What Are Common Home Remedies For Psoriasis?

Some people find that home remedies are helpful in soothing some of their psoriasis symptoms. Home remedies do not treat the underlying cause of psoriasis symptoms, which is inflammation due to an overactive immune system1. The inflammation triggers the production of new skin cells faster than the older skin cells can be shed, which causes the old cells to build up on the surface of the skin in the form of plaques. Although treating the plaques with home remedies will not make the plaques go away, they may make it feel softer and less scaly. They can also help to temporarily reduce dryness and itching and help to improve the appearance of the affected skin2.

One key to reduce inflamed skin is to keep it moist whenever possible. Common home remedies for psoriasis include:

  • Applying emollients and/or oils to affected skin
  • Bathing and bath additives
  • Using occlusive dressings

How can emollients and oils help the symptoms of psoriasis?

Emollients are non-medicinal moisturizing products such as thick lotions, creams, and ointments. By moisturizing the skin, they can help to make areas affected by psoriasis to feel softer and less irritated and itchy. By softening the affected skin, emollients can also help to keep plaques from cracking and bleeding1. While emollients can often provide short-term symptom relief, their effects are not very long lasting. They may need to be reapplied several times a day, especially after washing your hands (if the skin there is affected) and during times of cold, dry weather.

Emollients used for treating psoriasis (and other conditions that cause skin symptoms) are generally thicker than normal moisturizers so that they have a more hydrating effect. It is important to use fragrance-free emollients, which are less likely to irritate sensitive skin. People with extremely dry skin may find that applying oils (even cooking oil) lasts longer on the skin and has a more hydrating effect3.

Emollients are often more effective if they are applied within a few minutes after a shower or a bath. Pat your skin dry gently, and apply the emollient while the skin is still damp. It is recommended to apply the cream gently, in the direction of hair growth. Rubbing vigorously can trigger itching. This process can help to hydrate the skin by replacing water than the dry, surface-level skin cells have lost4. The emollient can also work as a barrier that protects the surface layer of the skin by preventing moisture loss and protecting the skin from irritants and bacteria.

Some emollients also contain scale removers (such as salicylic acid) that can help to lift the top layer of scale from the surface of plaques. This can improve the appearance of plaques, and it can also allow prescription or over-the-counter topical medications to penetrate more deeply into the skin, where the medicine can have a greater effect.

How can bathing and bath additives help with psoriasis symptoms?

Many people with psoriasis find that taking a bath or shower every day can help to soothe and soften the affected skin. Generally, it is better to use water that is lukewarm or warm, because water that is too hot can irritate the skin. Harsh or heavily scented soaps and foaming shower gels can also be irritating. Mild, moisturizing soaps are usually the most soothing. Scrubbing too hard can also make symptoms worse. If the skin is very inflamed and irritated, taking a cold shower can help to soothe the skin1.

Different types of additives can also be used in a bath, such as colloidal oatmeal products. There are oatmeal bath products available over-the-counter in pharmacies. Adding Dead Sea salts or Epsom salts to the bath helps relieve some people’s symptoms.

There are also bath solutions containing coal tar that are available, as well as shampoos containing coal tar for people with symptoms on the scalp. Coal tar products can help to reduce itching, inflammation, and scaliness.  They can also help to reduce the production of new skin cells that causes plaques to form2. However, some people dislike coal tar products because they can cause stains and can smell very strong.

Adding bath oils can also be soothing and can help to keep the skin hydrated after you get out of the bath. Applying topical medicines after using bath oil can also help the medicine to penetrate deeper into the skin4. Bath oils can be very slippery, so be sure to be careful getting into and out of the bathtub if you are using oils.

What are occlusive dressings and how do they work?

Occlusive dressings can be used with some types of topical medications and emollients. After the medicine or emollient is applied to the affected skin, it is covered with some form of occlusion, such as plastic wrap, a waterproof dressing, or cotton socks/gloves. This can increase the amount of medicine or emollient that is absorbed into the skin, which can sometimes increase its effectiveness2.

It is very important to check with your health care provider before using any type of occlusion. You may need to use less product that usual; certain types of topical medications, such as corticosteroids, can damage the skin if they are used under an occlusive dressing for too long or in too large of an amount3.

Written by: Anna Nicholson | Last reviewed: July 2016.
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