A Guide to Moisturizers for People With Psoriasis

A breakdown of different moisturizers and which ones are recommended for people with psoriasis.

A young woman applies lotion to her skin. Moisturizing is an important part of a psoriasis treatment plan.

Psoriasis is an inflammatory autoimmune condition that causes skin cells to grow at faster rates than normal. Psoriasis can manifest in a number of different types, each with different skin symptoms. It can also manifest as psoriatic arthritis, where an autoimmune response causes inflammation and damage to the joints. The most common type of psoriasis is plaque psoriasis, where symptoms present as thickened plaques of skin that appear red and scaly.

As with some other skin conditions (atopic dermatitis, for instance) daily moisturizing is a key element of managing psoriasis. Moisturizers are topical skincare products that help keep the skin hydrated. For people with psoriasis, using a moisturizer can help reduce symptoms like itching and dry skin, help soften skin that is cracked, and help soften skin that is scaled. Moisturizing can also help improve the skin’s barrier function—the skin’s ability to protect the body. Some moisturizers also have anti-inflammatory properties.

Types of moisturizers

Moisturizers contain oils and water, and the general consensus is that products that contain more oil are a better option. Products are categorized based on the ratio of oil to water they contain:

  • Ointments. Ointments have the highest oil content. The downside to having the highest oil content is that ointments can feel greasy. Petroleum jelly would fall into this category.
  • Creams. These rank second in terms of oil content, but also work well, and will feel less greasy than ointments.
  • Lotions. These contain only a little oil and are mostly made up of water. Because they are mostly made up of water, they evaporate from the skin more quickly than ointments or creams. But remember that every person’s skin reacts differently, and if a particular product has been working for you, don’t rule it out.

Some people with psoriasis also moisturize using natural oil products like coconut oil and sunflower seed oil. Since they are pure oil, they will leave a greasy feeling on the skin similar to ointments. You also must be careful with what type of natural oil you choose, as using olive oil as a topical has been shown to damage the skin barrier.

Other ingredients

Of course, many products contain additional ingredients beyond oil and water. Many products contain fragrances, dyes and preservatives, and you may want to avoid these ingredients as they can irritate the skin and aggravate symptoms.

Many moisturizers also contain ingredients that have anti-inflammatory properties, which may be beneficial to psoriasis symptoms. A few examples include:

  • Aloe Vera
  • Shea butter
  • Bisabolol, a chamomile plant extract
  • Glycyrrhetinic acid, which is derived from licorice root
  • Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3
  • Palmitoylethanolamide, a type of fatty acid
  • Zinc gluconate, a type of zinc salt

If you’re unsure about a new skincare product, you may want to apply it to a small patch of skin and wait a day or two to see if you have a reaction (and cleanse the area immediately if a reaction does occur).

When to moisturize

It is recommended that people with psoriasis apply moisturizers immediately after bathing or washing their hands, as well as other times as needed. Remember, it is best to bathe only using lukewarm water and to limit baths and showers to ten minutes, since hot water and prolonged time in water can dry out the skin.

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