Lately I have come across a few articles about the skin disease psoriasis so I thought I would share the information here. I’ve addressed the issue of psoriasis before in this blog (see my post August is Psoriasis Awareness Month), but I wanted to go into greater detail here about this disease.
Psoriasis has been confused with eczema, lupus, boils, vitiligo and leprosy. Because of the confusing connection with leprosy in ancient times, psoriasis sufferers were even made to wear special suits and carry a rattle or bell, like lepers, announcing their presence. Only in the 19th century was a distinction made between psoriasis and leprosy, alleviating some of the psychosocial impact of this highly visible and distressing skin disease.9 As with eczema, it presents as itchy, red skin and involves altered immunity. However, its complexities reach far beyond the surface of the skin. People with psoriasis have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity and other immune-related inflammatory diseases—even cancer. The mysteries behind this complicated and debilitating skin disease are only beginning to be unraveled. Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory multisystem disease affecting 1–3% of the world’s population.3 Whereas the rashes on eczematous skin can have irregular edges and texture, psoriatic lesions tend to be more uniform and distinct. Red or pink areas of thickened, raised and dry skin typically present on the elbows, knees and scalp. This presentation tends to be more common in areas of trauma, abrasions or repeated rubbing and use, although any area may be affected. Unlike eczema, psoriasis comes in five different forms: plaque, guttate, pustular, inverse and erythrodermic.
Plaque psoriasis affects about 80% of those who suffer from psoriasis, making it the most common type. …
It may initially appear as small red bumps that can then enlarge and form scales. The hallmarks of this type are raised, thickened patches of red skin covered in silvery scales. The other types are less common and present inflamed skin with red bumps; pustules; cracked, dry skin; and even burned-looking skin. Clients will most likely be under a physician’s care, who will diagnose the type of psoriasis present.
As of today, psoriasis has no cure. A single cause of the disease has yet to be uncovered, but it is known that developing the disease involves the immune system, genetics and environmental factors. In psoriasis, aberrant immune activity causes inflammatory signals to go haywire in the epidermis, causing a buildup of cells on the surface of the skin. While normal skin takes 28–30 days to mature, psoriatic skin takes only 3–4 days to mature and, instead of shedding off, the cells pile up on the surface of the skin, forming plaques and lesions. The underlying reason may be due to the hyperactivity of T-cells, which end up on the skin and trigger inflammation and keratinocyte overproduction. Although it is not known why this happens, it is known that the end result is a cycle of skin cells growing too fast, dead cell-debris accumulation and resulting inflammation.
Many psoriasis sufferers receive medication from their doctors but there is encouraging research that the use of OTC AHA (alpha hydroxy acids) can help improve psoriasis symptoms. In the post How Alpha Hydroxy Acids Could Help Treat Psoriasis Rebecca Harmon writing on Future Derm explains:
In common plaque psoriasis, the overgrowth of skin cells that collect at elbows, knees, hands, scalp, face and other areas can cause embarrassment and in some cases can be painful as clothing catches and pulls on the dry skin patches.
During a particularly hard-to-manage outbreak in my late 20’s, I was desperate to avoid the greasy and expensive steroid cream ($50 for a small tube) and smelling like the back end of a large coal truck wasn’t working for me either. My particular case was cosmetically disturbing but not medically-complicated so I decided to stop buying the $50 prescription cream and turned to the beauty industry which was just beginning to offer face cream with AHA’s.
I quickly became a fan as I discovered that the flaky psoriasis patches on my face disappeared with a skin care regimen that included a daily application of the AHA face cream. Those were my stay-at-home-with-babies days, and I was as far removed from research or academic writing as one could be, but I didn’t need the denial of a null hypothesis to tell me that this was working. I used it twice daily on my face and then started rubbing it in to my elbows and knees. I still laugh remembering the cosmetic rep who finally asked how much face cream I was using (I ordered a lot of this stuff!).
And, yet, the research is in my favor. One study of 12 patients found that a creams with 15% glycolic acid, as well as .05% betamethasone, respectively, were helpful in reducing erythema, transepidermal water loss (TEWL), and lowering Laser Doppler values (Dry Skin and Moisturizer). And alpha hydroxy acids mixed with betamethasone were found to be even more effective in treating psoriasis in a double-blind, split-face, single site clinical study (JEAVD).
I have experienced mild outbreaks of psoriasis since that period but have continued to treat them with AHA-based lotions with consistent results.
A few years ago, I accidently discovered that Bliss Ingrown Eliminating Pads relieved my symptoms even better than prescription creams I’d tried. I asked New York dermatologist Doris Day why they work so well. “The alpha and beta hydroxy acids [in the pads] would help thin out the plaques of psoriasis, and the oat extracts, witch hazel, and lavender oil would soothe and hydrate the skin—but I would still apply a moisturizer after using them,” she says. “The nice thing about the ingredients being in a pad is that it’s easy to apply to the affected areas.” Another nice thing: You don’t need to see a doctor to get your hands on them.
When it comes to treating clients with psoriasis at the spa keep things simple and gentle and place an emphasis on encouraging relaxation. Once again I’ll turn to the Skin Inc. article mentioned above:
Both eczema and psoriasis clients have impaired barrier function and increased inflammation, so your goal will be to protect and repair. Remember to always check first with your client’s physician for contraindications to medications and therapies, because some ingredients may counteract each other. For example, salicylic acid may seem a likely choice for exfoliating psoriatic skin, but could, in fact, inactivate a common topical treatment for psoriasis.
Once a full consultation with the client and possibly her physician is completed, proceed with a treatment using minimal products and procedures. A good way to compensate for minimal skin treatment time is to add on stress-relieving techniques, because there is a psychological component to eczema and psoriasis. Complementary therapies, such as aromatherapy, acupressure, reflexology, massage and inhalation techniques can be coupled with skin treatments to lower stress hormones and control inflammation.
Gentle cleansing and exfoliation is crucial to allow the penetration of rich, emollient moisturizers used on dry, sensitive skin. Avoid harsh exfoliants and detergents, and look for ingredients, such as lactic acid. Use anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as red hogweed, ginger, oats and chamomile, coupled with barrier-repairing oils, including evening primrose, borage, argan and sea buckthorn. Finishing a treatment with a physical sunscreen, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide will ensure that harmful UV rays do not cause further damage.
Bottom Line: Though there is currently no cure for psoriasis there are ways to keep symptoms under control. Since stress makes psoriasis worse finding ways to reduce stress is an integral part of psoriasis treatment and estheticians can certainly be a positive part of that process.
- A Look at What Psoriasis Is And How To Treat It – Future Derm
- Psoriasis Patients Flock to Social Media for Support – Skin Inc.
- CDC Puts Psoriasis on Its Public Health Agenda – Skin Inc.
Image from worldinfo.info