Psoriasis is a chronic, noncontagious skin condition that can arise on any part of the body, and what it means on the scalp for a hair stylist is "please don't let hair dye chemicals touch my scalp!"
About 6 million Americans suffer from psoriasis, which occurs when a malfunctioning immune system speeds up the skin cell production 10 times faster than normal. The result is thick, scaly skin lesions, also called "plaques." The condition affects men and women equally and usually strikes between the ages of 15 and 35, but can occur at any age.
Keeping skin as clear as possible with topical creams, phototherapy or systemic medications allows psoriatics to put their best possible face (and body) forward. Because flareups often foil such plans, recruiting other reliable members for your "beauty team," such as an understanding hair stylist, is imperative.
How to camouflage, cover or otherwise mask your psoriasis isn't always so simple; a lot depends on the location and severity of the lesions. Those who have psoriasis on their faces will use different methods than those disguising patches on their arms, legs or other body parts. The frequency and intensity of outbreaks varies, and they can be brought on by a number of factors, including stress, injury or even seasonal conditions.
Anyone who suspects they may have psoriasis should first consult a doctor. After working with physicians and talking with other psoriatics -- and having lived with this disorder myself for more than 30 years now -- I have amassed some beauty tips that can make living with the condition easier.
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. The effects of daily or even twice-daily applications of face and body lotion cannot be overstressed, because psoriasis scales are calmed and lesions look better after this single step. Creams are generally more moisturizing than lotions, and your doctor may suggest a prescription cream if your psoriasis is severe.
Remove as much scaling as possible. Depending on the severity of the lesions, this can be achieved in several ways. A soak in a lukewarm bath followed by a thorough rubdown with a loofah sponge -- be careful not to overscrub with a loofah, because it can traumatize the skin and actually cause psoriasis to spread -- and mild, over-the-counter (OTC) soaps made with salicylic-acid can remove minor scaling. For major outbreaks, a process called "occlusion" may help. Occlusion involves coating psoriasis patches with a rich lotion (OTC brands are fine) and wrapping them in plastic wrap overnight. In the morning, wash scales away. Removing scales also helps moisturizers and medicated creams penetrate the skin to treat the inflammation underneath. (Consult with your doctor before trying occlusion with prescription creams.) Another occlusion remedy is sleeping with olive oil on your scalp and then washing the oil and loose scales out the following morning with a salicylic-acid shampoo.This not only improves skin appearance, but sets the stage for the next tip.
Concealer is your friend. It is important to note that cracked or bleeding psoriasis lesions should never be covered with makeup, which could lead to inflammation or infection. For intact skin, though, especially scale-free patches, a soft coating of concealer, foundation or other cosmetic cover-ups help hide the inflamed areas. Brands such as Dermablend or Covermark, used to coat burns and scars, can camouflage intense redness. As with any makeup, remove with soap and water at the end of the day.
Accessorize. Always a good tip for the fashion-conscious, accessories can either cover areas affected by psoriasis or divert attention to nonaffected areas. For women, flourishes, such as a scarf, shawl or bolero jacket (which just skims the shoulders) can lightly mask areas covered by psoriasis without looking heavy. Or to draw eyes upward from patchy arms and legs, try a pretty necklace and pair of earrings. Men can try using a colorful tie or a shiny pin on their lapel as well as a snappy pocket handkerchief.
Cantu, Ninfa. Telephone interview, 24 Apr. 2008.
"Camouflage and Cover-ups." Psoriasis.org. 2008. 11 Apr. 2008. <http://www.psoriasis.org/about/living/social/camouflage.php>