Picking out what you wear each day — and even the sheets you slip into at night — sounds pretty simple. But when you have psoriasis, there’s more to it. Anything that touches your skin needs a bit more thought, since you want to do whatever you can to not irritate your skin and make your psoriasis worse.
Use these expert strategies to choose carefully — for your skin’s sake.
Best Fabrics for Psoriasis
The first thing to look for when buying clothing or bedding is the texture of the fabric.
“You want to go with the smoothest and softest fabrics possible,” says Steven Daveluy, MD, Associate Professor and Program Director of Dermatology at Wayne State University in Dearborn, Michigan. “So 100% cotton is always nice because cotton fabric is very soft generally. Silk, of course, is another good choice because silk can be very soft and tends not to cause irritation to the skin.”
Temperature is another key factor.
“Because heat can make any itching feel worse, cooler fabric choices, like cotton, silk, and linen might be more comfortable for a patient with psoriasis than a warmer fabric like flannel,” says Allix Charles, MD, Department Chair of DuPage Medical Group – Dermatology in Hinsdale, Illinois.
While sheets made of cotton, silk, or linen are common, bamboo is a newer entrant in the field of soft bedding.
“I’ve only heard about it in the last few years,” Daveluy says. “It’s fabric made from bamboo, and it’s very, very smooth. If you look microscopically at the fibers, they’re incredibly smooth.
“They have almost no braiding at the edges or little things that can stick off and kind of irritate and rub your skin, versus synthetic fabrics, which tend to give us more problems with sort of being stiff. And if they start to, at the microscopic level, get little breaks and fray, think about little, tiny pieces of plastic poking your skin. Those can be more irritating.”
Thread count is another important factor when you’re shopping for comfortable sheets — the higher, the better. Cotton sheets can range from 200 to 400. Bamboo ranges from 300 to 500. The average linen sheet has a thread count of only 80 to 140.
In addition to smooth, breathable, light fabrics that limit friction with your skin, turning your thermostat down to a cool temperature can help you get a good night’s sleep. That’s because it can keep you from sweating, which can trigger itching.
Best Clothing for Psoriasis
Fit is almost as important as fabric when it comes to comfortable clothes. Loose clothing is best.
“For a lot of people, the friction of the clothing can be an issue,” Daveluy says. “If you’re wearing tighter clothing, that can aggravate psoriasis. In general, try to wear things that have a bit of a looser fit to them, especially if you notice that you’re getting flare-ups in areas where the clothing is tighter.
“If you’re wearing things that have a pretty tight waist and you’re getting flaring around your waist, sometimes that’s a little clue where you say, ‘It looks like my waistline is rubbing on this and it’s causing an issue for me.’”
Layering is another thing to possibly avoid. “Using multiple layers can make people hotter and make them itch more,” Charles says.
Some people who have psoriasis feel more comfortable having a layer of covering on hand.
“I like to layer my clothing,” says Alisha Bridges, who’s had psoriasis since age 7 and was named 2015 National Psoriasis Foundation Outstanding Volunteer. “Sometimes I’ll go out while I’m flaring but then something can happen to trigger some anxiety. I might go out and wear a tank top or a short-sleeve shirt, but I’ll always make sure to have a jacket close by just in case I have one of those moments.”
There’s also no real winner when it comes to dark colors versus light ones. Dark colors may be better at hiding any bleeding caused by broken skin or leakage from topical creams or lotions. But they can also make flaking more noticeable.
“If you’re having quite a bit of flaking, it’s a good idea to see the dermatologist because maybe it’s time to step your treatment up and do something more to try to get it better controlled. That way, you can wear any color you want,” Daveluy says.
Best Detergents for Psoriasis
Most detergents have a fragrance, which actually is a chemical. Traces of that chemical get in little pockets on your skin, most commonly in your armpits or on your waistline. When you sweat, it gets released and can cause issues.
“The presence of fragrance and dyes in laundry detergent can lead to skin irritation in people with normal skin, let alone skin that is affected by psoriasis,” Charles says.
It’s a good idea to look for “free” or “free and clear” on the bottle in the detegent’s name.
“Unscented” isn’t necessarily enough. This actually might mean a secondary fragrance has been added to mask another fragrance in the detergent.
You should also avoid fabric softener or dryer sheets because it’s hard to find one that doesn’t have added fragrances.
An old-school trick for softening fabric is to put dryer balls or tennis balls in the dryer with your clothes.
“They literally just pound your clothes as they’re bouncing around,” Daveluy says. “They come out nice and soft and not stiff, and they don’t leave any chemicals.”