What I Have Learnt Since Having Psoriasis

simple illustrated diagram of the layers of skin and psoriasis

It’s a skin condition that affects just two per cent of the UK population, but if you have ever endured the eye-watering itchiness and discomfort that psoriasis causes then you’ll know just how debilitating it can be. Mine started back when I was in my 20’s with dry, itchy red patches developing along the left side of my neck.

For the first few weeks I blamed the change in season and higher-than-usual stress levels. But the patches didn’t ease up, instead they blistered and spread up to my scalp, behind my ears, along my forehead and over my neck. Putting it down to an allergic reaction, my doctor prescribed me Hydrocortisone cream and antihistamines.

While these helped to calm down the itchiness, but they did little to ease the redness around my neck and face. Psoriasis can be tricky to diagnose and if you haven’t experienced a severe bout of it before, then it’s not uncommon to assume that it is an allergic reaction to something you’ve eaten or used.

Flare-ups come and go in cycles. In its mildest form it can be confused with eczema as the patches are red, dry and itchy, while the severest attacks can look like reactions to food or creams. During the first six months, I was given several different diagnoses, including acute eczema, dermatitis and allergic reactions.

The NHS defines psoriasis as: ‘a skin condition that causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales. These patches normally appear on your elbows, knees, scalp and lower back, but can appear anywhere on your body.’

Admittedly this sounds very similar to eczema, however psoriasis is an autoimmune disease where your skin cells multiply at a faster rate than usual and don’t shed, which results in bumpy, inflamed skin and can lead to infections. “Our skin cells are normally made and replaced every three to four weeks,” says dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahoto. With psoriasis this process can take just three to seven days.

First and foremost, if you think you might have psoriasis it is key to ask your doctor or a dermatologist for a skin biopsy to rule out any other skin conditions. While it’s a chronic skin condition that you will always have, there are ways to make it more manageable.

It’s thought that genetics plays a role in psoriasis and it can run in families. When it comes to managing your condition though, anything from what you eat to the lotions and potions you use can exacerbate the rashes and blisters. Like most things in life stress is a common trigger for flare-ups.

For me, the best thing I ever did was to start a skin diary. I documented everything I ate and drank, how much exercise I’d done, which skincare products I was using, as well as how I felt on a day-to-day basis. While not everything that worked for me will work for everyone suffering with psoriasis, it might give you some food for thought. I found that stripping my beauty routine right back to the very basics made a huge difference. Out went any foaming cleansers as they dried out my skin, along with acid-based formulas and peels.

Instead, my skin relished in soothing, hydrating formulas that helped mute the itchiness without feeling heavy or clogging my pores. For my scalp, I found coal tar shampoo helped reduce the scaling endless white flakes. Although I appreciate not everyone will be willing to catch a whiff of tarmac every time you move your hair.

In terms of my diet I was advised to try cancelling out different food groups to see if they had any impact on my skin. For me, cutting out dairy, wheat and alcohol made the biggest difference. I would wake up and my skin wouldn’t look or feel red-raw and my hair didn’t look like I’d slept-walked through a snow blizzard.

After months of trial and error, constantly scribbling down in my skin diary and making small tweaks to my day-to-day routine, I can finally say that while the psoriasis on my scalp and behind my ears persists, the red scaling from my face and neck has gone. It’s not necessarily gone for good and I’m still a work-in progress, but I feel more in control of it.

As it stands there is no cure no psoriasis and I would be lying if I said I had never battled with a dark moment, but my biggest piece of advice to anyone suffering with psoriasis is to stay positive and stick with your skin diary.

The Beauty Bible August Essentials

Orange paper with a tear in the middle with the number 6 inside and the word six below

Over the years, we’ve seen that, slathered this, tried that. (And sent literally thousands of products out to be trialled by our Beauty Bible testers, too.) So as true connoisseurs of beauty products with (blimey!) 50+ years’ experience between us. we like to think we recognise a great product when we see it. As of course, does Gill, which is why all the following, chosen over the past months as ‘Beauty Bible Loves’ picks on our own website, can be found on VH. We bring you six of the best, which we’ve raved about recently – and share what we said about them on our own website.

Sea Magik Turmeric Serenity Salts

Unusually, Jo was felled earlier this year by a nasty virus and spent a couple of days in bed. (Nobody can remember this in recent history.) She needed something to get her back on her feet, however – and these came up trumps. They’re Epsom salts – known to be amazingly restorative – but with some added extras. The first is anti-inflammatory turmeric (which gives the bath a pale yellow tinge). Jo was super-generous and added half a pack, being in the midst of a real health S.O.S., but a cupful would do for a typical bath. The second is bitter orange oil, which is wonderfully mood-lifting and definitely helped ramp up her energy levels a few degrees. And then there’s safflower oil – enough of it to leave skin really quite soft and silky. The result? She definitely experienced a Lazarus effect – enough to get her through a weekend of guests and a christening, and put her back on the path to feeling ‘normal’.
Sea Magik Turmeric Serenity Salts, £8.99

Lebon Organic Toothpastes

Now, this was a beauty/wellness category ripe for some serious innovation. So: say ‘bonjour’ to a range of luxury toothpastes created in tandem with perfumer/flavour experts in Grasse. Which, as you might guess, means that Lebon oralcare offers a very different sensory experience to the usual tooth-brushing drudgery. The first flavour to capture our imagination was Sweet Extravagance, described as ‘haute couture and sexy’, in which ‘rose embraces orange blossom with a hint of mint’. And yes, it’s just as delectable as that sounds.

Since then, we’ve enjoyed Rhythm is Love, featuring citrusy yuzu and ylang ylang, ‘the flower of the flowers’. (Next on our toothpaste wishlist – and who knew there could be such a thing? – is Tropical Crush, which blends pineapple with rooibos and mint.) Above and beyond that, though, they’re all so colourfully and stylishly packaged that Lebon will have you rearranging your bathroom shelf, to show off your toothpaste.
Lebon Organic Toothpastes, from £17.99

Weleda Skin Food Light

Well, this only happens once every few decades. Weleda have never been a launch-a-minute kind of brand – it simply doesn’t fit with their ethos. (Weleda products are NATRUE-certified natural and with high levels of organics, always, NB.) Skin Food’s been around since 1926 – and it’s taken them almost 100 years to add to the line-up! Personally, we love the richness of the original Skin Food – it’s something we often advise people to turn to when their skin’s flaring up. But not everyone wants that kind of rich texture (notably combination skin types). So, with its slightly more grass-green packaging, Skin Food Light has an airier texture, yet includes all the same healing botanicals: calendula, chamomile, viola tricolor and rosemary. (It retains the signature sweet orange and lavender light fragrance that so many love.) We really hope it doesn’t take them another 93 years to extend this wonderful skincare line even further…
Weleda Skin Food Light, £12.95

Sarah Chapman Icon Night

This cream is like shrugging on your favourite cashmere sweater. Just comforting and inviting, instantly soothing (and instantly improving skin’s appearance with an ever-so-slightly-radiant-yet-not-shimmery finish, we’ve observed). Since we’re talking about Sarah Chapman, of course, it is fired up by a slew of wonder ingredients. So: should you want the science bit, we can reveal that this cream offers ‘a revolutionary X503 targeted peptide drone delivery system’. There’s ‘retinaldehyde vitamin A’ in there, too. Frankly, this isn’t what interests us about any skin cream. It’s surely clever stuff – and few facialists know more about skin or have higher standards than Sarah Chapman. (Yes, it’s pricy. But there are much more expensive creams out there.) But at Beauty Bible what we look for, always, is a product that delivers sensory pleasure while you use it – and visible results, ideally both instantly (as in this case) and over the longer-term.

After using this for a while ourselves, we’re certainly noticing fine lines are finer, and skin is brighter – but it hasn’t been long, so we’ll stick with it. (No reaction to the vitamin A ingredient, by the way, which we sometimes experience in form of redness and irritation. So that’s a good sign. But it is important to up the daytime SPF whenever you’re using a vitamin A product.) Most of all, we look forward to using it, at bedtime. Almost as much as slipping between cool sheets with a good book and a hot night-time drink. A cream that makes us feel like that will win our hearts, every time.
Sarah Chapman Icon Night Cream, £98

This Works Sleep Power Recharge Mask

Yes, you will look like Avatar when you apply this bright blue mask, via its brush top. (A very soothing feeling, BTW.) No, you should not open the door to the DPD delivery guy wearing it. But when you remove after 20 minutes, skin will be brightened by the fruit acids and plumped by a surge of hyaluronic acid. And yes, if you’re an aromatherapy devotee, you’re going to adore the scent – grounding and uplifting at once, with its blend of vetiver, patchouli, camphor and lemon.
This Works Sleep Power Recharge Mask, £32

Ilapothecary Beat The Blues Shower & Bath Oil and Beat The Blues Pulse Point

Ever since we first smelled Ilapothecary’s Beat the Blues blend, we’ve been spritzing the air at Beauty Bible HQ we are in need of strength, fortification or we’re feeling down or slump-y.. It’s gloriously tuberose-y, with touches of rebalancing geranium, clary sage (for mental strength) and petitgrain, which Denise Leicester – healer and Ilapothecary founder – incorporated in the blend ‘to banish negative energies’. It’s been such a hit that (hurrah and hooray!), Ilapothecary have now extended the range. First up is a sublime Beat The Blues Shower & Bath Oil, which leaves skin beautifully nourished and veiled in scent as we emerge from the fragrant waters. (Just brilliant before bedtime, NB.) It also makes the most glamorous and heaven-scented leg-shaving oil on the planet! Ilapothecary has also just launched a Beat The Blues Pulse Point perfect for the handbag. Can’t tell you how many times, since we recently started using this, people have already stopped us and said: ‘What’s that gorgeous fragrance you’re wearing…?
Ilapothecary Beat The Blues Shower & Bath Oil, £29, and Beat The Blues Pulse Point, £27.

The New Skincare Movement That Will Save You Time

recreational

Over the past few years the rise of K-beauty might have opened our eyes to feather-light formulas, jelly textures and 14-step beauty routines, but some of us are craving a move back in the direction of straightforward skincare. Streamlined beauty, aka the latest skincare movement offers just that and several brands are leading the way. Read More…

The Importance Of Acceptance

the-importance-of-acceptance

We know lots of women who’ve had fillers, Botox and other cosmetic ‘tweaks’. And if that includes you, that’s your choice. But you won’t find us lining up for a syringe-ful of anything ‘age-defying’ in a cosmeto-dermatologist’s waiting room. Not now, not ever. We have plenty of beauty editor colleagues who’ve done so, of course – sometimes in the line of duty, to educate other women about what it’s like and what results to expect. But along the way, in some cases, they’ve entirely stopped looking like the women we knew (and not in a good way). Read More…