How to Build a Skincare Routine If You Have Psoriasis
Working in the beauty industry means I spend a lot of time talking about products and skincare routines. It also means that a lot people expect my skin to be perfect, which is definitely not the case. I’m constantly fighting breakouts, dehydration, and managing my psoriasis.
I had my first experience with this condition a few years ago. Though I have always been an anxious and stressed-out person, my life was more intense than before. Balancing two part-time jobs, being a full-time college student, and traveling back-and-forth to NYC to network left me feeling burnt out. I remember waking up one morning before classes and noticing red, flaky patches on my face and my body. After a brief panic and a bit of research, I discovered I had psoriasis. This realization didn’t come without confusion or frustration. I had a well-crafted skincare routine. I tried to live a healthy lifestyle. And, yet, here I was, staring at these marks on my skin. But, the thing about psoriasis is that it is something you’re born with and you can’t tell until it is triggered.
What Is Psoriasis?For those of you who aren’t familiar, psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that has no known cause. Most people, myself included, have plaque psoriasis. Essentially, your skin cells shed faster than the typical rate, resulting in scales and red patches that might feel itchy or sore. Flare-ups can appear on your arms, legs, neck, and other areas of the body, too. The symptoms of psoriasis get triggered by high levels of stress, increased alcohol consumption, a decrease in temperature, among other variables. While there is no cure for psoriasis, there is a lot you can do to treat and manage it. Here are the skincare rituals and ingredients that have worked for me:
How to Build a Skincare Routine for Psoriasis:
Most people are addicted to the squeaky-clean feeling associated with facial cleansers. These formulas tend to come in gel form, containing high levels of actives and drying alcohols. The reality is, while these types of products might work for some people, they were stripping my skin of its natural oils, leaving it tight and dry. Instead, I use a pH-balanced Milky Cleanser that contains oat milk and marula oil to soothe and nourish dry, irritated, and sensitive skin. Most importantly, it protects my skin’s moisture barrier, which I’ve found is key to fighting off my psoriasis.
BHA and Niacinamide Serums
Minimizing my skincare routine has been a game-changer. Applying too many actives, especially those at higher concentrations, can cause havoc on the barrier (a major no-no when it comes to psoriasis). I took inventory of the products I was using and only kept a few serums that tackled multiple skin concerns at once, like Just Breathe does. This balancing serum contains willow bark extract and niacinamide. As a precursor to salicylic acid, willow bark extract is a natural beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), which gently exfoliates the skin. Meanwhile, niacinamide's anti-inflammatory properties can soothe the irritation that goes hand-in-hand with plaque.
The idea of adding retinol to your routine is intimidating, even for those who do not have psoriasis. But, when used strategically, it can even out skin texture, keep acne at bay, and help fight signs of aging. Most dermatologists will prescribe a topical retinoid called tazarotene, but I’ve found a Gentle Retinol Serum made with encapsulated retinol, which bypasses the skin's surface to minimize the risk of irritation, works just as well.
The International Journal of Health Sciences links psoriasis to a lack of vitamin D in the body. And while one of the purest forms of vitamin D is direct sunlight, prolonged exposure to UVA/UVB rays can worsen psoriasis as it increases your risk for sunburns, resulting in a damaged skin barrier. So, no matter what your skin type or concerns, I always recommend using SPF in your routine. A mineral option like Guards Up physically protects the skin from the damaging effects of the sun while simultaneously blocking environmental stressors and HEV light (a.k.a blue light from tech).
One of the most important aspects of my routine has been instilling confidence in myself, even when everything is telling me not to be. Society teaches us that the standard of beauty is flawless, airbrushed to perfection. It is not realistic, and it is not attainable. I stopped seeing my imperfections as something to hate and started feeling neutral about them. They are what they are, and while I cannot change them, I can highlight all of the things I love about myself. Easier said than done, but there is no doubt in my mind you can do it.
For questions or advice, follow me @samantha.parsons on Instagram.