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What is Psoriasis and How to Treat It

Vogue, Getty Images

Vogue, Getty Images

To attend the New York screening of Suicide Squad, Cara Delevingne donned a backless mini dress. For the occasion of the premiere, the model-turned-actress also sported red bumps scattered across her arms and shoulders. While the British model attempted to conceal the spots with makeup, they nonetheless incited rude tabloid headlines to emerge the following day. The red marks in question were in fact psoriasis, an oft-misunderstood and stigmatized skin condition. caught up with Dr. Reginetti Trenti, the scientific director at BioNike—an Italian cosmetics company founded to help treat sensitive skin—to give us the run-down on the chronic skin condition.

What is psoriasis?
“Psoriasis is a skin condition that results in red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales. It normally appears on a person’s elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back, but can flare up anywhere on the body,” explained Dr. Trenti. “Most people are only affected with small patches of the skin condition, and in some cases, patients can find these patches to be itchy or sore,” she disclosed.

Dr. Trenti noted that the severity of psoriasis varies from person to person. “For some people, it’s just a minor irritation, but for others, it can have a major impact on their quality of life. Psoriasis usually involves periods when the patient has no symptoms or mild symptoms, followed by periods when symptoms are more severe,” she revealed.

There are five types of psoriasis, and symptoms vary according to each one.

1. Plaque psoriasis: The most common form of the skin disease. It causes patches of red skin and silver scales to surface, which can be both painful and itchy.

2. Pustular psoriasis: Red, scaly skin on the hands and feet accompanied by tiny blisters.

3. Guttate psoriasis: Small, red spots (usually found on the torso or limbs) that are triggered by respiratory infections, strep throat, tonsillitis, or stress.

4. Inverse psoriasis: Characterized by red patches that appear on armpits, under breasts, and other skin fold areas.

5. Erythrodermic psoriasis: The most dangerous and rare form of psoriasis. It’s characterized by a severe, painful body rash, and requires immediate medical attention.

What causes psoriasis?
The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown. “It’s believed that your immune system and genes may contribute to it, with a person’s immune system attacking healthy skin cells by mistake,” Dr. Trenti offered. She also explained that the skin condition could be genetic. “Psoriasis can run in families, although the precise role that genetics plays in causing psoriasis is not clear. The main triggers include stress and the cold,” she emphasized.

How is it treated?
Despite being itchy, unsightly, and sometimes painful, psoriasis outbreaks (with the exception of the Erythrodermic strain) are relatively harmless. While the skin condition is chronic, symptoms can be relieved via topical, systemic, and light therapy treatments.

“A good skincare regime is very important for anyone with irritated skin to reduce dryness, itchiness, inflammation, and soreness,” stressed Dr. Trenti. She suggested keeping skin moist with a fragrance-free moisturizer, and avoiding harsh ingredients such as alcohol and acids.

If flare-ups don’t respond to topical or systemic treatments, doctors may suggest phototherapy, which involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet light on a regular basis.

Peruse the gallery below for topical creams that can be used to treat psoriasis; and always check with a doctor before treating the condition.


Homepage image: Photographed by Mario Testino, Vogue

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