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Lupus Skin Care Tips

I have lupus. Through trial and error, as well as online research, I have found a few things that work for me in terms of treatment.

Knowing How to Take Care of Your Skin When You Have Lupus Can Make a Big Difference

Lupus is a life-changing disease with far more serious consequences than rashes. However, lupus rashes are often literally in-your-face reminders of serious illness, and it can seem like an insult added to injury to those who have it. For an invisible illness, lupus sure manages to make itself seen by those who suffer from it.

Learning how to take care of your skin when you have lupus can be challenging. Because lupus is a serious disease, the highest priority should be treating the condition as a whole. Many sufferers notice that skin-related symptoms are not often addressed by their health care providers. Some patients are left with the idea that there’s nothing that can be done to ameliorate or to prevent malar rash and other skin irritations because they assume that if there were, their doctors would have already explained treatment and prevention.

The good news is that, even if your doctor hasn’t discussed rash treatment and prevention, there are treatments and self-care options that can make a huge difference.

I am a person diagnosed with lupus who suffers from several kinds of skin irritations—including malar, or butterfly, rashes, as well as random, scabby rashes that pop up pretty much anywhere they want. Through trial and error, as well as online research, I have found a few things that have worked for me and reduced the number and severity of my skin irritations and discolorations.

I wish I’d known about these options years ago, so I’d like to share them in the hopes of helping others with lupus rash to get the answers they need without having to struggle to find them.

Reduce Inflammation

Lupus rash occurs because antibodies attack cells inside your body. Inflammation seems to play a large role in lupus rash and in lupus itself.

While the results may only be temporary, I find that applying a cool (but not freezing cold) cloth to the affected area for five to fifteen minutes temporarily reduces apparent inflammation and redness. I sometimes just use a glass of ice water or cold water that I press briefly against the affected areas. This can be repeated as often as desired although caution should be used to avoid over-drying the skin… and setting off a skin reaction.

I’ve also noticed that when I use ibuprofen to treat my joint pain, it reduces the redness of my skin condition, particularly my malar rash. If you don’t already use ibuprofen or other NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), talk to your doctor before starting them.

How Satisfied You with Your Doctor's Help with Rash and Skin Care?

Sunscreen Is Your New Best Friend - Apply It Thoroughly and Often

Don't forget that sunscreen's effectiveness wears off with time, so always carry some with you to periodically freshen it up.

Don't forget that sunscreen's effectiveness wears off with time, so always carry some with you to periodically freshen it up.

Prevent Inflammation by Avoiding Common Rash Triggers

For many people with lupus, almost any irritation or injury can set off a flare. It seems like common sense, but avoiding even small injuries such as cuts and scrapes can help prevent a skin reaction. Be especially careful not to scratch your skin with exfoliation creams or scrubbers.

Even an acne breakout can set off a skin irritation reaction, so preventing acne may help to prevent lupus rash, but you need to do so very gently. Wash your face with very mild soap or a mild anti-acne wash and lukewarm water and pat dry several times a day. This may seem excessive, but once you get to using sunscreen as much as you'll need it you’ll understand why you may need to wash your face a few more times a day than usual when you have lupus.

Sun exposure is also another major trigger for skin involvement. For me, a thumbprint-sized spot of sunburn can set off an entire full-body flare, including skin involvement. The obvious thing to do is to wear sunscreen and to freshen it up frequently. I like to use a 30 SPF or higher, often topped off with a face powder with an SPF of 15 or higher. I have found that the powder seems to keep the sunscreen from wearing off quite so fast. The powder also makes the lupus rash somewhat less obvious.

However, you can’t count on sunscreen for perfect protection so it’s a good idea to incorporate more hats with brims into your wardrobe. They are also useful for days when your skin may be broken and you can't apply sunscreen to those areas. Opaque, long-sleeved shirts and pants can protect your arms and legs from too much sun exposure. Keep in mind that, even on cloudy days, you are exposed to ultraviolet radiation so you should wear sunscreen even when it’s gloomy outside for optimum protection against UV rays.

My doctor advised me that I should not apply regular sunscreen to broken skin caused by my rashes. However, he said I can use a pure zinc sunscreen over those areas if I need sunscreen coverage that I can't get with a hat or long sleeves.

Prevent Lupus Flare-Ups to Prevent Rashes

People with lupus who have fewer flares tend to also have fewer rashes. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully to get the most out of your treatment.

Stress is also believed to play a big role in auto-immune disorders so avoiding or mitigating stress is important to reducing flares and thus lupus rashes as well. To reduce stress simplify your routine, learn to live within your abilities, exercise regularly, try meditation or prayer, eat healthy, and get enough sleep—even if that means taking naps to fill in the gaps.

Sources and Resources

Here are some very helpful resources about lupus.

Prescription Options

There are topical creams as well as corticosteroids and anti-malarial drugs prescribed for lupus and its rashes. If your skin involvement bothers you, or if you aren’t satisfied with your lupus treatment, discuss it with your doctor. It may help to bring along a friend to your next appointment if you have a hard time being heard by your doctor.

While your rash may not be your most serious lupus symptom, it is a depressing or demoralizing symptom for some people, and stress reduction is important in the treatment of auto-immune diseases.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2015 Kylyssa Shay

How Do You Deal with Lupus Rashes? Please Share Your Tips for Skin Care. on October 30, 2018:

Malar rash is permanent scars is there any makeup to fix it or at least make me feel whole again.

Rachel A on June 03, 2018:

My rash flares up my arms. 1) I rinse them with water & wash towel only, no soap; 2) I pat them dry 3) I then rub Noxema on both arms spread thoroughly and add a little water for an easier spread. 4) I have a small ice pack in freezer that I start placing over the different areas of my arms. It soothes and cools the rash. When done before bedtime, I wake up to non-flared arms. (I remember using Noxema on my beach sunburns growing up). Hope this help you.

Victoria on September 19, 2017:

Thank you for the info good to know about the suncreen

Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on July 15, 2016:

Thank you for your comment and for the make-up tips for covering up lupus rash.

NewLifeOutlook on July 15, 2016:

Awesome tips — especially about the sunscreen!

If you're trying to cover facial rashes like a butterfly rash, use moisturizer, primer (preferably green to counteract the redness), and foundation. You could even add some concealer in between the primer and foundation if the redness is very pronounced.

Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on August 28, 2015:

Thank you. I really wish I had this information a lot sooner because I'd have fewer scars and de-pigmented spots on my face to live with. I hope it helps others with these annoying skin issues associated with lupus avoid some of that scarring, discolored skin, and sunburn caused flares.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on August 28, 2015:

Great tips for those who have Lupus and need to take care of their skin. Nice work!