Sensitive Skin 101: Psoriasis, Eczema, and Rosacea

I’ve been battling eczema for decades, so I know firsthand how frustrating inflammatory skin issues can be. Red skin that looks like you’re always flushed. Itchy, irritated patches. Silvery scales surrounded by angry skin. With a range of symptoms and causes, inflammatory skin issues like psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea can be painful, embarrassing and completely confusing to deal with. Not sure what’s going on with your skin, but suspect one of these conditions? Get yourself to a dermatologist for a diagnosis and read on for a few key tips.

Psoriasis

What it is

An autoimmune disorder in which skin cells grow at an extremely rapid rate, causing raised plaques of skin.

Symptoms

Itchy and painful plaques of red and silvery skin often occurring on the knees,elbows, and scalp. Pitting, discoloration, and crumbling of fingernails and toenails. Pain and swelling in the joints.

Causes

Psoriasis is thought to be the result of an overactive immune system. Like many autoimmune disorders, psoriasis may be partially hereditary but many people with psoriasis don’t have a family member with it.

How to treat it

If you have psoriasis, you’re more likely to experience a flare-up when you’re stressed or rundown, so focusing on your emotional and physical wellness is key. Psoriasis is currently incurable, but can be managed with topical and internal treatments. I recommend gentle exfoliating ingredients like salicylic acid and topical retinoids to encourage the skin to shed dead cells instead of building up plaques. If you have very serious psoriasis, a doctor can also prescribe an oral medication that suppresses the immune system. However, these medications often have serious side effects. Some people also see results with home therapies like Epsom salt baths, aloe vera, and fish oil.

Eczema

What it is

A chronic sensitive skin condition caused by inflammation that can occur anywhere on the body.

Symptoms

Chronically itchy, red, dry patches of thickened skin that may develop into painful sores or crusts.

Causes

Docs are still trying to get to the bottom of what causes eczema, but because the condition resembles an allergic reaction, many think that it may be a sensitivity to environmental toxins or allergens. It may also be caused by abnormal immune function or a depressed immune system.

How to treat it

Let me give it to you straight. I spent years applying all kinds of treatments to try to cure my eczema. Gentle at-home peels, moisturizers, and topical steroids all help with the symptoms; however, I never saw true relief until I completely overhauled my diet after seeing a naturopath who identified my food intolerances. Every person is different, but don’t rule out diet and lifestyle changes. It worked for me!

Rosacea

What it is

A common skin disease that causes extreme skin redness and generally occurs in people over thirty.

Symptoms

Intense skin redness on the nose, cheeks, and forehead. Small,acne-like breakouts.Dry and irritated eyes. In very rare cases: permanent skin thickening and knobby bumps on the nose.

Causes

Dermatologists still don’t have rosacea fully figured out, but they think it may be genetic as it mostly occurs in fair-skinned people with sensitive skin. While not caused by drinking, alcohol consumption does exacerbate the appearance of rosacea because it dilates the blood vessels in the face and increases skin redness.

How to treat it

I recommend very gentle products to people with rosacea in order to quell redness and prevent further irritation. Gentle treatments infused with lactic and salicylic acids can help eliminate rosacea acne and help stimulate cell turnover. Intense Pulsed Light or IPL treatments can also help reduce symptoms.