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The Science of Skin Care: Psoriasis

Learn about the triggers and treatments for psoriasis.
Learn about the triggers and treatments for psoriasis.

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, psoriasis is the most common autoimmune disease, affecting over seven million Americans. People with psoriasis suffer from more than just red, itchy, scaly patches on their skin. Their quality of life may be negatively affected because of the social implications and other health issues associated with the disease. Understanding the disease may help psoriasis sufferers get effective treatment and help those who do not have psoriasis create a more supportive community.

Types and Symptoms of Psoriasis

Approximately 80% of the total population of people with psoriasis have plaque psoriasis. Symptoms include inflamed red, itchy, silvery scaly patches, usually on the knees, elbows, scalp and lower back.

The remaining 20% of psoriasis sufferers experience one of the other four less common types of psoriasis:

  • Guttate—small, individual red spots, usually on the torso, arms and legs
  • Inverse—bright red, shiny, smooth lesions, usually in skin folds like armpits, groin and under breasts
  • Pustular—white (non-infectious) pus-filled blisters surrounded by red, often localized or all over the body
  • Erythrodermic—periodic outbreaks of fiery redness and scale shedding in sheets

All types of psoriasis range from mild to severe, depending on the amount of the body affected by the disease.

Causes, Contributing Factors and Triggers

Psoriasis is a non-contagious disease attributed to an overactive immune system that recognizes healthy skin cells as a threat. As a result, the body produces and attempts to shed mature skin cells much faster than normal.

Normal skin cell turnover generally takes 28 to 30 days. For those with psoriasis, new cells are produced and pushed to the surface about every three to four days. Because the body cannot shed skin cells that quickly, layers of skin cells form a plaque on the surface.

Although the exact cause of psoriasis is not known, genetics are likely a factor. Environmental factors may also trigger an outbreak and/or exacerbate symptoms. Common triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Skin injury
  • Infection
  • Some medications
  • Cold weather
  • Smoking
  • Heavy drinking

Because psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory condition, it often contributes to inflammation in the joints, resulting in psoriatic arthritis.

Treatment Options

Psoriasis may be treated both internally and externally. A dermatologist may prescribe topical, oral or injection medications to soothe and suppress symptom outbreaks. Phototherapy, exposure to artificial UV radiation, may also ease symptoms. However, phototherapy should not be confused with indoor tanning. This treatment method should only be done under the care (and in the clinic) of a health care professional.

Psoriasis sufferers can also practice at-home care by using skin care practices and products that do not irritate their sensitive skin. Everyday cleansing should be done with lukewarm water to prevent inflammation induced by broken capillaries (a common response to water that is too hot or too cold). Regular gentle exfoliation and products that encourage natural cell turnover may help reduce plaque buildup. However, harsh scrubs and too-frequent exfoliation should be avoided.

Keeping skin hydrated will help alleviate discomfort and boost skin’s resilience to environmental stressors. For psoriasis sufferers, we recommend Soft Finishing Moisturizer with lipid-rich kukui nut oil, to soothe itchy, inflamed skin. If you would like to see how your skin responds to Soft Finishing Moisturizer, please contact us for a free sample.

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