Psoriasis on the Face
Last updated: September 2023
People who have psoriasis mostly get flare-ups on their torso, arms, and legs. However, scientists have discovered other common areas for this skin disease. Sensitive areas like the face can be harder to treat. Facial psoriasis may also cause serious physical, social, and mental health challenges.
Learning who is more likely to have facial psoriasis and how to treat flare-ups in this sensitive area can help you get the care you need.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes red, itchy, scaly patches on the body. It is a long-term (chronic) disease that you will need to treat for life. The disease goes through cycles, called flares, where you will have symptoms for weeks or months, and then they will taper off for a while.1
Who is likely to have facial psoriasis, and what are the symptoms?
Anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of people with psoriasis have it on their face. Having facial psoriasis is a sign that your disease is more severe.2,3
You are more likely to have a flare-up on your face if you have had psoriasis for a longer time, a family history of the disease, or a more serious form of it. This type of psoriasis often affects the:3
- Upper forehead
- Lower forehead
Most people with facial psoriasis also have the condition on their scalp. Rarely, it will appear on the eyelids and around the mouth.3
Facial psoriasis causes itching, soreness, and sensitive skin. Many times, it gets worse with:4
- Sun exposure
- Skin injury
- Yeast found on the skin (called Malassezia)
The emotional impact of facial psoriasis
It is hard to hide psoriasis on the face. Those who have it may feel judged, ashamed, alone, and have low self-esteem and depression. Facial psoriasis can create challenges with intimacy, at work, and in your social life.3
If you are struggling, think about joining a support group for people with psoriasis. It can help to share your journey with other people on a similar path. Ask your doctor or search online for support groups in your area.
When you feel self-conscious, use clothing or makeup to cover up redness and sores. Keep in mind that you should only use makeup on closed sores and lesions to avoid irritation.1
Facial psoriasis treatments
Researchers are still studying facial psoriasis and therapies for this sensitive, hard-to-treat area. Many people with the condition use a mild topical steroid, a medicine you apply to your skin. They are available over-the-counter or as a prescription from your doctor.3
Topical steroids help to ease redness and swelling. They can also cause side effects like:3
- Skin thinning
- Eye diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma
Other psoriasis treatments without steroids include:2,4,5-8
- Calcipotriene (Dovonex®): This chemical form of vitamin D3 slows skin cell growth, flattens lesions, and gets rid of psoriasis scale. Common side effects are skin irritation, stinging, and burning.
- Calcineurin inhibitors (pimecrolimus, tacrolimus): These ointments or creams treat psoriasis by changing your immune system.
- Phototherapy: Also called light therapy, this treatment exposes the skin to ultraviolet (UV) light. With a prescription, you can do phototherapy at home with your own equipment or at a doctor’s office. Keep in mind that some people with psoriasis are sensitive to UV light.
- Oral medicines: These medicines, also called systemic treatments, are for moderate-to-severe psoriasis and work throughout your whole body.
- Biologics: You will take this medicine through an injection or IV. It targets and blocks certain cells and proteins in your immune system that help to cause psoriasis.
- Cleansers and moisturizers: Your doctor may suggest an over-the-counter product to cleanse the skin, get rid of scales and dead skin, and bring back moisture.2
Your healthcare team will help you choose the best treatment based on your needs and possible side effects..
Does your psoriasis management change with the seasons?