How to Maintain an Active Lifestyle With Psoriasis

Don't let psoriasis keep you indoors.

A woman on a stand-up paddle board.

Updated on September 1, 2023

If you're one of the approximately 7.5 million Americans with psoriasis, you know how harsh weather can aggravate your condition. Extreme temperatures, dry air, and blazing sunlight—or just as bad, minimal sunlight—can irritate existing outbreaks and contribute to new patches of itchy scales.

Happily, a psoriasis diagnosis doesn't mean you have to stay inside forever. With these smart strategies, you can enjoy the outdoors and help prevent flares year-round.

Figure out your triggers

Generally, psoriasis gets better in warm summer months, and worse in colder ones. One 2021 Chinese study published in Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology found that more than half of those with psoriasis experienced worsened disease during winter. People who spent more time in the sun during colder seasons were less likely to have flare-ups.

To determine whether—and how badly—your psoriasis is affected by meteorological conditions, the National Psoriasis Foundation suggests keeping a record of your flare-ups. Note your symptoms and where rashes occur on your body, as well as details about the day outside.

In summer

Summer is prime time for people with psoriasis to go out and play, thanks largely to lots of sunlight. In moderate doses, it slows the overproduction of skin cells, key in battling outbreaks.

Sunburn, however, is a different story. It exacerbates psoriasis, and when serious enough to break skin, can cause the Koebner phenomenon, where new rashes appear at the injured site. 

To strike a balance between helpful sun exposure and harmful sunburn, consult a healthcare provider (HCP). They may give you a sunning schedule—5 to 30 minutes per day, a few days per week, for example—and can tell you whether your psoriasis medications might increase the chance of being burned. You should always apply sunblock on exposed areas unaffected by flare-ups.

Another big reason summer is great for people with psoriasis: humidity, which keeps skin moist and soothes itchiness. Applying moisturizer after showers and swimming can help lock in this moisture; just be sure to rinse off first, so pool chemicals or salt don't irritate your condition.

While humidity is primarily a positive for psoriasis sufferers, it can bring on the bugs. To protect against insect bites, which can trigger the Koebner phenomenon, wear a DEET-free repellent and light, long clothes in the evening.

In winter

Frigid weather presents two main problems for people with psoriasis: cold, dry air and lack of sunlight. To counter the lack of moisture in the atmosphere, experts suggest:

  • Using a humidifier indoors
  • Avoiding long, hot showers and bathing less frequently, if possible
  • Wearing natural fibers like cotton, and avoiding fabrics that might cause irritation, like wool
  • Moisturizing as much as you can

Thick lotions, creams, oils, and petroleum-based jellies lock in your body's natural moisture, and should be applied after bathing and before bed, though any time is fine unless specified otherwise. Your HCP might prescribe a special moisturizer for psoriasis, or you can opt for an over-the-counter product. 

A lack of sunlight can be tougher to address, thanks to shorter days and bitter cold. One research-backed solution is phototherapy, in which a health care provider doses a psoriasis patient with UVB (ultraviolet light) rays. It can eventually reduce redness and itch. HCPs may prescribe a UVB unit for home use, depending on costs and proximity to treatment.

Year-round practices

Whatever the season, a healthy lifestyle goes a long way towards keeping psoriasis in check. To help tame flare-ups, you should:

  • Eat a balanced, wholesome diet and drink lots of water
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Reduce stress as much as you can
  • Exercise

Working out is particularly beneficial, since it reduces the risk of developing concurrent health problems like heart disease and diabetes, which occur at higher rates in people with psoriasis. A fitness regimen can also help those with psoriatic arthritis—affecting up to 30 percent of the psoriatic population—by keeping joints flexible and reducing inflammation. The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends swimming, walking, and tai chi among other outdoor exercises.

Article sources open article sources

American Academy of Dermatology Association. Skin Conditions By the Numbers. Accessed August 30, 2023.
National Psoriasis Foundation. Causes and Triggers. Last updated December 21, 2022.
National Psoriasis Foundation. Taking Care of Your Skin in Summer. July 1, 2020.
American Academy of Dermatology Association. Are Triggers Causing Your Psoriasis Flare-Ups? Accessed August 30, 2023.
Zheng X, Wang Q, Luo Y, et al. Seasonal Variation of Psoriasis and Its Impact in the Therapeutic Management: A Retrospective Study on Chinese Patients. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2021 May 10;14:459-465. 
Li Y, Cao Z, Guo J, et al. Assessment of efficacy and safety of UV-based therapy for psoriasis: a network meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Ann Med. 2022 Dec;54(1):159-169. 
DermNet. Koebner phenomenon. March 2014.
American College of Rheumatology. Psoriasis and the Sun – Helpful or Harmful? August 17, 2023.
New York State Department of Health. Deet Tips: For Proper Protection. Accessed August 30, 2023.
National Psoriasis Foundation. Must-Have Lotions. Accessed August 30, 2023.
Wong T, Hsu L, Liao W. Phototherapy in psoriasis: a review of mechanisms of action. J Cutan Med Surg. 2013 Jan-Feb;17(1):6-12.
Armstrong AW, Read C. Pathophysiology, Clinical Presentation, and Treatment of Psoriasis: A Review. JAMA. 2020 May 19;323(19):1945-1960.
Stern RS, Liebman EJ, Väkevä L. Oral psoralen and ultraviolet-A light (PUVA) treatment of psoriasis and persistent risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer. PUVA Follow-up Study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1998 Sep 2;90(17):1278-84. 
Walter K. Psoriasis. JAMA. 2022;327(19):1936. doi:10.1001/jama.2022.5270
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep and Sleep Disorders: Are You Getting Enough Sleep? Last reviewed September 19, 2022.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Psoriasis. Page last reviewed August 18, 2020.
National Psoriasis Foundation. Living With Psoriatic Arthritis. Accessed August 30, 2023.

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