Carolyn Jacob, MD, director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, doesn’t just treat patients with psoriasis — she manages her own. Dr. Jacob has been living with psoriasis since she was 14 years old.
Jacob’s psoriasis primarily affects her scalp and nails, both of which can be tough to hide. “I hated it when I had scalp involvement, which would show flakes on my clothing and itch constantly,” Jacob says.
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Embarrassed about her nail psoriasis, Jacob used to paint them a color that would mask her symptoms. The National Psoriasis Foundation says that about half of all people with psoriasis will have symptoms affecting the nails, which can include changes in color, thickening of the nails, separation of the nail, and the formation of pits or holes.
An Accessible Skin Care Routine
For healthy skin, Jacob knows she has to keep her skin clear and moisturized as much as possible. She uses CeraVe cleanser, available at many drugstores. “It adds ceramides to the skin, which help to rebalance the natural moisturizing factor in your skin,” she says. She follows that up with CeraVe lotion.
Other daily psoriasis treatment tips that Jacob offers her patients and practices herself include:
- Cleanse and moisturize your skin just once daily to avoid drying.
- Use a soft cloth or your hands to lather up with cleanser; never use a loofah on skin that’s actively flaring because the rubbing and scratching could worsen symptoms.
- If you have psoriasis on your face, Jacob advises against using harsh toners because they can be aggravating.
- During the frigid Chicago winters, Jacob switches to a cream or moisturizing cream from a lighter lotion because it’s more hydrating for thirsty winter skin.
- For scalp psoriasis, she recommends over-the-counter favorites like Neutrogena T/Gel, DHS tar shampoos, or those containing salicylic acid (her personal pick is Neutrogena T/Sal.) For something stronger, she likes Clobex, a steroid shampoo that you can get with a prescription from your dermatologist.
When Jacob’s psoriasis flares, she turns to a prescription Avène product called Akérat cream because it contains exfoliators and softeners to soothe the skin.
Daily Psoriasis Treatment Starts from the Inside Out
Jacob knows that psoriasis and its treatments are more than just skin deep. She sticks to a healthy, balanced diet to help keep inflammation down and her symptoms in check. She eats salmon and walnuts for the omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation and promote better heart health. Jacob also takes omega-3 supplements for an extra boost. “They are great for inflammatory conditions, especially psoriasis, and they help balance cholesterol levels and improve your skin texture,” she explains. The heart-healthy supplements can prove particularly beneficial since people with psoriasis have a 58 percent greater chance of suffering a major cardiovascular event like a heart attack, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation.
Stress is also a trigger for psoriasis, so Jacob tries to keep it in check, particularly by exercising. With twin toddlers and a busy schedule, she has to make time to work out. How does she fit it in? “I get up early to exercise so it is done for the day,” she says. It’s a prudent strategy that’s backed by a study from the August 2012 issue of Archives of Dermatology, which found that women who engaged in regular vigorous exercise were less likely to develop psoriasis.
Another of Jacob’s secrets: avoiding alcohol. “It makes stress worse and makes psoriasis worse,” she says. The National Psoriasis Foundation notes that alcohol can interfere with psoriasis treatments and causes side effects when combined with many psoriasis medications. Plus, alcohol can change the way you perceive and manage your stress, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Find What Works for You
Jacob’s psoriasis is now well controlled with biologic medications, and she says her skin, scalp, and nails stay pretty healthy. Her best advice? Work with your dermatologist to find the right treatment for you.
“The availability of biologic medications was life changing — to not have to deal with other messy medicines that do not work well, to not itch, and to have normal nails is wonderful,” she says. “This type of treatment makes me feel like a normal person again!”