In moderate to severe cases of psoriasis, the inflammatory skin condition can really do a number on your skin, causing red rash-like plaques and thick, oyster-like scale. If you’ve dabbled with OTC products here or there and they haven’t made a lick of difference, it’s easy to feel hopeless about how much impact your own personal skin care habits can even have.
But your daily habits do make a difference, whether your psoriasis is mild or more serious.
Even though psoriasis can’t be cured, there are plenty of treatments available that may not only help clear a patient’s skin (sometimes close to completely), but can also significantly improve their quality of life. Along with your dermatologist's recommended medication regimen, it’s important to adopt healthier lifestyle habits that help psoriasis symptoms—like eating a psoriasis-friendly diet, avoiding habits that can cause psoriasis flare-ups, and of course, properly caring for your skin.
How to Care for Your Skin If You Have Psoriasis
Keeping skin cool and moist reduces redness and itching and helps the skin heal. “Dry skin can aggravate psoriasis symptoms and psoriasis looks like areas of incredibly dry skin,” says Suzanne Friedler, MD, a dermatologist in New York City.
Pick the right moisturizer. For patients with psoriasis, choosing the right moisturizer can make a big difference. Over-the-counter lotions that contain ingredients like salicylic acid, lactic acid, urea, or phenol can help remove psoriasis scale. Removing scale can reduce itch and make itch-relieving lotions and ointments more effective.“Moisturizers that contain salicylic acid can help break down some of the scales and allow better penetration of your medications,” says Dr. Friedler. “Salicylic acid moisturizers are widely available in the drugstore, however if you need a higher concentration of a keratolytic moisturizer that breaks down scale you need to see your dermatologist for that.”
Time your moisturizing regimen. “Make sure you moisturize as soon as you get out of the shower while your body is still moist to lock in that moisture,” says Dr. Friedler. “During showers we do lose some of our natural oils, and when your skin becomes dried out, it can adversely affect your psoriasis. So putting them back in immediately after a shower can be very helpful.”
Take a cooler, shorter showers.Hot water can dry out the skin and make irritation worse. “For all patients with dry skin, I always recommend having shorter showers,” says Dr. Friedler. Avoid hot showers or baths, and limit your bathing time to 10 minutes or less.
Keep up with your treatment.“If your doctor has prescribed medications, use them on a regular basis, don’t skip your treatment,” says Dr. Friedler. “Following your dermatologist treatment plan can help keep your psoriasis under control, and prevent it from worsening.”
Psoriasis is easier to treat when you catch it early, says Dr. Friedler. Once the thick scale of psoriasis has formed and once the plaques become very thick, it’s harder for medication to penetrate and get the skin back to normal.