Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that affects the skin, scalp, nails, and sometimes, the joints (psoriatic arthritis). The condition causes skin cells to grow excessively, adding patches of silvery, itchy skin on top of healthy skin. These patches can sometimes crack and bleed. Symptoms come and go. Patch size and location can change with each outbreak, and vary from person to person.

Psoriasis is caused by the immune system attacking itself. Common causes of flare-ups include:

  • stress
  • drinking too much alcohol (over one drink per day for women, and two for men)
  • skin irritants, like sunburn or a poison ivy rash
  • infections that weaken the immune system

Psoriasis runs in families, and can be worse in smokers and people who are overweight. People who have it can experience depression, which can affect daily function and quality of life.

There is no cure for psoriasis. However, there are treatments and therapies that can lessen symptoms. Some prescription medicines change the immune system’s response. Other treatments reduce inflammation and slow skin cell growth. Medicines that you can apply directly to the skin include salicylic acid, which removes skin layers. Corticosteroids can aid healing, and moisturizers can reduce discomfort. Ultraviolet light therapy and vitamin D are also used by some people to help with symptoms.

These treatment options often do help with symptoms, but they may not work for all flare-ups.

Oatmeal has long been known to soothe irritated skin — not when you eat it, but when you apply it to the skin. There are many over-the-counter oatmeal bath mixes, lotions, and soaps. But all you need is plain ground oats and a bathtub to get the helpful effects.

You’ll want to use colloidal oatmeal. This is a finely ground oatmeal that dissolves in hot water and won’t clog your drain. You can buy it or make it yourself.

To make your own colloidal oatmeal, grind whole oats in a blender or food processor until the texture is a little grittier than regular flour. To see if you’ve ground it fine enough, mix a tablespoon in a cup of hot water. It should blend and stay suspended, with very little settling on the bottom.

Oatmeal has been scientifically proven to reduce skin swelling and itching. It contains fats like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that are healthy for your skin.

Oatmeal is gentle on the skin, and is not known to cause skin allergies. However, you may consider using organically grown oats for your bath to reduce the possibility of irritants. Definitely do not use instant oatmeal.

If you’re using home ground oatmeal, experiment with how much is right for the water volume of your tub. (The only downside of using too much is that you’re wasting oats.)

It’s best to start with 1/2 cup (4 ounces) of colloidal oatmeal and work up to as much 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces).

Infuse with lavender

An oatmeal bath should make your psoriasis (or most skin discomfort) feel better, but it may feel slimy. To counteract that effect, add some sweet-smelling lavender essential oil.

People have used lavender for a long time to calm skin conditions like psoriasis. It also reduces blood pressure and heart rate, which can lower stress ­— a common psoriasis trigger. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil as you run your bath. There’s no right amount, just add a drop or two at a time. Don’t apply essential oils directly to your skin.

Use extra caution getting in and out of the tub. Oatmeal can make the surface slippery. Pat your skin gently with a towel when you get out. Avoid harsh rubbing as you dry yourself.

You don’t have to get in a bath full of oatmeal to help your skin. In fact, you don’t have to grind the oats. Make an oatmeal solution you can apply to bandages for your skin, or dab on with a cloth or cotton ball.

To do this, make oatmeal on your stovetop like you would for breakfast, but double the amount of water in the directions. When the oatmeal has cooked for the proper length of time, strain the oats off and save the liquid. When the liquid cools, apply it to bandages to soak the skin.