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Things That Could Be Making Your Psoriasis Worse

Glam logo: MainLogo Glam 12/2/2022 Josee Ng
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Skin disorders can be heterogeneous. While certain skin conditions, like acne and melasma, are manageable with an individualized treatment plan and proper diet, others, like psoriasis, are long-term diseases and have no known cure. According to the Mayo Clinic, psoriasis is an auto-immune malfunction that results in inflammation of the skin and is characterized by scaly, raised plaques that are itchy and burning, commonly found on the knees, elbows, and scalp. A study in the Journal of Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis reveals that psoriasis occurs due to the rapid turnover of cells caused by an overactive immune system. Instead of shedding, skin cells in a person with psoriasis rapidly rise to the skin surface and pile up with the dead skin cells.

Since inflammation caused by psoriasis can spill over into other organs in the body, those with this skin condition usually suffer other health conditions, such as psoriatic arthritis and heart disease. While the exact cause of psoriasis is not known yet, a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including the weather, stress, and an injury, can trigger a flare-up. While treatments such as topical ointments, oral medications, or injectables can temporarily alleviate physical discomfort and keep the spillover effects in check, the outward symptoms of psoriasis can affect a person's appearance and undermine their confidence. To boost the efficacy of your psoriasis treatment and keep yourself symptom-free for as long as possible, beware of these triggers that might make your psoriasis worse.

Dry And Cold Air

woman relaxing on couch © Fizkes/Getty Images woman relaxing on couch

Psoriasis is frequently triggered by dry air and chilly weather, per Vanguard Dermatology. Dry and cold air causes your skin to dry out, which might lead to cracking, bleeding, and, eventually, an infection. Low levels of exposure to sunlight is also likely to trigger flare-ups, which is why many people see their psoriasis getting worse during fall and winter. To keep the air moist and your skin comfy during the colder months, use a home humidifier to blow water vapor into the room and boost the humidity level. At the same time, moisturize your skin twice a day with a fragrance-free and hypoallergenic moisturizer, and drink lots of water to keep your skin hydrated. When your skin is sufficiently hydrated, flare-ups are less likely to occur.

When it comes to dressing, you might want to swap tight garments for loose-fitting clothing to avoid irritating your already irritated skin. At the same time, choose cotton or silk fabrics for your base layer as they are warm while being forgiving against tender, easy-to-crack skin. "You have to be careful about clothing with fibers like wool, which can snag and pull on psoriasis plaques—ouch!" says dermatologist Kaylan Pustover (via Health Central). Also, avoid non-breathable synthetic fabrics such as nylon, rayon, polyester, and spandex to minimize discomfort and risks of flare-ups. Since injuries can make your psoriasis worse, take care to wear gloves when cooking, gardening, and cutting nails, as well as refrain from hazardous activities and sports.

Tight Hairstyles And Harsh Chemicals

woman with hair up © Edward Berthelot/Getty Images woman with hair up

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, tight hairstyles can pull tightly on the hair and irritate the scalp, making your psoriasis symptoms worse and even causing hair loss over time. To avoid irritating your scalp altogether, avoid tight hairstyles like tight buns, ponytails, tight braids, hair extensions, and dreadlocks. Harsh ingredients common to hair dyes or hair styling products can also inflame the scalp and trigger allergic reactions, and set off psoriasis flare-ups. Therefore, before trying any new hairstyle, inform your hairstylist of your condition and always run a patch test on a discreet area of your skin to see how your scalp reacts to the product before using it further. If possible, refrain from using heat-styling products such as hair straighteners and hot rollers.

At the same time, steer clear of shampoos and conditioners that contain fragrance, sulfate, or common irritants that might upset your scalp. Instead, opt for hair wash products containing psoriasis-fighting ingredients such as the exfoliant salicylic acid, coal tar, zinc, and tea tree oil. When taking a bath, consider adding a coal tar solution to your bath to help alleviate itching and scaling. To avoid irritating your skin, opt for a gentle, moisture-rich body wash and a fragrance-free moisturizer.

Red Meat And Highly Processed Foods

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According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, there's a link between what goes into your body and psoriasis, as many foods, especially the highly processed and high-fat ones, can trigger inflammation throughout the body and exacerbate the symptoms of psoriasis. Most dairy products, such as butter, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and milk, are high in fat. As a result, they can predispose some people to inflammation and make their psoriasis worse. Foods and beverages that are high in added sugar, like soda, sports drinks, ice cream, and bakery goods, can also heighten the risks of psoriasis flare-ups. You might notice improvements in your psoriasis symptoms if you cut highly processed, dairy, and sugary products from your diet.

Lessening the consumption of fatty red meat might also do favors to your skin condition, WebMD points out. The arachidonic acid in red meat can increase the risks of heart diseases and strokes as well as trigger psoriasis lesions. If you're a steak enthusiast, opt for the leanest cuts, such as brisket, top round, top sirloin, or ground beef. To cultivate a balanced diet for psoriasis, reach for nuts, fruits, and hard-boiled eggs for midday pick-me-ups, and eat more whole grain foods, leafy greens, lean or plant-based proteins, and fishes rich in omega-3 fatty acids while limiting the consumption of highly processed spreads and dressing.

Smoking And Alcohol Abuse

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Smoking is the enemy of psoriasis. Not only can taking a puff on cigarettes deepen the severity of psoriasis, but it can also lead to several comorbidities, such as cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and lung cancer, according to Dr. Albert A. Rizzo, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association (via the National Psoriasis Foundation). Smoking also compromises the efficacy of your treatment of psoriasis. If psoriasis runs in your family, you could be genetically predisposed to the skin condition, and smoking might activate the symptoms.

In addition, heavy consumption of alcohol also triggers inflammation, interferes with psoriasis drugs like methotrexate, and exacerbates existing psoriasis symptoms. Research suggests those who consume an excessive amount of alcohol, especially white wine and hard liquor, are at a greater risk of developing rosacea and acne. Those with psoriasis might as well consider avoiding consuming too much caffeine and sweetened beverages as they may trigger psoriasis outbreaks in some people.

Tight And Heeled Footwear

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If you have psoriasis, you are at a greater risk of developing psoriatic arthritis, a long-term, progressive condition that causes affected joints and ligaments to swell, stiffen, and become painful. There's no cure for psoriatic arthritis, and treatment is necessary to keep the discomfort under control and prevent further joint damage. On your end, make your feet as comfortable as possible through smart choices of daily footwear.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, those with arthritis should avoid wearing high heels, low heels, flip-flops, clogs, or sandals with little sole support. Instead, opt for sturdy shoes that support your heels, arches, and the balls of your feet, WebMD advises. Shoes with sufficient padding and shock absorption under the soles of your feet that provide ample arch support are a good choice. To minimize risks of injury or sore toes, opt for full-coverage, deep-footbed footwear that shields your toes from potential friction or injury as you go about your daily activities. Make sure your footwear is not too tight that it causes undue pressure on your feet and causes blisters and scrapes. Alternatively, you can check out compression socks that provide warmth and increase blood circulation while relieving stiffness and lessening joint pain.

Stress

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It's hard not to get upset when dealing with psoriasis, but most of the time, it is stress and anxiety that make your psoriasis worse. According to a study on the connection between stress and psoriasis published in the journal International Journal of Dermatology, there is a greater frequency of psoriasis among those who've dealt with stressful incidents, indicating that stress may have a part in exacerbating the condition in those who are prone to it. In addition, several controlled research studies have shown that relaxation, hypnosis, biofeedback, and behavioral and cognitive stress management techniques have shown effectiveness in optimizing the results of psoriasis treatment.

According to Valerius Medical Group, identifying your stress triggers in order to effectively keep your stress levels in check might minimize risks of flare-ups as well as help your psoriasis treatment go on more smoothly. Making time to unwind through high-leverage activities, adopting a healthy eating regimen, and taking regular exercises are some approaches to cultivating a peaceful mindset and improving your overall health.

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