Treating psoriasis can be tricky business. While there are a number of effective options out there—like topicals, UV light, and biologics—according to Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Connecticut, successfully getting rid of flare-ups is just as much about what you don't do to your complexion as what you do to it.
Psoriasis is characterized as an inflammatory skin condition that shows up in scaly patches that occur primarily on "high-pressure" areas, like your scalp, elbows, and buttocks (though it's worth noting that these patches can show up anywhere). In the latest episode of Dear Derm, Dr. Gohara breaks down exactly what goes into a solid psoriasis-fighting routine. To avoid flare-ups, she suggests staying away from anything that might cause irritation to the skin, and one of the main culprits, according to her, is fragrance.
"Fragrances, as much as we love them, can act as skin irritants in many situations," says Dr. Gohara. "So particularly when we have inflammatory skin conditions, such as psoriasis we want to make sure that the skin barrier remains intact and isn’t irritated so it can do its job in fortifying our skin and keeping it protected from further inflammation."
A note to this end: Some beauty products contain "masking fragrances" that are added to formulas to disguise chemical scents. This means that even products that say "unscented" on the label can contain fragrance. To ensure that you're reaching for a bottle without fragrance, make sure your formula says that it's fragrance free.
In addition to watching out for rogue scents, you'll also want to take a discerning eye to the sudsy formula you use to clean your face and body. "When we scrub our skin with harsh soaps or cleansers or rub really hard, it makes room for psoriasis to come out more," says Dr. Gohara. To avoid this, she recommends using oil-based cleansers because they effectively remove makeup, dirt, and grime without needing to rub skin too hard, which means they'll help you avoid friction and irritation.
Of course, this is only the beginning of your psoriasis treatment program. To find out how to craft a full regimen, check out the video above.
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