For years, I’ve had psoriasis on my body—typically my knees and elbows. It was usually easy enough to apply a topical treatment, cover it up, and forget about it. But two years ago, I started getting patches of psoriasis on my face, and it was a whole different story.
While I wanted to go makeup-free as much as possible to keep my skin clean and free from products, I knew I would feel more comfortable if I could conceal my psoriasis when I was going out. And a quick application of tinted moisturizer followed by my trusty concealer stick just didn’t cut it any more.
Psoriasis, a chronic skin condition, can cause red, scaly patches that may itch, crack, and bleed. And, if they’re on your face, those patches “can make applying makeup evenly a more difficult process,” Sarika Ramachandran, M.D., an assistant professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, tell SELF.
I don’t have all the answers and there are still days when my skin is really unpredictable. But here are four tips I’ve learned that make it a little easier to apply makeup when I have psoriasis on my face.
- 1. Properly prep the surface of your skin.
- 2. Pick your formulation carefully.
- 3. Pay attention to the pigment ratio in your products.
- How long will I have to treat my psoriasis?
1. Properly prep the surface of your skin.
Psoriasis creates an uneven skin texture, so creating a solid base for makeup is crucial. Dr. Ramachandran recommends starting with a good moisturizer to treat dryness and gently soften scales. I’m currently using Vanicream Lite Lotion, $13, which absorbs quickly, is non-comedogenic and doesn’t contain any of the common chemical irritants, like dyes, preservatives, or fragrances.
The next step—once your moisturizer has had enough time to absorb, Dr. Ramachandran says—depends on your personal preferences. I try not to use prescribed topical treatments (like low-potency corticosteroids, retinoids, or synthetic vitamin D) on my face before makeup as they can cause irritation. Plus, they’re often in the form of an ointment, which might leave the skin surface greasy and make it difficult to apply the products. Instead, I put my treatments on before I go to bed.
If you are applying a topical treatment to your face in the morning, Dr. Ramachandran recommends leaving it to soak in before starting on your makeup. Or, like me, you can save your greasier treatments for the evenings before bed and use cream-based treatments in the mornings.
2. Pick your formulation carefully.
I’ve experimented with different types of foundation and a liquid formulation is the best option for my skin by far. Makeup artist Mindy Green always uses liquid foundation on clients with psoriasis, applying them with a gentle dabbing or stippling technique. Think of it as dotting the product onto your face (as if you were applying small dots of paint onto a wall) rather than using broad, sweeping strokes, which can irritate psoriatic lesions and inflame the skin.
Green recommends a Beautyblender-type sponge for all liquid products (foundation, highlighter, and concealer) instead of a brush. But if you do prefer a brush, make sure it’s a supersoft one because psoriasis-prone skin has to be treated with care.
On the other hand, powders tend to be tricky to apply. “In general, it may be helpful to avoid applying powders directly to psoriatic lesions,” Dr. Ramachandran advises. “Their scaly nature makes it difficult to apply powder-based products directly.”
If you do want to use a powder, applying it on top of a cream or liquid foundation may make it easier. And try Green’s advice to ditch the brush: “Powder will be less likely to disturb the skin surface if it’s applied with a Beautyblender,” she says.
3. Pay attention to the pigment ratio in your products.
The phrase “pigment ratio” meant nothing to me before I got psoriasis on my face. Basically, it refers to the amount of coverage you can get for the amount of product you put on—and you want to get high coverage with the least amount of product possible to avoid aggravating the area.
Psoriasis can show up on almost any area on your body, including your legs. In addition being itchy and possibly sore, these patches can make you feel less confident in your skin. But that doesn’t mean you have to hide your skin in long pants. Exposing your psoriasis to natural sunlight for a moderate amount of time may help ease skin inflammation. And that can soothe flare-ups. Be sure not to spend more than 15 minutes without sunscreen or clothing over your skin; otherwise, you run the risk of burning and increasing your risk of skin cancer.
You can minimize and even conceal psoriasis patches on your legs.
Adjust your routine. A long, hot shower can make psoriasis worse. Try to keep your bath temperature warm, not hot. And don’t stay in there too long. Ask your dermatologist about coal tar washes that you can use on your legs. She may also recommend using an exfoliating salicylic acid cleanser a few times a week to remove extra flakes.
Moisturize. After showering, moisturize your legs right away. Use a product your dermatologist recommends: something fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, and non-clogging. You may need to try several moisturizing lotions to find one that doesn’t sting or irritate your skin.
Know when to apply medicated creams. If your doctor has prescribed a corticosteroid product, you may want to apply it at night so it has time to absorb. Corticosteroid creams and ointments can stop the overproduction of skin cells that make psoriasis plaques, but makeup may not stick to skin that has a heavy cream or ointment on it.
Consider using a primer. Moisturizer absorbs into your skin, but makeup primers sit on top of it to create a smooth surface. That helps makeup stick better — especially if your skin’s surface isn’t even because of your psoriasis plaques.
Apply cover-up. You can cover pink or red patches with a lightweight liquid foundation. Darker or more severe patches may need a heavier product (like “pancake” foundation). If you use a liquid or semi-liquid product, you can “set” it with powder and a brush.
How long will I have to treat my psoriasis?
Psoriasis medicine: Psoriasis is often a lifelong condition that requires a long-term treatment strategy. Psoriasis tends to come and go unexpectedly. People often have periods when psoriasis calms down. Some may see clear or nearly clear skin during these periods. Psoriasis can also flare unpredictably.
Treating psoriasis can keep it under control, helping you avoid serious flares and preventing the psoriasis from becoming more severe.
Keeping your psoriasis under control tends to be an ongoing process. It requires appointments with your dermatologist. You’ll also need to follow your treatment plan and learn what triggers your psoriasis. Once you know your triggers, you can avoid them.
While treatment may be ongoing, the type of treatment you need may change. Different treatment may be necessary to:
Keep your psoriasis stable, nearly clear, or clear
Control a flare-up
At times, treatment can lead to clear skin and no psoriasis symptoms. The medical term for this is “remission.” A remission can last for months or years; however, most last from 1 to 12 months.
Psoriasis is notoriously unpredictable, so it’s impossible to know who will have a remission and how long it will last.
Even when psoriasis clears, it’s likely to return. When it does, treatment can help control it so that your psoriasis doesn’t worsen.
What will happen if I stop treating my psoriasis?
One of three things happens when you stop treatment:
You may stay clear and have no psoriasis symptoms (remission).
Your psoriasis may return, looking and feeling much like it did before (relapse).
The psoriasis may return and be worse than before (rebound).
What happens often depends on the medication you were using when you stopped, how well you manage your psoriasis triggers, and your medical history.
Before stopping psoriasis treatment, talk with your dermatologist
Because psoriasis is a lifelong disease, it’s understandable that you may want to stop treatment at some point. Always talk with your dermatologist before you stop treatment.
Some treatments can be stopped immediately. Others need to be discontinued slowly to prevent psoriasis from worsening (rebound).
When psoriasis rebounds, it may become a more serious type of psoriasis. A person who had plaque (pronounced plack) psoriasis may suddenly have pustular psoriasis or erythrodermic psoriasis.
The best way to prevent a rebound is to talk with your dermatologist. Your dermatologist can tell you whether you can stop the treatment abruptly or slowly. Sometimes, the best approach is to gradually switch to another treatment.
Tell your dermatologist why you want to stop treatment
When you talk with your dermatologist, it’s important to explain why you want to stop treatment. This may play a key role in determining next steps. This talk is especially important for both men and women who want to start a family.
Related AAD resources
How concerned should I be about my psoriasis?
Can a woman treat psoriasis while pregnant or breastfeeding?
Can a man treat psoriasis while trying to start a family?
All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology
Supported in part by Novartis.