Your skin is completely waterproof; it protects your insides, and its self repairing. Forget nylon, and other “miracle” fabrics – your skin puts them all to shame.
We think of the skin as being invariable, but in fact it’s changing all the time. Every day individual skin cells grow, die, fall off, and then are replaced by new cells. This process generally lasts about four weeks. When you have psoriasis, however, the entire process is accelerated. Skin cells go through their life cycles in four days instead of a month. The cells aren’t formed quite right, so they don’t shed as quickly as they’re supposed to. As a result, cells pile up, forming dry, red, scaly patches, especially on the elbows, scalp, knees, or torso.
Doctors still don’t know what causes psoriasis. It is known to have a hereditary link, and the immune system may be involved as well. It isn’t contagious and it isn’t dangerous, but it can be unsightly. It also tends to get worse during times of stress or when the skin gets dry and irritated.
In addition, there are things you can do at home to keep the flare ups from taking over.
Soak up some sun . Nearly everyone with psoriasis tries to spend at least a few minutes a day in the sun. Research has shown that sunlight is very effective for reducing skin inflammation and scaling. If you live in a chilly northern clime and are not able to bask in the sun’s rays, your doctor could recommend that you treat your skin with artificial rays from a special lamp or a tanning booth.
Keep your skin moist . Using moisturizer on a regular basis is essential when you have psoriasis. You don’t have to use anything fancy. Many people find that dabbing on a little petroleum jelly can help prevent skin cells from building up. Moisturizers that contain lactic acid can also be very effective. Moisturizers work best when they’re applied right after bathing or showering, doctors say, because they help lock in moisture.
Make a soothing bath . Taking a long bath can soothe the itch of psoriasis temporarily, but it also dries out the skin. Doctors often advise adding a little colloidal oatmeal to the water, which will help your skin stay softer.
Mix some relief. During psoriasis flare ups the skin can get extraordinarily itchy. For quick relief, mix about a quarter cup of baking soda in a few quarts of water. Soak a towel in the mixture, wring it out, and apply it to your skin for a soothing compress. Adding vinegar instead of baking soda to the water will also calm the itch.
Don’t drink alcohol . Doctors aren’t sure why, but drinking alcohol often makes psoriasis worse. For some people, in fact, even a drink or two can put the skin into an uproar. You may want to try drinking less or even stop entirely for a few weeks to see if your symptoms improve.