If you’re one of the 7.5 million Americans living with psoriasis, you know that there isn’t a cure yet. You know that symptoms can be better, or worse, at certain times. Since it’s a chronic condition, you will experience flare-ups and remissions. These flare-ups lead to thick, silvery scales that become uncomfortable.
While there are treatment options available, including topical solutions, there is one natural treatment that has shown to yield positive results — the sun. This natural remedy can help keep your skin cells from growing too quickly, resulting in patches.
Why Sunlight Is Good For Psoriasis?
Psoriasis plaques occur because too many cells accumulate on your skin’s surface. Your immune system plays a role in this. Normally, skin cells come to the surface every 28 to 30 days. In psoriasis, these cells are replaced every three to four days. As the skin cells shed, they form welts, or plaques, that can be itchy and painful.
Research shows that sun exposure has immunosuppressive effects on the skin, which can slow the rate of skin growth and shedding. This is because of the sun’s ultraviolet rays: UVA and UVB. Some people may notice their symptoms completely disappear during the summer, or when they visit warmer climates. This is the basis of phototherapy, which uses either natural or synthetic lights. Artificial UVB light is administered in a more controlled setting. While research shows improvement of psoriasis with UV light by reducing inflammation and production of skin cells, it’s important to note that other possible mechanisms, such as stress reductions, may have also played a role.
Not only does sunlight target psoriasis symptoms, but it also allows the body to produce more vitamin D. Since this essential vitamin helps reduce inflammation throughout the body, it can help clear or prevent psoriasis plaques. As reported in this psoriasis study, psoriasis patients are often deficient in vitamin D, especially in the winter months.
That is why, in addition to getting more sunlight, you should consume more:
- Tuna or salmon.
- Fortified milk and orange juice.
- Egg yolks.
Although vitamin D deficiency doesn’t cause psoriasis, it may impair the body’s ability to keep your skin healthy.
If you want to learn more about psoriasis, read this guide: Psoriasis Treatment and Information.
How Much Sun?
Although sunlight can help improve symptoms of psoriasis, you can get too much of a “good” thing. You need to protect yourself against damaging sunburns, which increases your risk of skin cancer. Since psoriasis generally affects light-skinned people, these individuals are at a higher risk of getting a sunburn. Unlike phototherapy, sunbathing isn’t done within a medical setting. That is why most health experts suggest starting with just 10 minutes of exposure around noon.
Certain medications and supplements can increase your sensitivity to the sun. Depending on your situation, you can typically increase your exposure by 30 seconds per day. Work with your physician to develop a sun exposure plan that works for you.
Regardless of how long you’re in the sun, you should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen on all areas not affected by psoriasis. You should also wear sunglasses.
Bottom line: It is important to increase your exposure to sunlight slowly and set limits. This will help prevent any damage to your skin, which could actually do more harm than good.
Can Psoriasis Become Worse with Sunlight
Although sunlight can improve symptoms of psoriasis, the opposite effect is also possible. Too much sun can lead to a major outbreak.
If you stay in the sun too long and get a sunburn, this can lead to a severe flare-up. Any physical trauma to the skin can cause a new area of psoriasis to develop. Also be mindful of scrapes, bruises, bug bites, and rashes, such as poison ivy or oak.
UVA light penetrates deep into your skin, which is why some people tan when regularly exposed to sunlight. However, too much UVA can damage your skin, causing age spots and wrinkles.
The same is true regarding UVB light, as it can cause a bad sunburn. Not only can this trigger psoriasis, but repeated sunburns can increase your risk of skin cancer.
If you are concerned about prolonged sun exposure, discuss your options related to artificial light exposure. In some cases, doctors will treat psoriasis with UVA rays instead of UVB. UVA rays penetrate your skin more deeply. However, these rays are not effective when used alone. That is why you may also need to take medication that increases the effectiveness of this treatment option. This combined treatment is known as PUVA therapy. This is recommended for treatment of moderate to severe plaque psoriasis.
Begin a Moisturizing Skincare Regimen
In addition to increasing your sun exposure, it’s important to keep your skin well lubricated. Dry skin will make you more susceptible to outbreaks, which is why you need to invest in a quality lotion such as Cutar Emulsion – Psoriasis Lotion. To help reduce your risk of outbreaks, moisturize every day, especially after bathing.
Although it’s important that you moisturize daily, be especially diligent during the winter months.
There are specially formulated gels that help exfoliate dry, scaly skin, including Keralyt Gel 5%.