Sweating is a natural process with an important job — it keeps you from overheating. For some people with psoriasis, though, sweating might seem to cause more problems than benefits. If sweating worsens your psoriasis symptoms, you’re not alone.
“It’s hot and sweaty today, so the psoriasis is really acting up behind my ears,” said one MyPsoriasisTeam member. “Sweat means psoriasis plaques for me!” another commented.
In this article, we look closer at sweating — what causes it, how it might affect psoriasis symptoms, and tips for managing it. If you have questions about sweating and psoriasis, schedule an appointment with your health care provider or a dermatologist.
Sweating allows your body to regulate its temperature. You sweat, or perspire, when blood vessels in the skin bring body heat to the surface. This prompts your sweat glands to release water, which evaporates off your skin. The evaporation cools your body and keeps your body temperature at a healthy level. Most people have between 1.6 million and 5 million sweat glands.
In addition to water, sweat contains small amounts of electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Sometimes sweat also contains bacteria, toxins, and pheromones (chemicals secreted by the body that might influence others’ behavior).
Hot weather and vigorous exercise might first come to mind as causes of sweating, but you can sweat for other reasons. Common sweating triggers include:
Some health experts suspect that autoimmune conditions like psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis can increase body temperature and trigger excessive sweating, but more research is needed to confirm a connection and establish a scientific explanation.
Some MyPsoriasisTeam members report sweating as a side effect of their psoriasis medications. “Today, the sweats are bad with the methotrexate,” said one MyPsoriasisTeam member. Another said, “My dermatologist prescribed a ketoconazole face cream, and it makes my face sweat.”
Talk to your doctor if you experience sweating as a side effect of your psoriasis treatment.
In most cases, sweating is a good thing. Your body would overheat without it. If you’re living with psoriasis, however, you might question the benefits of this essential body function on days when it causes excessive itchiness or triggers a flare-up.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system speeds up cell growth and cell maturation. This can cause a buildup of dead skin cells, or plaques, that itch, burn, or sting. There are several types of psoriasis. The most common type is plaque psoriasis, which affects up to 80 percent of people who have this skin condition. Having psoriasis is a risk factor for developing psoriatic arthritis.
Because there are different types of psoriasis and it’s possible to have more than one type, sweating may affect your psoriasis symptoms differently than it does someone else’s.
One type of psoriasis that seems to be affected by sweating is inverse psoriasis, which usually appears as lesions. The lesions may look shiny or smooth and be a different color than the surrounding skin tone.
Inverse psoriasis can develop wherever there are skin folds, including the armpits, groin, genitals, and beneath the breasts. It’s more common in people of higher weights and those who have deep skin folds.
Sweating can worsen inverse psoriasis because of where the lesions occur. When you sweat, your skin becomes slicker. This makes it easier for the skin folds to rub together and irritate the psoriasis lesions. Not only can this moisture worsen psoriasis, but can provide an environment for yeast and fungus to grow. Sweat can also make it harder to keep medicated creams on the skin.
Sweating can worsen symptoms in other types of psoriasis, too. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, sweating is a trigger for psoriasis flare-ups — periods when your symptoms become more severe or appear in new places.
“The heat and sweat make my psoriasis itch worse,” said a MyPsoriasisTeam member who has scalp psoriasis. Another said, “It has been really hot lately, and my skin seems to be worse when I sweat.”
Psoriatic flares can cause symptoms such as:
Although you can’t stop sweating — it’s an essential body process — many people with psoriasis are able to manage it with a combination of treatment options and lifestyle changes.
When you have questions about psoriasis and sweating, your doctor is the first person to talk to. Be as specific as possible when describing each symptom, including how it feels and how soon after sweating it occurs. Some people find it helps to keep a symptom journal to document flare-ups as they happen instead of relying on memory. You can bring the journal or notebook with you to appointments.
Psoriasis affects different parts of the body. The type of psoriasis you have and where it develops will help you and your doctor determine the best way to manage it.
For inverse psoriasis, your dermatologist might recommend a powder to keep the lesions in the skin folds dry. If you have scalp psoriasis, they might suggest a shampoo containing hydrocortisone, a type of corticosteroid that can decrease the inflammation and itching caused by sweating. Shampoos containing coal tar or ketoconazole may also help.
If you sweat excessively — a condition called hyperhidrosis — your doctor might recommend:
Before taking any medications for sweating, ask your health care provider about the risks and side effects. Many people can manage sweating with lifestyle changes alone.
In a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, researchers found that sleep and cold showers were two of the most successful methods for alleviating itching in participants with psoriasis. But if you can avert the itching by reducing how much you sweat, that’s even better.
Here are some other lifestyle changes that might help:
“My scalp psoriasis gets itchier in the summer months because I’m outside more and wearing a hat, which makes my head sweat,” one MyPsoriasisTeam member said. “Then the sweat makes my scalp itch. My solution is to shower after gardening and mowing and use a gentle shampoo.”
Although you may be tempted to crank up the air conditioning to reduce sweating, air conditioning can cause dry skin, which can also trigger a flare-up. The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends applying moisturizing cream throughout the day if you have psoriasis and spend time in an air-conditioned home or building.
Also, phototherapy using ultraviolet (UV) light is a common treatment for psoriasis. Some people find that natural sunlight eases their psoriasis symptoms during the summer. If that’s true for you but you’re also prone to sweating, weigh the risks and benefits of UV exposure and consider limiting your time outside during the hottest part of the day. Too much sun exposure can increase your risk for developing skin cancer and early skin aging.
One of the benefits of joining a local support group or an online community like MyPsoriasisTeam is the opportunity to connect with others who understand life with psoriasis and can share their tips and experiences.
MyPsoriasisTeam members have discussed strategies to manage sweating, such as the following:
You may need to try a few different approaches to find the best way to manage sweating and ease your psoriasis symptoms. For skin diseases like psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis, what works for some may not work for everyone. Try to be patient, and don’t give up.
Before trying any skin care or other at-home psoriasis tips you find online, seek medical advice from a health care professional. For sweating and psoriasis, a doctor specializing in dermatology may be your best resource.
MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 116,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
Does sweating make your psoriasis symptoms worse? Have you found ways to manage sweating? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.