Reality TV star and entrepreneur Kim Kardashian leads a glamorous life, and for many years her makeup and designer clothing hid the fact that she has psoriasis. In recent years, however, she’s decided to open up about her struggle with this autoimmune disease and even ask followers for advice about how to manage it.
Kardashian first learned that she had psoriasis when she was 25 years old, she wrote in an essay for her sister Kourtney’s lifestyle website, Poosh. “At the time, I wasn’t sure it was psoriasis,” Kardashian explained.
She had worn a sequin dress to a big event, and when she came home, her skin was itchy and sensitive. At first she brushed it off as a sensitivity to the dress material. Her mother, Kris Jenner, knew better. Jenner also has psoriasis, and she later identified a spot on Kardashian’s leg as psoriasis. (A dermatologist later confirmed the diagnosis.)
Trial and Error
Kardashian’s psoriasis typically flares on her legs and at times has spread to her face. She gets red patches that look like big red circles. The rashes can be itchy and flaky.
Kardashian has tried many strategies to soothe her symptoms, from blueberry smoothies to light treatments, and everything in between. “I spent about four months doing everything natural — every ointment, cream, serum, and foam you can possibly imagine and everything from the dermatologist,” she said in her essay.
At times, she’s been so frustrated that she asked her social media followers for medication recommendations.
“I think the time has come to start a medication for psoriasis,” she said on Twitter in December 2018. “I’ve never seen it like this before and I can’t even cover it at this point. It’s taken over my body. Has anyone tried a medication for psoriasis & what kind works best? Need help ASAP!!!”
Some strategies have been more successful than others. Here are some things she’s tried.
One of the biggest changes Kardashian made was switching to a plant-based diet.
“There’s no specific data to support a plant-based diet” as a treatment for psoriasis, says Hadley King, MD, a New York City dermatologist. However, she notes that an anti-inflammatory diet such as the Mediterranean diet that emphasizes plant-based foods might help. Fresh fruit, vegetables, and legumes all help reduce inflammation, which in turn could help ease psoriasis symptoms. But more research is needed, King says.
“It’s also a good idea to minimize foods that aggravate inflammation like red meat, soda, sugar, refined carbohydrates, and fried foods,” says Maryann Mikhail, MD, a dermatologist in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Smoothies and Juices
Kardashian has tried an assortment of drinks, like blueberry detox smoothies and sea moss smoothies, that she hoped would quell her symptoms.
“I even tried an herbal tea that tasted like tar. I tried celery juice for eight weeks. Then I’d do celery juice mixed with the tea. I would do that twice a day,” she said in her Poosh essay.
It’s unclear if they helped ease her psoriasis. King says there’s no real data to support drinking sea moss smoothies, blueberry smoothies, or celery juice to manage psoriasis.
Kardashian has also tried topical treatments like cortisone ointments. Topical steroids are a common treatment for psoriasis. They’re helpful because they control inflammation to reduce swelling and redness.
She has even tried herbal ointments. In a selfie she shared on Instagram, she showed a flare-up on her face with an herbal healing ointment smeared on top of her skin.
Herbal ointments may be helpful for psoriasis, says King. She recommends Centella asiatica, also known as cica. It’s an antioxidant-rich herb that’s been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine and seems to help skin inflammation and dry, flaky skin.
Kardashian also tried light therapy treatment . “Narrowband UVB treatments can be very helpful for psoriasis,” says King, adding that there’s a lot of data to support this.
In a 2017 interview with People, Kardashian said that after using an at-home LED light therapy device called Quasar MD Plus, her psoriasis was about 60% gone.
“I used to have it so bad on the back of my legs. Now I just have two patches that won’t seem to go away, but the rest have gone away ever since I had the baby,” she told the magazine.
However, in her 2019 essay, Kardashian said that getting UV rays directly on her psoriasis spots would burn the areas and make them itch.
Kardashian also credits pregnancy with temporary improvements in her skin. “When I got pregnant both times, it fully went away,” she said on Instagram. “That was amazing, but then it came back again. Earlier this year is when it got extremely bad — it covered my whole face and a majority of my entire body.”
The Right Attitude
Now Kardashian has a new approach: accepting it.
“I’ve become extremely comfortable with my psoriasis,” she said in her essay. “For the past eight years, although the spots are unpredictable, I can always count on my main spot on my right lower leg, which consistently stays flared up. I have learned to live with this spot without using any creams or medication — I just deal.”
Sometimes she covers it with body makeup, which comes in handy if she has a photo shoot and doesn’t want it to be a distraction, for example. Other times, she says she’s fine with showing it off.
“If you have psoriasis, you can’t let it ruin your life or get the best of you. You have to do what you can to make sure you are comfortable but not let it take over.”
Try these tips to manage triggers and symptoms.
Moisturize. “It’s important to support your skin barrier with topical moisturizers that have humectants, emollients, and occlusives,” King says. She recommends Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream, Simple Kind to Skin Replenishing Rich Moisturizer, and CeraVe Moisturizing Cream.
Try colloidal oatmeal. Colloidal oatmeal is a soothing agent that relieves itch and irritation and hydrates and moisturizes your skin.
Manage stress. “Stress and anxiety can impact most inflammatory skin conditions,” King says. To prevent flare-ups, try stress management techniques like meditation, therapy, and exercise.
Avoid triggers. Cut back on alcohol and smoking. “Both are linked to worsening psoriasis,” Mikhail says.