The Sun and Psoriasis - What You Need to Know
Psoriasis is a common, chronic, non-contagious, recurring skin condition that usually takes the form of itchy, red, scaly, well-defined, thickened patches of varying sizes. These patches may appear on a small area of your body or may be very extensive, and any part of the skin on your body and on your nails can be affected. Normally the time between manufacturing and shedding skin cells is about 28 days. In psoriasis, however, this process occurs about 7 times faster; the outer cells are poorly formed and don't shed properly and they tend to pile up on the skin producing the scale. For more information, visit Psoriasis Guide.ca.
Many people who suffer from psoriasis dread the summer months because they don't want to reveal any more of their skin than they absolutely have to. They would rather wear long-sleeved polo necked shirts and long pants or leggings even in the hottest temperatures, and they never sunbathe.
But actually, one of the forms of ultraviolet light given off by the sun, UVB light, can help your psoriasis! UVB does encourage skin cancers in part by reducing your immune activity in the skin. It's the UVB light that causes your skin to burn, and it's this reddening effect that occurs right after sun exposure that can help to heal your psoriasis. Keep in mind, though, that too much UVB can burn your skin and that can cause your psoriasis to flare. The sun also produces UVA light which can cause wrinkles, making you look older than your really are, and can also increase your risk of skin cancer. So you really need to take care even if you do find that sunshine helps your skin. You are at highest risk if you have fair or red hair and your skin does not tan easily. There's more information about psoriasis and sunscreens.
It is very important to use a sunscreen to protect the unaffected areas of your body to prevent skin damaged and skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the following steps for using sunscreen on skin that is unaffected by psoriasis:
- Wear a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
- Use sunscreen every day if you are going to be in the sun for more than 20 minutes.
- Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15-30 minutes before going outdoors.
- When applying sunscreen, generously coat the skin and pay particular attention to your face, ears, hands and arms.
- Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours or right after swimming or strenuous activity.
- Don't forget to wear sunglasses that filter UVA and UVB rays.
If you want to try spending time in the sunshine to improve your psoriasis, experts recommend sunbathing at least 3 times/week and keeping a record of what time of day and for how long you are exposed to the sun. To get the most from the sun, give all affected areas equal and adequate exposure, but avoid overexposure. Be aware that it can take several weeks or longer to see any improvement, and it's a good idea to see your dermatologist regularly to monitor your skin for sun damage.
For more information about treating your psoriasis, consult your doctor and go to www.PsoriasisGuide.ca