No matter your age or experience, psoriasis can make intimacy with someone new stressful and challenging. Many people with psoriasis feel uncomfortable about revealing their skin to someone else, especially during a flare-up.

But just because you have psoriasis doesn’t mean you can’t have a normal, healthy relationship. Here are some tips on how to navigate intimacy with your partner when living with psoriasis.

Be comfortable with yourself

Almost everyone feels insecure about their body at some point, regardless of whether they have psoriasis. You may be embarrassed about your skin and worried how your partner will react to it. But the more comfortable you are with yourself, the more likely your partner will not be troubled by your psoriasis.

If you’re ready for the physical intimacy stage in your relationship, chances are your partner must care about more than just your skin. If you’re experiencing a flare-up, there are a lot of other ways to be intimate with your partner, such as cuddling and massage.

Talk about it beforehand

It can be scary to talk about your psoriasis with the person you’re dating — it’s up to you to decide when the moment is right. Some like to address it as soon as they start a new relationship, while others choose to wait until things are a bit more serious. The important thing is to be as open as possible with your partner about your condition. Don’t apologize for it or make excuses.

Let your partner know that psoriasis is not contagious, but it may affect some aspects of your sexual relationship during a flare-up. Before you talk about your psoriasis with your partner, take some time to think about how the conversation might go, and be prepared to answer any questions they might have about the condition.

Use lubricant

During physical intimacy, certain patches of your skin may become sore from repetitive motion. It’s a good idea to use lotions, lubricants, or lubricated condoms during sexual activity to help reduce irritation and chafing. When picking out a lubricant, try to go for one that is free of added chemicals and warming agents, which could potentially trigger a flare-up. You should also make sure to avoid oil-based lubricants if you’re using a condom. Certain oils can create small holes in the condom that may render it ineffective at preventing pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.

Be communicative

Pain can be a significant roadblock for people with psoriasis when it comes to intimacy. This is because of sensitive “hotspots” on your skin that are repeatedly rubbed or touched. The best way to manage this pain is to tell your partner about what feels good and what doesn’t. Ensure them that your occasional discomfort isn’t because of something they’re doing wrong, and work together to find positions that are comfortable for you. It can also be helpful to work out signals that allow you to indicate you’re uncomfortable without having to stop things completely.

Moisturize afterward

After being intimate with your partner, get in the habit of taking a warm bath or shower and scrubbing gently with a mild cleanser. Pat yourself dry with a soft towel, then inspect your skin for sensitive patches. Reapply any topical creams or lotions you may be using. If your partner is willing, this moisturizing routine may be something you can enjoy together after intimacy.

Talk to your doctor

If you’ve tried the above and your psoriasis continues to have a negative effect on your ability to be intimate with your partner, talk to your doctor. They can discuss any available options to help you manage your symptoms. Certain treatments should not be applied directly to the genitals, so make sure to consult your doctor before trying something new.

Although erectile dysfunction is not a direct symptom of psoriasis, it isn’t uncommon for stress related to the condition to cause performance issues during intimacy. If you think this might be the case, ask your doctor about prescription medications that might help.