Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition. The most common form of psoriasis causes skin cells to develop more quickly than usual and build up, forming patches called plaques on the skin.

There are various types of psoriasis, and some can vary throughout the seasons. For example, a person’s symptoms may improve during the summer months.

In this article, we explore how to manage psoriasis symptoms throughout the year. We also look at nonseasonal psoriasis triggers.

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The main types of psoriasis that appear to be affected by the seasons are:

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA)

PsA impacts a person’s joints, making them feel stiff, achy, and painful. According to a 2013 study, around 30% of people with psoriasis develop PsA. It is also possible for people without skin symptoms to develop the condition.

Cold weather can trigger PsA. People can manage their PsA symptoms during colder seasons in several ways, such as by taking warm baths to soothe joints, wearing thermal gloves outdoors, and exercising regularly.

Plaque psoriasis

In people with plaque psoriasis, skin cells build up and form raised, scaly patches on the skin’s surface. This is the most common form of psoriasis.

The intensity of symptoms can vary throughout the year in response to temperature changes, humidity levels, and other environmental factors.

Psoriasis symptoms often calm down during summer. A 2011 study indicated that regular exposure to sunlight may have an immunosuppressive effect, helping reduce the frequency of psoriasis flare-ups. There may also be a connection between Vitamin D levels and psoriasis.

However, people can still have flare-ups during the summer months. It is advisable that people continue with treatment during the summer even if symptoms improve, as this can help with symptom management throughout the rest of the year.

What to expect?

If a person gets sunburn or experiences bug bites during the summer, the injury to the skin may cause a psoriasis flare-up. Chemicals in products such as bug repellent may also irritate the skin and bring on symptoms.

Managing psoriasis in summer

People can try to manage their psoriasis in summer by:

  • using a thick moisturizer after swimming, when the skin feels dry, and when spending time in areas with air-conditioning, which can dry out the skin
  • wearing an SPF 30 sunscreen or higher on any part of the body that clothing does not cover
  • using bug repellent with minimal synthetic chemicals, and only with caution
  • rinsing off with freshwater after swimming
  • avoiding hot tubs and heated pools, as hot water may increase skin irritation

People with psoriasis often experience flare-ups in the fall primarily due to reduced levels of sunlight and humidity.

A 2021 study indicated that 53.2% of people with psoriasis experienced an aggravation of their condition during the colder seasons. Study participants who worked in jobs that required them to spend more time exposed to sunlight reported fewer flare-ups in fall and winter than those with less sun exposure.

What to expect?

The air may be drier in the fall, meaning skin is likely to dry out more quickly. Dry skin can worsen psoriasis.

As the weather begins to cool and people wear thicker clothes, they may find that the wool and synthetic materials irritate their skin.

People are also more likely to catch colds and flu during fall, and illnesses that stress a person’s immune system can trigger psoriasis flare-ups.

Managing psoriasis in fall

People can help protect their skin in the fall by:

  • applying a thick moisturizer after bathing and periodically throughout the day, to create a barrier and retain moisture
  • having short 5–10 minute showers or baths, using warm water rather than hot
  • wearing natural fabrics such as silk or cotton where possible
  • investing in a humidifier to prevent the skin from becoming too dry
  • getting a flu vaccination, if appropriate

Psoriasis can worsen in winter compared to any other season. The air tends to be cold and dry in winter, making the skin lose moisture quicker.

What to expect?

People may experience more frequent flare-ups that last longer in winter due to a combination of cold weather, clothing textures, exposure to indoor heating, and the increased likelihood of illness.

Managing psoriasis in winter

Managing psoriasis in winter involves all the same behaviors as managing the condition in the fall. People can also try to reduce winter flare-ups by:

  • layering clothing instead of having the heating on constantly
  • wearing something underneath any wool items to protect the skin from the itchy fibers

In spring, the weather tends to improve, and humidity is often high, improving psoriasis symptoms.

What to expect?

People may notice that their symptoms begin to ease in spring and become less frequent as the weather improves. However, they may still experience the occasional flare-up.

Managing psoriasis in spring

People can try to manage psoriasis in the spring by:

  • avoiding bug bites
  • moisturizing regularly
  • using sunscreen as the weather brightens up

As well as seasonal triggers, other factors can cause a flare-up of psoriasis. These include:

  • Diet: Dietary interventions may help reduce psoriasis symptoms in people who are overweight or have obesity. A 2017 survey also indicated that people with psoriasis who cut back on certain foods saw a reduction in symptoms.
  • Stress: A 2018 study indicated that 31–88% of people with psoriasis flare-ups experience some degree of stress before the flare.
  • Smoking: The American Academy of Dermatology Association suggests that smoking may lead to psoriasis flare-ups.
  • Alcohol: A study from 2010 suggested a link between certain alcoholic beverages and an increased risk of developing psoriasis among females. More recently, a survey of people with psoriasis indicated a reduction of symptoms in 53.8% of people who cut back their alcohol intake.
  • Hormones: According to a 2016 study, a person’s hormonal mechanisms may impact their psoriasis symptoms.
  • Medications: Some medications may trigger psoriasis flares. However, people should never stop taking medications without discussing their options with a doctor.

Psoriasis symptoms may improve or worsen at certain times throughout the year. People cannot prevent the seasons from affecting their psoriasis entirely but can manage their symptoms and minimize the impact of the changing weather on their skin.

It is important that people speak with a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to their routine. If needed, a doctor can provide advice on seasonal psoriasis treatment strategies that best suit a person’s circumstances.