Before heading to a lake, pool, or ocean, a person with psoriasis may benefit from learning about the possible effects of different types of water on their skin and adopting a few care strategies.

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After a cold, dry winter, spring and summer may come as a relief for people with psoriasis. The warmer weather and increased levels of sunlight and humidity — in moderation — may help soothe the skin.

For many people, summer means trips to the pool or beach. Swimming outdoors may help with some psoriasis symptoms, but caring for the skin is key in preventing irritation from salt or chlorine.

Swimming may help relieve some symptoms of psoriasis, and the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) particularly recommends swimming during hotter months. This is because warm water can help remove dead skin cells, which can improve the skin’s appearance and may temporarily help relieve itchiness.

It is important to note, however, that too much salt water and chlorine can dry out the skin and cause flaking, particularly when symptoms are flaring up.

Overall, caring for the skin before and after water activities is key.

Salt water

A swim in the ocean or other bodies of salt water may directly benefit psoriasis symptoms. The benefits of saltwater baths for people with psoriasis are so well-established, in fact, that the treatment has its own name: balneotherapy.

For centuries, people with skin disorders have flocked to the Dead Sea, one of the saltiest bodies of water on Earth, looking to relieve their symptoms. And over time, saltwater baths have emerged as an effective element of psoriasis treatment.

In a 2017 study, 80 people with psoriasis who had regular balneotherapy sessions for 3 weeks experienced significant improvements in their psoriasis symptoms and the underlying inflammation. Another study, conducted a few years earlier, had found that balneotherapy can also promote the development of a healthy skin microbiome.

More recent research, from 2020, suggests that combining saltwater baths with ultraviolet light therapy may further improve psoriasis symptoms.

Sometimes, balneotherapy attempts to replicate the experience of swimming in bodies of salt water, matching the humidity and pressure of these kinds of environments, for example. In this case, the treatment is called climatotherapy.

Swimming in salt water for short periods may provide similar short-term benefits as balneotherapy, helping to clear flaking skin cells and reduce inflammation and irritation.

Chlorinated water

Chlorine and other chemicals in pools can trigger symptoms of certain skin conditions. For people with psoriasis, the chemicals can cause dryness and irritation that can exacerbate flares.

However, adopting certain care strategies can help protect the skin and keep it healthy after a swim in the pool.

The NPF recommends the following ways to protect the skin from dryness and irritation caused by chemicals in pools and extended exposure to salt water.

Before getting in the water

  • Moisturize: Applying a thin layer of moisturizer or petroleum jelly can protect against harsh chemicals.
  • Apply sunscreen: Anyone swimming outdoors may have a risk of sunburn, which can trigger a psoriasis flare.
  • Choose products carefully: A broad-spectrum, waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is best for people doing water activities. For a moisturizer, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends a fragrance-free product, preferably a thick cream or ointment.

After swimming

  • Rinse off: A quick shower or bath can help remove residual salt or mineral debris and chemicals that may cause irritation. Opt for warm, not hot, water.
  • Dry gently: Dry the skin by blotting with a towel rather than rubbing. And be careful not to over-dry; the skin should feel slightly damp.
  • Moisturize: Within 3–5 minutes of drying off, apply another layer of moisturizer.

Some FAQs about swimming and psoriasis may include:

Can a person go in the ocean with psoriasis?

Yes, individuals with psoriasis can swim in the ocean, or other bodies of salt water.

What is the best climate for psoriasis?

Typically, a suitable climate for managing psoriasis will usually involve a combination of seawater and sunshine. For example, Dead Sea climatotherapy is a potentially effective option for psoriasis.

Does salt affect psoriasis?

Saltwater may be beneficial for people living with psoriasis. It may help to clear flaking skin cells and reduce inflammation and irritation. However, it is important for a person to rinse off any residual salt after being in saltwater.

Can cold water swimming help psoriasis?

Cool water may help to relive the itchiness and scales that occur with psoriasis.

Swimming and other water activities may help soothe psoriasis symptoms. Warm water can help loosen flaking skin cells and salt water may ease inflammation and irritation.

However, extended exposure to salt water and any exposure to chlorine and other chemicals in pools can trigger symptoms, so adopting a few care strategies is key.

Moisturizing before and after swimming and using waterproof sunscreen can help people with psoriasis get the most out of water activities this summer.