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Let Fashion Work for You
Allowing your own personal style to shine through when you have psoriasis can boost your self-esteem and put the focus on you, not your skin. To feel comfortable and confident in your clothes, start by choosing the right fabrics. "Wool, some acrylics and microfibers are irritating to inflamed skin," says Susan C. Taylor, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. "Cottons and silks will not irritate the skin, and silk slides off of inflamed skin easily. Fabric dyes can also irritate inflamed skin, so whites and light colors are best." Light colors also help to disguise scales that are shedding from the skin.
Be Sun Smart
Exposure to a little sunlight can improve psoriasis, but too much can put you at risk for sunburn and even skin cancer. "Take it slowly," advises Aimee Bosland, health educator at the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF). She suggests:
- 5 to 10 minutes of noontime sun
- Regular exams with your dermatologist to check for signs of skin cancer
- Covering skin that is not affected by psoriasis with either sunscreen or clothing and not staying outside too long—sunburns can trigger your immune system, making psoriasis worse
Team Up with Your Dermatologist
"Be honest with your doctor about your health habits, your treatment goals, how well you think a therapy is working and whether or not it's time to try something new," says Bosland. Keep a journal of your symptoms to show your doctor. Be sure to track your flare-ups as well as stressful events preceding the flare, any new products you may be using and anything else that seems to worsen your symptoms. Inform your doctor of all medications and supplements that you take, any changes in your life (such as pregnancy) and about new or recurrent symptoms.
Educate Others Around You
"Is that contagious?" is the first thing most people want to know about psoriasis. Once you assure them it isn't, folks typically become more understanding. If it's your child who has psoriasis, call the school nurse or administrator to let them know that your child isn't contagious and ask if he or she can talk to the other students about the condition. Contact the NPF and ask for their School Action Packet, a presentation that explains what psoriasis is and includes letters about the disease for kids to take home.
Chill Out to Relieve Symptoms
"Anything cool can bring relief," says Bosland. "People have told me they keep towels in their freezer and wrap themselves in them when they're having a flare. Lukewarm oatmeal baths can be great for relieving itchy skin. And many people with psoriasis find it helps to apply olive oil right after a shower because it's similar to the natural oils of the skin. Some people with scalp psoriasis apply olive oil at night and wear a shower cap to bed. These are inexpensive, safe approaches that just may help." For more tips on living with psoriasis every day, check out "It Works For Me."
Talk to your dermatologist about safe cosmetics that might help camouflage the redness and scaling of psoriasis patches. Lines such as Dermablend and Faye Mendelsohn offer a wide range of shades and formulations for thorough, natural coverage. Check with your doctor before trying any new cosmetics to make sure they don't contain fragrances or other ingredients that could irritate your skin and possibly provoke a flare.
Reviewed by: Mary Ellen Luchetti, M.D., AAD