Chronic psoriasis can be particularly taxing during the winter months, but several remedies can grant you relief from an outbreak.

Cold weather can wreak havoc on your skin. If you’re one of the 7.5 million Americans living with psoriasisa chronic, non-contagious disease of the immune system that causes the skin to crack, itch and bleed. Winter is the most challenging season.

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, psoriasis is the most common autoimmune disease in the country, appearing most frequently on the scalp, knees, elbows and torso. Dry air, decreased sunlight and colder temperatures contribute to psoriasis flares. Additionally, holiday stress and winter illnesses such as flu and strep throat can trigger psoriasis. Following these tips may help you deal with an outbreak.

Moisturize to reduce redness and itching

Creams and ointments are thicker and more hydrating than lotions, and they lock in more moisture to the skin. Aim for fragrance-free products or those designed for sensitive skin to avoid irritation. Experts say its best to apply moisturizers to damp skin immediately after a shower.

Bathe or shower in lukewarm, not hot, water

Hot water dries out skin and can worsen itching. Cutting down on showers is best in the winter, when indoor air is dryer. If possible, try to limit yourself to one shower a day and use soap for sensitive skin. Products with oil, oatmeal, Dead Sea salts or Epsom salts can help remove psoriasis plaques.

Ease stress

Stress is a known trigger for psoriasis. Find something you like that relaxes you, such as reading a good book or taking a long walk. The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends relaxation and stress-reduction techniques like meditation and yoga to help manage the disease. Be sure to talk with your doctor about any alternative treatments.

Consider phototherapy

Phototherapy, or light therapy, may be helpful in the winter. It exposes the skin to ultraviolet light B (UVB), which is beneficial for psoriasis. Treatments are done in a doctor’s office or with a home phototherapy unit prescribed by a dermatologist.

Wear soft layers
People with psoriasis often experience itching and discomfort with certain clothing. A layer of silk or cotton as an undergarment beneath uncomfortable garments can help relieve itching. Undergarments can also protect your clothing from messy psoriasis treatments such as topical ointments. Additionally, try to avoid wool and synthetic fibers that can irritate skin.

Improve your treatment plan

A simple adjustment to your medicine or doses may help relieve symptoms. Talk with your doctor if your psoriasis worsens in the winter.

Additional information about psoriasis and treatments is available from the National Psoriasis Foundation at psoriasis.org.

Dr. Andy Robertson, Ph.D., joined the National Psoriasis Foundation in 2012 as its chief scientific and medical officer. With more than 20 years of biomedical, life science and academic research experience in his background, Dr. Robertson oversees all of the Foundations research activities and guides the strategic leadership of its science and medical programs. He received his Bachelor of Arts in biology from the University of California, San Diego and his doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.