While winter can mean dry, uncomfortable skin for some, this time of year brings its own challenges for people living with psoriasis.
As someone who’s been living with psoriasis for 3 decades, winter can be especially difficult.
The changes in weather conditions, plunging temperatures, and even the amount of daylight can greatly impact how we feel, both mentally and physically. Some years were so debilitating for me that bearing the cold seemed like an impossible task. During this time, I’d isolate myself from the outside world.
In other years, however, thanks to a few easy adjustments, I was able to live life to the fullest — even with blistering winds and less than ideal cold days.
In the end, it was about finding what worked best for me and my psoriasis during this time of the year.
Winter may make your psoriasis worse for a few reasons.
For starters, natural sunlight and higher humidity tend to improve psoriasis, so the darker days and lower humidity associated with winter may make your psoriasis flare during this time of year. We also spend more time in heated, drier indoor air in the winter, which can dry out our skin and make psoriasis worse.
Stress and illness can also contribute to flares. The holiday season, which happens to be in winter, can be really stressful for many people. Plus, we know that illnesses, such as the flu, are more common during the winter months.
If you’re starting to feel anxious about how this winter will affect your psoriasis, I’ve got you covered. Below is a handful of do’s and don’ts I’ve found to work best for me.
This is first on my list because, honestly, psoriasis can be stressful enough without adding our own internalized judgment and pressure into the equation. For example, sometimes I’ll be too hard on myself if I don’t eat perfectly according to my psoriasis-friendly diet, or if I skip plans because I wasn’t totally up for it.
If you’re feeling emotionally raw, frustrated, or just having a hard day, please don’t ignore it. Give yourself some time to reset and recharge.
This might mean spending the night to chill out with some Netflix, cooking yourself a nourishing meal to get back on track with your nutrition plan, or listening to an uplifting podcast (I particularly like “Oprah’s Super Soul“).
Remember, cool, dry air can contribute to psoriasis flares. Running a humidifier in your home in the winter can help hydrate your skin and help your psoriasis symptoms.
It’s easy to find yourself on autopilot so much that you don’t even realize when you’re unsettled physically or even emotionally.
It’s a good idea to check in with yourself, both at the start of the season and throughout. This means looking at how your skin is doing in addition to your stress levels. Put a few reminders in your calendar, or set a weekly alarm as a reminder to do this.
Also, get honest about what might be irritating your body so you can make a change. For example, while you might love that new wool sweater your friend just gifted although it’s causing psoriasis flare-ups, it might be time to invest in a cotton or silk layer to wear underneath it.
While there might be some times when you can’t escape the cold conditions, try to plan for as little outdoor time as possible during this time of year.
For instance, if you know that brunch spot your friend wants to meet at means having to park your car far away, say something! Chances are, your friend is just making suggestions, and they actually don’t mind changing plans. Knowing what can help you feel better will make them feel happy to support you.
I also try to do some research before meeting up with someone. You can call your meetup place and find out everything you need about the location, like how close it is to transportation or parking. This leaves me feeling more in control of the situation.
Meanwhile, if you can’t get out of an event and it’s in a location that’s not so psoriasis-friendly, once again, say something.
I always let at least one person I’m going out with know what’s going on with my health before I get there. That way, I don’t have to feel guilty if I am a little flustered for the first few minutes or running a bit late because I needed to take things extra slow.
I know I already said that you have permission to not force yourself to do more than you’re up for, but this also means you need to make sure you don’t tip the scale too far the other way.
When you’re dealing with a condition that can be as challenging as psoriasis, isolating yourself from the outside world is very tempting. But this can have negative effects on your mental well-being.
If you find that you haven’t interacted with people you love or visited a place that makes you happy (your own bed doesn’t count!) in more than a day or so, it’s time to make some plans.
I like to call up a friend and make a date to go out to a movie. I also keep a list of interesting places I want to try and pull that list out to explore when I’m in a bit of a slump.
It helps to keep things exciting, and a simple thing like trying a new restaurant in a neighborhood you don’t go to very often can feel like an adventure!
This might seem like an obvious one, but I’m not talking about your regular moisturizer. Before you leave the house and even before you go to bed, I recommend coating your skin with an all-natural, thick shea butter.
While there are lots of wonderful moisturizers on the market, it took me ages to find what worked best for my thick and scaly psoriasis. I eventually found all-natural African shea butter, which I buy from a small shop in Harlem. You can also buy it online. It’s pure shea butter, and it’s all I use!
Whether you try all of these tips or choose one to focus on for the moment, there’s no wrong way to move forward.
Being aware of what your options are and choosing things that will help you feel better is the best way to get through winter with psoriasis — no matter how big or small the changes might seem.
Article originally appeared on December 14, 2018, on Bezzy’s sister site, Healthline. Last updated and medically reviewed on November 30, 2022.
Medically reviewed on November 30, 2022
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