Living with Psoriasis; My Journey of Healing and Managing a Lifelong Skin Condition
By Ariana Watson
I’ve lived with psoriasis my entire life and have many memories from childhood where I always had a patch of red, itchy skin on the back of my leg.
Sensitive skin runs in the family, so my parents never thought much about it and figured it would eventually go away. It did sometimes, but every few months it would resurface in the same spot.
It was never particularly painful. Uncomfortable? Yes. Did it make me self conscious? Also yes, but it was always manageable.
It wasn’t until middle school that my rash worsened. The rash on the back of my leg disappeared, reappearing on my hand in full force. The rash took up the back of my entire left hand. It was sensitive, cracked, bled, and was incredibly painful.
After a few weeks of the rash worsening, my mom finally took me to the dermatologist and it was diagnosed as psoriasis.
I was prescribed a steroid cream and told to lower my stress levels. My dermatologist explained to me that psoriasis is an autoimmune disease and though I could heal the rashes on my skin, the condition would always be underlying and permanent.
It felt a bit depressing to have a medical professional tell me that what was ailing me could never fully be cured. I felt like I was never going to get better. It was also a different time, where the internet was alive, but not nearly as accessible as it is today. I wasn’t told back then that diet, sunshine and exercise could be so beneficial to healing my skin, and I didn’t have the resources then to discover that on my own.
Luckily, the steroid cream I was prescribed worked wonders, and within a few months the rash had completely disappeared.
Every now and then throughout high school and college I would get a small flair up, but I could always apply the prescribed cream and the rash would settle.
In 2019, I experienced a bad flare up, and a steroid cream wasn’t the only thing that could help it this time.
I was under insurmountable stress, which caused my most recent psoriasis flare up to be the most intense and dramatic. No longer located on just a small patch on my hand, it covered my entire body.
I researched skin care solutions to treat psoriasis and how to prevent it from getting worse. I looked up success stories of people who suffer from psoriasis and for patterns in how it was caused and cured. I looked up lifestyle habits, diets, lotions, and anything I could think of.
Based on my own findings and testing on myself, here’s what I’ve found to be some of the common things that can relieve psoriasis, and what can trigger flare ups:
- No processed foods. My rash always worse the day after eating fried or overly processed meals.
- No refined sugars. The more sugar I had in my diet, the worse my rash became. Limiting sugar has 100% helped my skin’s redness and itchiness.
- Extra carby foods in moderation, such as muffins, breads, etc. Focus more on whole grains instead.
- No alcohol. Even after one drink I could feel my psoriasis begin to throb. Studies have shown that consuming alcohol during a flare up creates a negative impact on the existing condition.
- No dairy. Dairy is one of the first foods recommended to be cut when working through skin issues, it certainly helped me.
- Get plenty of sunshine and time outside. Vitamin D is proven to help sooth flare ups.
- Take warm epsom salt baths and right afterwards, apply a lotion or body oil to the affected skin to lock in moisture.
- Get a prescription for a steroid cream if possible. The ointment did dramatically help to clear up my rashes. However, it does tend to thin the skin, so I don’t like to use it anymore unless my rash seems like it’s really getting out of control.
- Use Camille Beckman Unscented Glycerine Hand Therapy. The lotion is incredibly gentle on sensitive skin, and has soothed the rash on my hands, elbows and legs. The unscented version is best for helping ease skin conditions.
- Get enough sleep. Interrupted or shortened sleep cycles sleep can increase stress levels, as it may not always allow your body to get into deep, REM sleep.
- Above all else, monitoring stress levels was the biggest factor in my healing. Everyone has their own triggers, but for me, I found that eating whole, unprocessed foods, reducing alcohol consumption and getting a good night’s rest all reduced my stress levels.
I can’t help that I was born with this disease. Autoimmune diseases are considered to be incurable. My psoriasis can lay dormant for years and choose to come back whenever it wants. I have no way of knowing if or when that will happen. But what I do have control over are the actions I can take to lower my stress levels for mind, body and skin.