As the weather gets colder, many plaque psoriasis patients report that their symptoms get worse too. During the winter, low humidity, lack of sun exposure, and pesky cold and flu viruses can all lead to psoriasis flares. As a result of these weather changes, dry skin often becomes even more dry, in some cases leading to cracking, bleeding, itching, and burning. To learn more about how our psoriasis community members combat winter-dryness, we asked, “What is your best DIY recipe for dry, cracked skin?”. A look at your responses! Have any of these strategies worked for you?
“Exercise feels good…gets heat and sweat going”
For some psoriasis community members, exercise is the best way to combat dry, cracked skin. Research shows that exercise can reduce the severity of psoriasis symptoms, including the number of psoriasis flares. Exercise may also improve systemic inflammation, a process which is already over-active in people with psoriasis.
Although maintaining an exercise routine is important for all psoriasis patients, sweat and friction (especially around the abdomen, groin, and chest) can aggravate sensitive skin. To prevent skin-irritation and reduce friction, consider wearing loose clothing, and apply petroleum jelly or sweat-absorbent powder around these sensitive areas before you work-out.1
#2 Drink Plenty of Water
“People lose more water through skin during cold weather than hot weather…Drink more liquids.”
“I also try and avoid the temptation to take hotter showers, as those really dry my skin out.”
While most doctors recommend that you drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water everyday2, as described by several of our community members, staying hydrated may also help combat colder-weather dryness! Research shows that drinking enough water can reduce or prevent dry skin, as well as improve the skin’s overall health and appearance.3 Especially before, during, and after exercise (See #1), staying hydrated will keep your skin strong and healthy.
In addition to drinking plenty of water, some of our community members rely on baths and showers to soften tough plaques. While a steaming-hot shower may be tempting during the colder months, for people with plaque psoriasis, lukewarm water is much less damaging to the skin. As described by our community members, hot water can actually dry-out the skin, making a warm bath or shower the safer option for daily bathing. If your skin is particularly irritated or inflamed, a cold bath or shower can also reduce discomfort.
#3 Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
“I use Vaseline [on my skin]…also on my lips”
“Aquaphor (right after a shower) when leaving the house.”
“A nice, thick lotion after your shower, and wear layers”
“Thankfully winters in the pacific northwest are pretty mild, but I always make sure to put on my moisturizer right after the shower.”
In addition to drinking plenty of water, many of our community members use different types of moisturizers to prevent winter dryness. Moisturizers come in many different forms and may reduce itchiness, redness, cracking, and thickening of the skin. In particular, many of our community members say that applying a moisturizer immediately after bathing helps them to lock-in moisture and prevent dryness. To be most effective, you should apply moisturizers several times throughout the day, especially after a bath or shower.
#4 Try Some Oil
“I just bought [apricot kernel oil], warm it a little and rub it on”
“Baby oil/olive oil/oil of some type in your shower routine”
Like lotions, creams, and ointments, some community members find that moisturizing oils help them to soothe dry, cracked skin. Compared to other moisturizers, some people find that oils last longer and are more hydrating. In addition to the oils suggested by our community members, some patients also use essential oils, such as lavender, castor, tea tree, peppermint, and argan oils.4 Before adding any products or oils to your skincare routine, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider.
#5 Coconut Products
“Coconut products…moisturize moisturize moisturize”
“I buy organic [coconut oil] and put it right on my skin 2x a day. Only thing that works for me.”
As their preferred lotion or oil, many of our community members use coconut-based products to keep their skin strong and smooth. In particular, coconut oil is very effective in reducing the symptoms of scalp psoriasis. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a fatty acid which works by reducing inflammation.5 Coconut oil also helps the skin to repair wounds6, making it a natural (and pleasant-smelling!) remedy for cracks and dryness.
Lip Balm- Not Just For Lips
“SO many tubes of chapstick. I buy extra to make up for the ones that I forget in my pocket and end up in the dryer.”
“I thought I was the only one that used chapstick for unconventional reasons. It works better on my dry and splitting fingertips than vitamin D or any moisturizer I have ever found…I will rub chapstick all over both hands especially my fingers and nails areas at bedtime.”
For many community members, portable lip balms (such as “Chapstick”, “Nivea”, and “Burt’s Bees”) are the best remedy for winter dryness. Lip balm is a relatively inexpensive remedy, and according to our community members, can be applied on almost any skin dryness, including the lips, fingertips, cuticles, and nose. Especially for people with psoriasis, heavy scents and perfumes can irritate dry skin, so purchase lip balms that are unscented, all-natural, or perfume-free. If your lip balm always ends-up rolling around in the dryer or lost in the bottom of your car, try the below recipe for a 10 minute DIY lip balm.
You will need
- 3 Tbsp. Beeswax Pellets
- 2 Tbsp. Shea Butter
- 4 Tbsp. Coconut Oil (If you don’t like coconut oil, you can use olive oil)
- In a microwave-safe bowl melt the beeswax, shea butter, and coconut oil. It can be helpful to melt each ingredient in 30-second intervals. Make sure to stir it well after you add each one in to make sure they are fully mixed.
- Pour the mixture (very carefully) into small tubes or small containers (you can buy these at a craft store).
- Let the mixture cool before you use it.
#7 Visit Warmer Climates
“Go to a warm island if you can afford to”
“I moved to a warmer environment in my thirties…I try to no longer live in an area where cold weather is a normal…If you’re in a position to do so, move.”
Because limited sun exposure, low humidity, and cold temperatures tend to worsen psoriasis symptoms1, some of our community members avoid winter temperatures all together! If you struggle with cold climates, you may find that a winter vacation to somewhere hot and humid can reduce skin dryness and other psoriasis symptoms. To improve their psoriasis, some community members have even moved to warmer climates permanently, so if you’re thinking about a move, see if this is an option for you!
To combat the effects of harsh winter weather, our community members rely on a variety of skin-soothing strategies from coconut oil to exercise. If you’re struggling with dry, cracked skin, consider trying one of these DIY ideas, or talk to your healthcare provider about the other treatment options that may be available to you. No matter what strategies you choose, let us know what works, and connect with the plaque psoriasis community for more ideas!