Dr Sunil Kumar Prabhu, Senior Consultant Dermatologist and Aesthetic Physician, Aster RV Hospital
The winter season brings respite from the heat for many, but it can be troublesome for people suffering from skin disorders, particularly psoriasis. A skin disorder which affects about 2-4% of Indians, psoriasis causes red and scaly patches to appear on the skin. This is an autoimmune condition which can be itchy and the degree of severity may vary from person to person.
People with psoriasis already suffer from dry skin and the winter season may further exacerbate this. The colder and drier climate in addition to factors such as lesser exposure to sunlight and wearing certain types of clothes, spending longer hours taking showers in hot water could contribute to further dryness in the skin. Effectively managing and keeping psoriasis under control during the winter seasons requires careful attention to habits that could be worsening the symptoms and inculcating measures to help control the disease.
People with psoriasis must be particularly mindful of moisturizing during the winters using a good quality and thick cream/ointment that will lock moisture in your skin. Avoid using fragranced products as these can cause further irritation. A good example of a thick and creamy moisturizer that is good for dry skin is shea butter. Avoid wearing clothes made of wool or synthetic fibers, rather opt for breathable fabrics such as cotton.
During the winter time people may tend to eat more fatty foods and may forget to drink enough water. Diet can play an important role in easing psoriasis flare-ups. Drinking enough water and eating right can help keep the skin healthy. Certain anti-inflammatory foods can be beneficial to reduce skin sensitivity, like berries, broccoli, spinach, fatty fish, whereas processed foods, red meat, dairy and gluten may have an adverse effect.
Mood disorders, particularly seasonal depression caused by less exposure to sunlight, or excessive stress levels can easily impact the skin. Most people notice that they experience more psoriasis flare-ups during stressful periods. Managing stress with enough exercises, meditation and stress relieving activities can help keep you in a relaxed state of mind. Food items with Omega-3 fatty acids such as sunflowers, flaxseeds, walnuts, almonds, etc can help with mood and keep the skin healthy.
While spending long hours in hot water showers can be detrimental to the skin, warm water soaks are good for loosening up dry skin. Gently exfoliate to get rid of excess skin you could also use exfoliators such as oatmeal, sea salts or Epsom salts. Avoid scented soaps and choose non comedogenic soaps instead. After the bath, avoid rubbing the skin very harshly, gently dry yourself and use a high moisturizing cream and lotion to lock in moisture. To manage psoriasis on the scalp, use a salicylic acid shampoo in rotation with your regular shampoo.
The winter season can be particularly difficult for people suffering from psoriasis however with some extra care and attention to personal habits, it can be easily managed. Each person’s psoriasis will have certain different triggers and by keeping those in control and practicing healthier habits to keep the development of the red scaly patches at bay, the winter season can be equally as rewarding. In case you need management advice for any issues that you face during psoriasis, consult with your dermatologist.