Does Psoriasis Become Worse in Hot or Cold Weather?

Fact checked by Olga Sadouskaya, MD
Clinical Pharmacologist, Chief Medical Officer

You may be familiar with the term “psoriasis,” as many people have the skin disease and have to cope with it daily. This condition usually arises through red, itchy patches that may appear scaly.

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a common disease that typically appears on the scalp, elbows, torso, and/or knees. Although there is no cure, there are many treatments available that can help you control the following symptoms:

  • Cracked, dry skin
  • Scaly, red patches
  • Stiff and swollen joints
  • Pitted or loosened nails

Psoriasis has many different forms, with different names depending on the location, symptoms, and treatment. Identifying which form you have can help you better understand how to lessen any discomfort.

Types of psoriasis

Erythrodermic psoriasis

While it is the least common type of psoriasis, this form can be intense and sometimes painful. It can cover the whole body in a red rash that may peel, itch, or burn.

Guttate psoriasis

This form appears on the arms, legs, and torso in smaller drop-shaped lesions. It is more common among younger adults and children, who sometimes develop the condition when the body’s immune system responds to a bacterial infection such as strep throat by causing skin inflammation, triggering an outbreak.

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Inverse psoriasis

Inverse psoriasis is characterized by patches of red skin that don’t have the typical scaly texture. They appear in skin folds around the breasts, buttocks, and groin

Nail psoriasis

Fingernails and toenails can also be significantly affected by psoriasis. Discoloration, unusual nail growth, and pitting are common symptoms. Severe cases involve loosening and crumbling nails.

Palmoplantar psoriasis

This variation of psoriasis is present on the palms and soles of the feet. It is a chronic condition that can lead to functional disability and impair a person’s quality of life.

The exact causes of this and other types of psoriasis are still unknown, although the general consensus is that it is a mixture of environmental and genetic factors.

Manual and repetitive trauma, friction, and irritants are possible environmental causes. Many people with palmoplantar psoriasis are former or current smokers, as well. As for genetics, it seems that the human leukocyte antigen is the most likely genetic factor.

Cracked surface as a metaphor for psoriasis

Unfortunately, unlike other forms of psoriasis, topical agents cannot treat this type because the skin on the palms and soles is so thick. This makes it difficult for drugs to penetrate the skin. However, many studies are currently trying to find alternative solutions.

Plaque psoriasis

Plaque psoriasis is the most common form, and it appears on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. People with this type of psoriasis typically have red, scaly skin patches that are raised and dry. They may also be itchy or tender.

Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis causes painful and swollen joints. This is usually the first symptom to pop up, although sometimes people only experience changes to the nails. Any joints can be affected, and the associated pain varies quite a bit. The stiffness and joint damage can be permanent if the person affected does not take proactive measures.

Pustular psoriasis

This rare form of psoriasis can appear in small areas on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands. The patches tend to be covered in pus-filled lesions.

Can weather influence psoriasis?

Weather can play a role in psoriasis flare-ups. It is important to take the proper precautions to lessen pain, itchiness, and other symptoms.

Is cold weather bad for psoriasis?

Yes, cold weather can definitely cause flare-ups. Because the air tends to be drier in the winter, your already dry skin can make psoriasis worse. Moisture tends to be extracted from the skin if you are outdoors for too long. 

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Also, sunlight is known to help with psoriasis, and since there are fewer hours of daylight during winter, that relief is lessened. If you have psoriatic arthritis, you have to be extra careful when it gets chilly outside. The cooler temperatures can make your joint pain worse

Cold weather drives everyone indoors, where the heat is on high. Unfortunately, this can also cause flare-ups by drying out your skin, so it is important to moderate your thermostat.

Should you be cautious with psoriasis in hot weather?

When it comes to psoriasis, it is always important to be cautious. When it is colder outside, there seem to be only downsides to how your skin reacts. Luckily, warm weather can be of some help.

Natural sunlight and exposure to the sun can actually help with your psoriasis. In phototherapy, UV radiation is the healing component. While the radiation is beneficial, being outside when it is too hot can lead to flare-ups, just like when you spend time in cold weather.

Pay attention to the exact temperature before determining how long you want to be outside and how much skin is exposed to the sun.

Best ways to ease psoriasis during extreme weather

Drink more water

When it is cooler, it is crucial to keep your skin hydrated. Drinking a lot of water will help with this and help prevent any flare-ups. Recommendations for hydration generally suggest drinking between half a gallon to a gallon of water every day.

Wear light clothing

Whether you are in cold or hot weather, wearing loose clothing will allow your skin to breathe. If you are sweating, trapping the sweat against your skin may cause flare-ups. 

Light-colored clothing is also an essential aspect of keeping your symptoms to a minimum. Dark colors absorb more heat from the sun, so wearing lighter colors will keep you as cool as possible. In addition, hats and visors are great accessories for keeping the sun off your face and scalp, where you may be more sensitive.

Use sunscreen

Because extreme sun exposure is a common cause of flare-ups, protecting your skin is a must. You can minimize irritation by wearing sunscreen that protects you from UVA and UVB rays. Physicians suggest using sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Get a bit of sunlight

As mentioned before, sunlight can be great for easing psoriasis symptoms when utilized in moderation. Go outdoors when the sunlight isn’t super intense; avoid being in the sun when it is hottest, between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Creating an “outdoor schedule” for yourself that you can stick to will bring the most benefits. Learn about your skin type, ranging from very fair (type 1) to very dark (type 6), to better understand how long to stay outside and how much skin to expose.

Moisturizing psoriasis-prone skin in hot weather

Moisturize your skin

One of the most prevalent symptoms of psoriasis is dry skin. While moisturizing cannot cure your psoriasis, it is an essential daily practice for keeping the dryness at bay and preventing itchiness and pain. 

Choosing the right moisturizer is very important; ingredients such as fragrances, dyes, and alcohol have the potential to make dryness worse. 

Avoid alcohol and smoking

Smoking is a common factor in people with palmoplantar psoriasis, making it a large concern. Smoking in moderation, or not smoking at all, is a great preventative measure to avoid getting this form of the disease.

A persistent smoking habit has the potential to really disrupt your health in lots of ways, psoriasis included. 

Alcohol is also something that should be avoided. If you already have psoriasis, alcohol can make your symptoms worse and even get in the way of your treatment doing its job. If you do not currently have any form of psoriasis, you are more likely to develop it if you drink regularly.

Final thoughts

Psoriasis is a common skin disease that many people have to deal with on a daily basis. This incurable disease can be identified by scaly, red patches that can be itchy and/or painful. You are most likely to find these patches on your torso, elbows, knees, and scalp. The most common types are plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. 

Both warm and cold weather can cause your psoriasis to worsen. It is important to take preventative measures to keep flare-ups at bay. Taking steps like wearing the proper clothing, using sunscreen, and avoiding alcohol and smoking can make a real difference! While psoriasis is not yet curable, you can make your skin feel better by being proactive!

December 28, 2022