A model-like woman sitting in a bathing suit on the side of a pool. Her skin is textured and cracking.

Swimming with Psoriasis

Last updated: July 2020

Going swimming during a psoriasis flare has to be up there when it comes to anxiety about being confronted in public. As a regular swimmer before my pregnancy, I didn’t give swimming much thought when I left the changing rooms.

It was only after leaving somewhere hot, like the sauna or steam room, where the heat has pulled blood to the surface of my skin generating unwanted glowing beacons along with my limbs. This is because, before my pregnancy, my psoriasis plaques were flat, scale-free, and pale.

Stress about swimming with psoriasis

I find that in times like these, I am my own worst enemy. It is my own thoughts that tend to cause the most stress, so before I went into the pool I used a few techniques to reign myself in.

I read a book once that said people are one of two types. The people who don’t think about what can go wrong and the people who think of every eventuality. I am definitely the latter and if I don’t think through how I would respond to each of those situations then my anxiousness for an event goes through the roof.

So I thought through what I would do if the lifeguard challenged me, a swimmer challenged me, a swimmer casually asked what was ‘wrong’ with my skin.

I also considered what I would say if someone approached me in the changing rooms. Armed with my arsenal of ‘comebacks’ to the challenges I was nervous about I felt a lot more confident.

Preparing to swim with psoriasis

Getting changed I felt myself feeling increasingly wary, not helped by the fact I was in a cubicle in a mixed changing room with a baby - who draws extra attention from passers-by. Understandably.

I had a positive chat with myself about my appearance and my skin. I took a few deep breaths and then emerged.

Moisturizing may seem odd to do before the pool, but if I’m swimming in a morning, I might put an emollient on when I get up.

This helps reduce the scaling, which I think draws less attention to my skin. This comes with the added bonus if it’s an oil-based emollient of protecting my skin from the chlorine to some extent by creating a barrier.

I don’t apply moisturizer before getting into the pool as it washes off and can leave a grease mark floating in the water which is not cool at all.

Hiding my skin from others at the pool

The faster you get your body into the water the better. At least for me, it reduces the time it takes for someone to notice me.

This includes completing the pre-swim rinse under the public shower as fast as possible. On this occasion though, I walked out of the shower - with my back (where my psoriasis is worst) - facing the wall.

A woman walks past and smiles. So far so good. Then a man walks past and stops to remark on the Elsa costume my baby is wearing - which matches those covering his daughters who run behind me. He has seen my skin, but there’s no obvious response.

Anxieties about the pool and what others think

I am in the baby and toddler pool when the man from the changing room enters the bathing area with his two young daughters. I am inwardly cringing. I have decided in my mind that if he gets into the toddler pool with me, then he has accepted my skin.

I have also, against common sense, decided that if he gets into the regular pool, then he has rejected me because of my skin.

Nothing to do with teaching his daughters to swim, it would be all about me and my insecurities. I know its massively irrational but I can’t help myself. He gets into the toddler pool.

I have been accepted. I chastise myself for my mental behavior and then try not to do the exact same thing when a mum leaves the changing area with her two-year-old son. There is another thing I have to be aware of when I am in the pool, and that’s rubbing off dead skin.

I know that may sound a bit gross - but I soak my skin in the bath to clear away dead skin and I find myself doing this without realizing when adequately moist. Like in the steam room.

Finding confidence in my skin

I have written before about the changing rooms at my pool. I wrote about practicing being naked in public in preparation for my visit to a naked spa.

I don’t know where this confidence has gone. Maybe it has dissipated with the increase in body mass postpartum or the lack of holiday enthusiasm.

All I know is that I walked as quickly as possible into a private showering cubicle and smiled at the relief that swim session one had gone well. Now I have a positive experience to use in my positive self-talk next time I come to swim.

And I should, with a weak, untoned postpartum body, and what feels like psoriatic arthritis flaring in my fingers, swimming is an ideal way to work my way back to being physically fit.

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