Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that can cause red, scaly patches to form on the skin. As a result, this may affect how a person feels about their body and impact intimacy.

Psoriasis can impact intimacy in many ways, including anxiety about the body, discomfort during sex, reducing romantic desire, and sexual dysfunction.

People may experience low self-esteem, stigmatization, and discrimination, which can prevent them from pursuing relationships and dating. They also may not feel comfortable discussing sexuality and relationships with their doctor.

The act of sex may also be difficult, as friction can irritate the skin or make symptoms worse. This may be especially true if psoriasis symptoms affect the genitals or skin around them, which may be the case in up to 63% of people with psoriasis.

However, psoriasis does not need to interfere with intimacy. In this article, we will discuss strategies that people with psoriasis can try to improve their intimate relationships.

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Communication plays a vital role in any intimate relationship and is critical for a healthy sexual relationship. It may help ease the minds of both the person with psoriasis and any sexual partners.

While it may be difficult to discuss, people in an intimate relationship should be able to discuss thoughts and feelings without fear. This open dialogue can help all parties to mentally prepare, discuss any concerns or questions, and make intimacy easier.

Some things to communicate may include:

  • reminding them that psoriasis is not contagious
  • assuring them psoriasis is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • asking any questions they may have about the condition or how it may manifest during sex
  • communicating areas to avoid or ways to bring pleasure without harming the skin
  • communicating other needs, such as reassurance or other language to build confidence
  • expressing how the condition affects the emotions, such as feelings of embarrassment or low self-esteem, and discussing ways to be sympathetic to these emotions

As with any sexual encounter, setting the mood for an intimate time may help increase arousal and make both partners more comfortable when it comes to psoriasis.

For example, if people are self-conscious about their skin, they may consider dimming the lights or using candlelight to create a romantic atmosphere that can also help them feel more comfortable.

To further set the mood, people can also use calming, pleasant scents, such as incense, scented candles, or essential oils. They can also try playing calming or romantic music.

If people are not comfortable revealing their body, they could try wearing certain undergarments to increase their confidence.

However, it is important that they avoid synthetic materials and opt for a material such as cotton to reduce the risk of irritating the skin and causing a flare. Similarly, people should also keep this in mind for bedsheets and towels.

Lubrication may be especially important for people with psoriasis on their genitals or surrounding areas. Finding the correct lubricant may vary and it is important to find one that does not irritate the skin.

For example, some people may prefer a cooling lubricant over warming variants. Others may wish to avoid lubricants with added fragrances or other chemical ingredients.

It is important for people to test lubricants on their skin before applying to their genitals. Typically, people can use the skin on their lips, as it is likely to react similarly to the genitals.

If choosing a natural lubricant such as coconut oil, people can also perform a sensual massage, which may soothe the skin and also help set the mood.

Before applying lubricant, a person may want to gently cleanse the affected area. This can help prevent psoriasis medication rubbing onto the partner. If the skin in this area is raw, it is advisable to postpone sex.

If a partner has a penis, they may consider using a condom with lubricant to help further reduce friction and prevent irritation for all parties.

Aftercare is important to help manage psoriasis.

After an intimate moment, it is important for people to take the time to gently cleanse their genitals and remove any lubricants or bodily fluids.

People can then reapply any treatments to their genital area. This can help to avoid flare ups from the friction of sexual activity. Moisturizers may also help keep the skin from drying out after sex.

Finding ways to reduce stress leading up to and during sex is very important. Stress is not only a common trigger for flares that can make symptoms of psoriasis worse — it can also lead to performance anxiety.

Taking the necessary steps to be as open and communicative as possible can help make sex enjoyable. People should also try not to put too much pressure on themselves, and instead focus on enjoying the act. Taking these steps may help put the mind at ease to reduce stress.

Adding sensory details such as music and enjoyable scents may also help keep the person from overthinking or feeling stress, and to help them enjoy the moment.

If a partner with psoriasis is living with self-esteem or insecurity issues due to stigmas around the condition or how it manifests on the skin, acknowledge these feelings.

Research suggests that psoriasis carries around the same level of stigma as herpes, which may be due in part to misconceptions about the condition. The stigma around the condition may take its toll mentally and emotionally, so being sympathetic to these feelings is crucial.

Partners should avoid using the condition as a reason to tease or insult the person with psoriasis. Insulting their skin or condition may break trust between partners and make future intimacy difficult.

It is also important for any partners to openly communicate as well. If unsure of where or how it is acceptable to touch a certain area during sex, they should ask. This may also help put the partner’s mind at ease if they feel the other person is caring for their needs and make intimacy easier.

Patience is important during intimacy with someone with psoriasis. Some people may require more time to feel comfortable being intimate, and that is fine. Intimacy is more than having sex — it is also about enjoying the company of others.

When in the bedroom, this may involve changing positions for comfort, adjusting speed and force during sex, and even getting creative in ways to avoid irritation and flares.

If the symptoms of psoriasis become hard to control and make sex difficult, it is advisable to see a doctor. They may be able to suggest lifestyle changes or recommend different medications to help manage the condition.

However, if people feel that being intimate is a big challenge and begin to avoid intimacy, it may be helpful for them to see a therapist. They may be able to address any concerns and help a person work through any underlying issues keeping them from being intimate.

Psoriasis can be stigmatizing and cause a number of issues that can affect intimacy. Finding ways to address and improve both the physical and emotional aspects of intimacy may help make sexual activity more enjoyable.

People can try strategies that involve open communication, caring for the skin throughout all stages of intimacy, setting the mood, and using lubrication.