Psoriasis is a skin condition which disrupts the growth-replacement cycle of skin cells. In normally functioning skin our cells develop in the inner layers and migrate to the outer layer over the space of about a month, when they flake off. With psoriasis, however, the process is sped up so much that it only takes a few days. The cells don't shed fast enough, so they build up on the surface of the skin. This is the reason behind the thick, scaly skin caused by psoriasis, which we most often see on the scalp, elbows, knuckles, and knees.
Although psoriasis can be hugely uncomfortable and frustrating, there are small changes you can make to your daily routine that can promote healing in the affected areas and calm the flare-ups. None of these tips require medication or significant expense.
1) Keep your skin moisturised. WebMD advises this is the most effective strategy for controlling psoriasis and reducing the itching, soreness and scaling. Remember that there are a range of moisturisers available to suit different levels of skin dryness. Try to avoid fragranced moisturisers, or ideally find an inexpensive natural product. The chemicals in some skin products can inflame the symptoms of psoriasis.
2) Cut back on meat and dairy. Prevention suggests cutting back on proteins derived from meat and dairy products, which have been linked to psoriasis flare-ups.
3) Increase your fish oils. If you do choose to cut back on meat and dairy, then fish is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, according to Prevention. Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important because they have potent anti-inflammatory properties which can settle your skin. Try to aim for cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring. If you're not able to get enough fish in your diet then make sure you're getting adequate protein from other sources and take fish-oil supplements.
4) Avoid alcohol. Like it or not, studies have shown a link between alcohol consumption and psoriasis flare-ups, according to Healthline. The same goes for smoking cigarettes - it's time to give them up.
5) Soak in a warm bath. As simple as it sounds, WebMD explains that this is an effective treatment for sore, inflamed skin. You can try adding oils, oatmeal or Epsom salts to your bathwater, but make sure that you keep the temperature mild and don't use any heavily scented soaps. Pat dry and then moisturise immediately. Don't have time for baths? You can soak a towel in warm water and use it as a compress on the worst affected areas.
6) Look at your clothes. Be aware of what you've been wearing when you have flare-ups - some fabrics and knits can irritate the skin badly. WebMD advises against wearing wool or mohair. Laundry soap and fabric softeners can also be irritants - try experimenting with natural recipes for laundry soap, or at least opt for products with minimal fragrance.
7) Try aloe vera. Prevention notes that a Swedish study showed 83% of people who used aloe cream experienced significant relief in their psoriasis symptoms. You can buy creams and gels containing aloe vera at the pharmacy, but if you plan to use it long-term then you might consider growing aloe in your own garden.
8) Stress less. Studies have shown that stress makes psoriasis worse, and you may be able to soothe your symptoms just by lowering your anxiety, according to WebMD. It's easier said than done, but try taking steps towards lessening your worries. Yoga and meditation are very effective ways of managing stress, and it's always good to build a support system of people around you who understand the issue you're experiencing.
The redness, itching and scale caused by psoriasis can be hugely uncomfortable, but there are natural ways that you can try to relieve it. Try logging the changes you make to see if they have any impact on your symptoms, and stick with the ones that work.