Tips For Removing Psoriasis Scales

Last updated: January 2022

Removing the build-up of psoriasis scales can be a form of treatment that people can do at home. Some people may find relief in removing plaques, others may not find this to be a beneficial treatment.

Insight from the community

While we have gathered various tips and suggestions from our community on methods that have worked for removing scales, it is important to check with your medical provider before starting or ending any treatment.

Moisturizers and emollients

An important first step before removing scales is to cover the affected area with either a moisturizer that is thicker in nature or an emollient. Many community members state they have found over-the-counter moisturizers or emollients that work for them, others find that a prescription from the physician works better.

Some have found that it is helpful to wrap the affected area with either plastic wrap or if it is the scalp wearing a shower cap after applying a moisturizer to help the skin stay moisturized which will prepare the skin for removing the scales.

Exfoliating or salicylic acid

Some find using an exfoliating or salicylic acid can be helpful in softening the skin. An exfoliating acid is applied to the skin and may help as it is meant to weaken the bonds between skin cells. When the bonds are weakened the outer layer of skin cells will shed, which can help in removing scales.

There are several over-the-counter brands of lotions, creams, shampoos, gels and ointments that contain exfoliating acid. Some experience irritation on the skin and may experience side effects such as stinging and/or burning.

Salicylic acid is another option to prepare the skin for scale removal. Salicylic acid can aid in scale removal by softening keratin (a protein in the skin). While salicylic acid is an ingredient in some over-the-counter items it is important to discuss using this with your doctor as higher levels of the acid can cause health issues.

Typically salicylic acid is not recommended to be used on large areas of the body, over a prolonged period of time or on children.1 Some salicylic acid can be too harsh on the skin and therefore other options can be glycolic and lactic acids, which may be gentler.

Coal tar

While many have probably heard of coal tar - they may have strayed away from it as it is quite smelly!

The sticky substance has been used to treat psoriasis for a long time and it works as an exfoliating acid in that it weakens the bonds and helps to shed the outer layer of skin. Coal tar can be found in shampoos, soaps, lotions or creams.

The benefit of a bath

While not everyone finds soaking in the bath to be relaxing- some find it tough to be a helpful method to softening skin and assisting in removing scales.

One of the key pieces to remember when deciding to soak in the bath is to not make sure the water is not too hot. If the temperature of the water is too hot this can cause the skin to dry out too much, therefore it is best to go for lukewarm water temperature.

Techniques for removal

After preparing the skin it is important to be gentle when removing the scales. Each person finds the best techniques for removal either using one's clean finger, a tool like a pair of tweezers or a pumice stone, or a wet facecloth works for others.

Don't force the removal as you don't want to damage the skin under the scale, or cause bleeding or pain.

For removal of scales on the scalp - after using a softening technique on the scales some may use a comb to help lift off the softened scales. Again try not and scrape the scales, try a gentle circular motion so you don't damage the skin under the scale.

After removing the scales it is important to apply a moisturizing cream, ointment or oil to the skin to keep it hydrated!

What techniques have you found helpful when removing scales in a safe way?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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