Working out seems to irritate my psoriasis. What can I do?
Exercise is essential for good health and keeping psoriasis symptoms under control. But fears of a flare or having skin lesions noticed can hold some people back from a vigorous workout. Also, sweating can increase skin irritation if you have inverse psoriasis, which strikes the armpits, groin and other tender areas.
Don't let your psoriasis prevent you from getting the exercise you need to thrive. By taking a few steps to prevent friction, chafing and infection, you can stay active and keep your skin healthy.
April 02, 2019
- Check your clothing. Choose lightweight workout wear that wicks away moisture and lets your skin breathe. This reduces the risk of skin irritation. Fabrics such as cotton and viscose can be good options.
- Moisturize, especially before swimming. Chlorine can strip skin of essential moisture, causing irritation. Choose a thick, rich moisturizing cream or ointment. Petroleum jelly is an inexpensive, effective option.
- Use care when doing wall squats or other exercises that involve repetitively rubbing against something. Even the tiniest scrape, scratch and other skin injury can trigger psoriasis flares in some people. This is called the Koebner phenomenon.
- Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated prevents dry skin. A good goal is to drink at least half your body weight, in ounces, of water every day. For example, if you weigh 120 pounds, you'd drink about 60 ounces of water daily.
- Exercise outdoors, if possible. Ultraviolet light can heal psoriasis lesions, but too much can trigger a flare. Always use sunscreen when going outside.
- Take a short shower after your workout. Sweat and germs can make your skin itchy and irritated. Use warm, not hot, water — hot water causes dry skin and more itching. Gently pat dry skin. Limit showers to five to 10 minutes.
See more Expert Answers
- Bolognia JL, et al., eds. Psoriasis. In: Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2018. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 3, 2019.
- Zheng Q, et al. Association between physical activity and risk of prevalent psoriasis. Medicine. 2018;97:e11394.
- Common exercise mistakes everyone makes. National Psoriasis Foundation. https://www.psoriasis.org/advance/common-exercise-mistakes-everyone-makes. Accessed March 3, 2019.
- Frequently asked questions: Psoriasis in spring, summer, fall and winter. National Psoriasis Foundation. https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/faqs/weather. Accessed March 3, 2019.
- Managing itch. National Psoriasis Foundation. https://www.psoriasis.org/life-with-psoriasis/managing-itchAccessed March 3, 2019.
- Inverse psoriasis. National Psoriasis Foundation. https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/types/inverse. Accessed March 3, 2019.
- 8 ways to stop baths and showers from worsening your psoriasis. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/scaly-skin/psoriasis/tips-for-managing-psoriasis/8-ways-to-stop-baths-and-showers-from-worsening-psoriasis. Accessed March 12, 2019.