Just about had it with your psoriasis flare-ups lately? It might be time to give your treatment plan a little zhuzhing up.
While at-home treatments aren’t a substitute for a doctor-prescribed plan, they can serve up some additional benefits in combination with an Rx.
From the soaps you use to the supplements you take, there’s a decent amount of over-the-counter options you can try for mild symptom relief. Remember that remedies and treatments aren’t one size fits all, so finding the perfect combo might take some experimentation.
As a rule, check with your doc before starting any at-home treatments. Once you get the green light, give any of these options a go.
1. Be gentle
When dealing with psoriasis plaques and flaking, it can be tempting to exfoliate like crazy. This is actually one of the worst things you can do to your skin says Dr. Joel Gelfand, a dermatology professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
If you’re noticing extra flares or irritation to your skin, check your skin care routine. Ditch the exfoliating products as well as loofahs and washcloths. Lastly, switch to a milder soap. Dr. Gelfand recommends Dove Beauty Bar.
2. Hop on the tar wagon
Yes, coal tar products can be messy, but they also have a great rep for reducing itching and inflammation says Dr. Steven Feldman, a dermatology professor at Wake Forest School of Medicine. You can find tar soaps and shampoos at almost any store or pharmacy.
3. Shampoo with zinc
Zinc, another mineral known to combat inflammation, appears in a number of medicated shampoos you can buy over the counter. Dr. Gelfand recommends shampooing with classic Head & Shoulders three times per week.
Lather up and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes before thoroughly rinsing. Follow up with H&S conditioner to lock in moisture.
4. Lotion up
Hydrated skin is happy skin — but finding the right lotion can take a little work. Opt for more “bland” creams, aka the ones that don’t contain fragrances, says Dr. Gelfand. He’s a fan of CeraVe Moisturizing Cream.
Moisturizing properly can take the edge off the flaking and scaling. Look in your kitchen cabinets, too. The National Psoriasis Foundation says cooking oils and even shortening can make a useful psoriasis-approved moisturizer in a pinch.
5. Go into the light
Natural light has been found to improve psoriasis symptoms, says Dr. Gelfand. To protect the rest of your body from the sun, he suggests putting on sunscreen except for the areas affected by psoriasis. Avoid prolonged exposure in the sun though, as excessive sunlight can worsen psoriasis if you get a sunburn.
6. Reach for mother nature’s skin care classic: Aloe vera
Whether it’s taken directly from the leaves or comes in a store-bought aloe extract cream, this skin-saving classic might help with itching, irritation, and dryness.
Don’t expect instant results. You most likely need to use aloe vera multiple times per day for at least a month to see the benefits, if any. There’s not sufficient evidence to suggest aloe vera over conventional treatments.
7. Dietary supplements or spices
The medical community is still researching supplements and dietary changes (the jury is out regarding supplements and improved psoriasis symptoms). However, many people with psoriasis report fewer flares thanks to certain supplements.
Fish oil capsules and omega-3s from fish or other food sources could help. Turmeric, whether in a pill or supplement form or sprinkled in food, might also stop bouts of psoriasis. The spice, which is related to ginger, is a powerful antioxidant and contains anti-inflammatory properties.
Vitamin D is also thought to be potentially helpful.
Just remember to consult a doctor before making any dietary changes. Your doc can also help you determine if supplements are right for you and which brands to purchase.
Friendly reminder: Most supplements are not FDA approved and can have sketchy sourcing, so it’s important to shop smart.
8. Rub a dub dub
More proof baths are the best, the right bath mixture might soothe psoriasis symptoms. Colloidal oatmeal and Epsom salt or Dead Sea salt baths might improve psoriasis symptoms. Draw it up lukewarm, though. Water that’s super hot can make things worse.
9. Make your body a temple
Look, we all have our vices, but drinking and smoking are two habits that won’t do your psoriasis any favors. Alcohol is a known inflammatory, so taking a break from the booze could potentially help.
Dr. Feldman also says some patients have noticed a link between beer and worsening psoriasis symptoms. In addition to the alcohol, gluten makes an appearance in most beers and could be a contributing factor, he says. (Could being the key word here, he notes, since the science is still unclear).
Smoking on the other hand… don’t get us started. Ditching the cigarettes —whether it’s the occasional bar smoke or, yep, even vape pens — has tremendous health benefits in addition to reducing psoriasis flares.
10. Oil up with tea tree essential oil
It’s antimicrobial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory — there’s not much this oil can’t do. After performing a patch test, try mixing a drop or two of tea tree oil into coconut oil and apply to any affected areas.
Note: Don’t reach for tea tree oil if you’re breastfeeding, pregnant, have linear IgA disease, or are taking the antibiotic vancomycin. Also keep it out of reach of children and pets.
The medical community is still studying what exactly triggers psoriasis. The official FB status: It’s complicated.
Since not everybody reacts the same, it can be difficult to figure out what’s causing symptoms to flare. Additionally, symptoms can fluctuate over time. Some weeks things might be bad, other times you might go into a spontaneous remission.
Doctors have, however, generally been able to tie certain lifestyle factors to psoriasis. These include stress, having overweight, and smoking.
Managing stress, staying at a moderate weight, eating a balanced diet, exercising, and not smoking could all make a significant improvement to your symptoms.
For those with mild psoriasis symptoms (i.e. small spots on elbows or knees), says Dr. Feldman, you can likely manage your condition on your own.
If symptoms are interfering with your daily life, make an appointment with a dermatologist. You should also call a doc if you notice symptoms getting worse or if you have joint pain (psoriasis can also affect the joints and these treatments won’t work for that!).
You might need stronger treatment if nothing has worked so far. A dermatologist can hook you up with helpful prescription treatments, such as antihistamines, steroids, or light therapy.