if you have psoriasis. Keep your skin moist with topical moisturisers or ointments. Use sun protection to prevent sunburns. Cover your arms or legs to reduce trauma to the skin, such as scrapes, insect bites, bruises, and other accidental bumps.
2. Use skin products that are gentle and suitable for sensitive skin.
When you have psoriasis, your skin is more sensitive and you have to approach almost any form of skin contact with vigilance, from soaps to showers. Most personal care products such as soaps, shampoos, perfumes, deodorants, and moisturisers contain chemicals that may further irritate your skin.
Tip: Be gentle to your skin and avoid products that contain alcohol, fragrance, and preservatives. Opt for moisturising products or salicylic acid-infused products (great for loosening and removing psoriasis scales).2 Limit your showers to 5 minutes3 and baths to 15 minutes before it causes dryness and irritation to your skin.4 Gently pat yourself dry instead of 4 wiping to prevent traumatising or over drying your skin. Moisturise your skin right away for better skin absorption.
3. Fight psoriasis from the inside out by making changes to your diet.
It’s important to maintain healthy eating habits if you have psoriasis. Apart from improving your skin conditions, a balanced diet is also beneficial to your health and can help control weight gain. Thus, you can lower the risks of psoriasis comorbidities, such as cardiovascular disease and obesity.5
Tip: Cut back on foods containing high fat content,6 saturated fats, and pre-packaged 6 convenience foods,7 such as fast food, fried foods, and junk food. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and consider supplementing your diet with probiotics and fish oil.8,9
4. Embrace a smoke-free lifestyle and learn how you can kick the habit for good.
Smoking is a terrible idea if you have psoriasis. It dries out your skin and increases psoriasis flare-ups.10 Chemicals in tobacco smoke damage your skin’s collagen and elastin (fibres that strengthen your skin and elasticity).11 More importantly, smoking affects your body’s ability to absorb vital vitamins and minerals that have skin healing abilities, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, calcium, and carotenoids.12,13 Both men and women who smoke more than a standard pack of cigarettes (containing 20 cigarettes) a day are at a higher risk of developing psoriasis than nonsmokers.14
Tip : It’s not easy to stop smoking, but it’s never too late to try. If you don’t smoke, don’t start; if you smoke, stop now. Your body will thank you when it can function optimally. Pick up healthy ways to relieve stress and anxiety. Try finding a new hobby, exercising, going for walks, or taking a few minutes to meditate.
5. While you’re at it, give up alcohol to alleviate skin conditions caused by psoriasis.
Drinking may be an occasional activity that helps you relax after a long day, lets you socialise with your friends, or something that you generally enjoy. However, excessive drinking was shown to lower treatment response in some patients.15 What’s more, frequent drinking might trigger your psoriasis to flare up.16
It is dangerous to mix alcohol with certain psoriasis medications. For example, if psoriasis patients with hepatitis or fatty liver disease mix alcohol with methotrexate, it may worsen their existing condition.17
6. Don’t underestimate the benefits of relaxation and clear communication when you are suffering from psoriasis.
Living with psoriasis may cause you to feel alone or stressed out. However, remember that stress has a negative impact on your immune system.18 When it is compromised, the accompanying inflammation may exacerbate psoriasis symptoms. In short, stress causes flare-ups.19
Tip: It’s impossible to eliminate stress completely, but you can minimise it. Try getting enough sleep, avoiding caffeine and stimulants, or practicing some relaxation techniques. A few things you can try at home are breathing exercises, mindful meditations, and soothing baths.
Also, let your close friends and family know about your skin condition and how it affects you. They are valuable components of a support system that can lend an ear or a hand to help you deal with psoriasis. Be clear about things you can and cannot do, but shift your focus to the positive aspects of your life to cultivate a healthy and productive mindset.
7. Start a journal to keep a record of your condition.
Keeping a diary to monitor psoriasis flare-ups helps you to stay mindful of specific circumstances that are potential triggers. That way you can gain better control over your condition and it is a step toward empowerment.
Tip: Manage your condition better by keeping track of your stress levels, diet, exercise, medications, and sleeping patterns. Write down your thoughts and feelings to gain a better understanding of how it affects you, especially if you struggle with stress, depression, or anxiety.
Seek medical help for your psoriasis treatment.
The best way to manage psoriasis is to seek professional help from a doctor or dermatologist. Although there’s no permanent cure for it currently,20 there is a plethora of treatment options in Malaysia. Topical steroids, phototherapy (light therapy), systemic treatments and biologics (advanced treatment) are examples of some of the psoriasis treatments available.
Finding the right treatment helps you control and improve psoriasis symptoms. Talk to your dermatologist to find one that is most suitable for you. Also, let your dermatologist know how psoriasis affects you emotionally and psychologically so that he/she can decide the most effective treatment for you.
Follow our Facebook page so you’ll never miss a tip on how to manage psoriasis.
Follow MyPsoriasis blog to understand psoriasis skin problem.
Dare to #Ask4Clear skin and find a dermatologist near you today for evaluation and treatment of your psoriasis.
If you like this, see also: These 4 Warning Signs Mean You Need To Change Your Psoriasis Medication
Dr Ch’ng obtained his specialty training from the Royal College of Physicians in London. Subsequently, he obtained his Advanced Masters in Dermatology from the National University of Malaysia. He was previously the Head of Dermatology of the State of Pahang and Hospital Sungai Buloh.
His call to dermatology started way before he even contemplated doing medicine. His father suffered from severe psoriasis, and was in and out of hospital a lot in the late 1970s. His father’s condition made him see that skin disease is not just an aesthetic problem, as it can cause the patient and the entire family so much grief. His practice today reaffirms his belief, with many patients expressing deep relief and gratitude after their treatment.
Place of Practice
Dr. Ch'ng is a NSR registered consultant dermatologist. She graduated as a gold medalist from Univeristy Malaya in 2006. She obtained Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physician of the United Kingdom in 2010 and joined dermatology team in University Malaya in the same year. She completed Advanced Master in Dermatology (UKM) in 2014 and a visiting fellowship in Cutaneous Laser Surgery in Mahidol University (Thailand) in 2017. Her special interest include acne, psoriasis, urticaria, contact dermatitis/eczema and procedural dermatology.
Dr. Ch'ng started her instagram account @cccskindoc providing free skin care tips and education to public. She believes everyone deserves up-to-date and accurate information on skin care to embrace the skin that he or she is in.
Place of Practice
Dr Khor graduated from National University of Malaysia (UKM), Kuala Lumpur in 2002. He obtained his Internal Medicine specialty training from the Royal College of Physicians of London in 2007 and further subspecialized in Dermatology by obtaining his Advanced Master in Dermatology from UKM in 2013. Dr Khor served as the Head of Dermatology service for Perlis from 2013 to 2015 before transferring back to Penang. Currently, he is the Deputy Head of Department of Dermatology in Hospital Pulau Pinang. He is also a visiting consultant dermatologist at KPJ Penang Specialist Hospital and Northern Skin Specialist Clinic.
Dr Khor is active in academic activities, performing as an honorary lecturer for Allianze University College of Medical Sciences and Penang Medical College. He is active in research as well with the publication of original papers in dermatological journals and serves as a reviewer for Malaysian Journal of Dermatology. His dedication to the profession earned him Excellent Service Award from the Ministry of Health in 2009 and 2017.
Place of Practice