Your skin care routine matters when it comes to relieving painful, itchy patches of inflamed skin in psoriasis. Knowing how to care for psoriasis skin — and what products to avoid and why — can make a big difference in your symptoms.

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Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition. It occurs when unusual immune system activity stimulates excessive skin cell production. As new skin cells multiply faster than old ones can shed, thickened, scaly patches of skin known as plaques develop.

Regardless of which type of psoriasis you’re diagnosed with, your skin care routine is a big part of successful symptom management. Not sure where to start? This guide to psoriasis skin care can set you up for success.

Before you start your psoriasis skin care journey, it’s helpful to understand why skin care is an important for this condition.

Psoriasis skin can be intensely itchy and painful. Not only can the build-up of cells on your skin’s surface disrupt its natural barrier and cause dryness that contributes to itching, underlying inflammation in psoriasis can stimulate the nerves in your skin, creating itching or pain.

Dryness and inflammation are your adversaries when it comes to psoriasis skin care. Anything you put on your skin that promotes drying or irritation can make your symptoms worse.

On top of that, skin barrier disruption can make your skin hypersensitive. Your skin barrier, also known as your epidermal barrier, is the outmost layer of your skin that serves as a protective layer between your internal systems and the external environment.

When this barrier becomes compromised, irritants usually unable to enter your body can now penetrate the skin, creating an immune reaction. An immune reaction compounds existing inflammation from psoriasis, making your symptoms flare, or worsen.

By practicing psoriasis-friendly skin care, you can reduce inflammation, pain, and itching caused by common products and practices.

Factors and circumstances that make your psoriasis worse are known as “triggers.” While triggers can be different for everyone, certain exposures come with a high chance of aggravating psoriasis in most people.

These universal triggers are known for their ability to increase irritation or dryness of your skin, promoting itching, pain, and inflammation.

Potential skin care activity triggers to avoid include:

  • long, hot showers (10-minutes or less, warm showers are OK)
  • vigorous scrubbing
  • shaving with dull blades or excessive pressure
  • too frequent hair removal (shaving, waxing, tweezing, etc.)

Avoiding certain ingredients in your skin care products is also important. In general, any product that “strips” away moisture from your skin or contains harsh chemicals can be irritating.

Identifying problematic soaps, cleansers, and shampoos, isn’t always easy and may take some trial and error. It’s worthwhile to read product reviews before trying something to see what other people have experienced.

Ingredients in skin care products to watch out for with psoriasis include:

Remember, everyone’s skin is different. Many ingredients can potentially aggravate psoriasis skin depending on the formulation and frequency of use. Certain essential oils, for example, may have therapeutic benefit for psoriasis, but putting on too much, too often, or using a less-than-pure formulation could make psoriasis worse.

Salicylic acid is another example of an ingredient that can be overused. Your dermatologist may recommend a salicylic acid product to help remove scale in psoriasis. Using multiple products with salicylic acid, however, or using them too often can be very drying to your skin and may make your symptoms worse.

Sometimes just cleaning your skin too often, even with a gentle cleanser, can be irritating.

Your dermatologist can go over the ingredients in any products you’d like to try and can offer guidance on how frequently each product should be used.

OK, you know what to avoid, now let’s get to what products to include in your skincare routine.

Moisturizers

Remember: dry skin is your enemy in psoriasis. Moisturizing throughout the day and at key times, like just after showering, can help sooth your skin and maintain its moisture levels.

Looking for an effective moisturizer with natural ingredients? We recommend Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer.

For more options, check out Healthline’s “8 Best Facial Moisturizers for Psoriasis” list.

Sunscreen

Sunscreen is a dual-purpose product in your psoriasis skin care kit. Not only can it be moisturizing, it protects your skin from harmful ultra-violet (UV) rays. Sunburn from too much sun exposure can damage your skin, increasing inflammation and triggering a psoriasis flare.

What sunblock do we recommend? Well, there’s quite a few to pick from, but Badger Sunscreen Cream is great for both face and body.

Healthline’s “The 5 Best Sunblocks for Psoriasis” list offers more choices if you’re looking for specific types of coverage.

Urea creams and lotions

Urea is a skincare ingredient valued for its humectant (moisturizing) and exfoliating properties. In psoriasis, urea products can help support your skin’s moisture balance while helping to loosen dead skin cells on plaques.

Yes, it’s true that urea is a natural compound found in pee, but don’t worry; the urea used in skin care products is made in a laboratory and doesn’t come from human or animal urine.

Our product recommendation here is CeraVe Psoriasis Moisturizing Cream, but Healthline’s “6 Best Urea Creams and Lotions” has more great suggestions to consider.

Body wash

Looking for a reliable body wash? Look no further! We’ve found one in the CeraVe Psoriasis Cleanser. Not only is this product approved by the National Psoriasis Foundation, it contains ceramides, fat molecules that play an important role in maintaining your skin barrier’s hydration and function.

A consumer usage study from 2019 found people with psoriasis reported significant skin improvements while using ceramide/keratolytic-containing creams and cleaners.

CeraVe offers several products that may benefit psoriasis skin. Check them out at Healthline’s “What CeraVe Products Are OK For Psoriasis?”

Shampoos

As many as 80% of people with psoriasis experience scalp involvement. Since many shampoos focus on your hair quality and not your scalp health, this can make finding a good shampoo challenging.

Your doctor may prescribe a medicated shampoo or other topical product for scalp psoriasis, but over-the-counter (OTC) coal tar products may help, too.

Coal tar can slow rapid growth of skin cells and can reduce inflammation, itching, and scaling in psoriasis. Products containing 0.5% to 5% of coal tar are considered the most effective for this skin condition.

Our best-in-slot overall for this category? MG217 Psoriasis Medicated Conditioning Shampoo. Visit Healthline’s “Best Coal Tar Shampoos for Scalp Psoriasis and Other Skin Conditions” for more recommendations.

Now it’s time to combine your skin care products and skin care activities into one daily skincare routine for psoriasis.

Consider following these steps to maximize your results:

Morning routine

  1. Wash with a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser.
  2. To maximize absorption into the skin, apply any products prescribed by your dermatologist to freshly cleansed skin.
  3. Wait for medications to dry or absorb and then apply a moisturizing cream or lotion generously to your face and body.
  4. After your moisturizer has fully absorbed into your skin, apply your sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. Avoid putting sunscreen on actively inflamed skin.
  5. Once your sunscreen has absorbed, makeup can be applied gently with your fingers or a soft makeup tool. Less is more. Avoid heavy layers of makeup or lengthy application techniques.

Evening routine

  1. Wash with a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser.
  2. Apply any medications or prescriptions products.
  3. After psoriasis treatments have absorbed or dried, apply a moisturizing cream or lotion generously to your face and body.

For more in-depth psoriasis skin care routine planning, check out Healthline’s “How to Build a Skin Care routine with Psoriasis.”

SOB: Showering routine

Showering can be a part of your morning or evening routine. Whenever you decide to take on this task, keep these skin care tips in mind:

  • Limit showers to less than 10 minutes.
  • Keep water warm, not hot.
  • Use a gentle, moisturizing soap or body wash.
  • Wash skin with your hands to avoid irritation from wash cloths, loofahs, or scrubbies.
  • Shampoo with your gentle product of choice or medicated shampoo from your dermatologist.
  • Rinse all products off completely.
  • If shaving in the shower, wait until the end of your shower when hair is most supple and use a moisturizing lotion or cream instead of plain soap.
Was this helpful?

Psoriasis is a chronic condition, but proactive skin care is a major part of successfully managing symptoms. By focusing on moisturizing, gentle products and activities, you can limit unnecessary irritation that could lead to flares of inflammation, itching, and pain.

Don’t forget: psoriasis means something different for everyone. While this psoriasis skin care guide is a good place to start, your dermatologist can help you customize a routine that’s right for you.