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Searching for the holy grail of moisturizers? If you’re living with psoriasis, you know how important it is to find one that’s gentle on your skin but seriously hydrating. There are different types of psoriasis, but moisturizing is one method that every body can benefit from to relieve dryness, itchiness, and scaliness.

Here’s the deal on the best (and derm-approved) options out there.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that can cause the rapid overproduction of cells. The result of your skin’s overeagerness? Thick, scaly patches that are often red, itchy, and sensitive.

Psoriasis can happen anywhere on the bod, though plaque psoriasis particularly tends to affect the knees, elbows, and scalp. You might also find it on your:

Daily TLC is essential for treating psoriasis. Although prescription medication may be necessary, especially for severe cases, finding the right moisturizer can be an important part of finding lasting relief.

Not to brag, but we’re pretty great at researching. Here’s what we did to find the best of the best:

  • Effective ingredients. We scoured the fine print so you don’t have to. Ingredients like coal tar, hydrocortisone, vitamin D, salicylic acid, ceramide, and urea are proven to help treat or soothe psoriasis.
  • Customer reviews. Looking carefully at what actual people with psoriasis have to say about what’s out there helped us separate the winners from the duds.
  • Expert-approved. We looked for options tested by experts, specifically formulated for psoriasis, and recommended by derms. Most are even approved by the National Psoriasis Foundation.

Pricing guide

We found options at every price point. Here’s the budget breakdown:

  • $ = under $15
  • $$ = $15–$35
  • $$$ = over $35

(Note that packaging sizes may vary, so check out those ounces before you buy.)

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1. Best overall

CeraVe Psoriasis Skin Therapy Moisturizing Cream

Price: $$

For many peeps with psoriasis, CeraVe Psoriasis Cream is a bathroom cabinet staple. Developed alongside dermatologists, it’s formulated with ceramides and niacinamide (vitamin B3) to moisturize and restore the skin barrier.

The fragrance-free formula also has urea and 2 percent salicylic acid to reduce itchiness, redness, and scales.

Lots of reviewers complained about a cheap-ish pump and packaging but still love the lotion itself. (Maybe it really is what’s on the inside that counts.)

The National Psoriasis Foundation also gave it a Seal of Recognition, which means the org considers it safe and nonirritating for those living with psoriatic disease.

2. Best coal tar formula

MG217 Non-Drying Multi-Symptom Coal Tar Gel

Price: $$

Here’s another Psoriasis Foundation-approved formula. According to the Foundation, coal tar is the only nonprescription ingredient out there that slows down excessive cell reproduction. This, in turn, can help reduce itching, scales, and plaque buildup.

2017 research confirms: Coal tar really does seem to diminish scales or “plaques” associated with plaque psoriasis, scalp psoriasis, and palmoplantar psoriasis.

It also has vitamin B5, aloe, and bisabolol, which all moisturize skin and seal in hydration.

Coal tar can irritate sensitive skin, though, so always do a patch test before slathering it on a big area of skin. And be warned: Lots of people seem to hate the smell, which has been compared to gasoline.

3. Best calamine lotion

Caladryl Clear Lotion

Price: $

Though old-fashioned calamine cream seems to be a less popular option than the likes of hydrocortisone or aloe vera in soothing psoriasis symptoms, it may work just as well.

Traditionally used (prob by your grandma) to treat rashes from insect bites, poison ivy, or poison oak, it seems to be just as effective for irritation that doesn’t come from roaming around in the brush. The combo of zinc oxide and ferric oxide could help alleviate itching and potentially dry up scales and rashes.

Heads up that it contains methylparaben, though, which some people think could be carcinogenic in high doses. Parabens are found in many lotions and cosmetics out there, and the FDA says there’s no data (so far) that they’re unsafe. Still, immune-compromised folks in particular may want to skip it, just in case.

4. Best scalp lotion

Medovie 3HX All-Natural Scalp Lotion for Psoriasis-Prone Scalp

Price: $$$

If you have scalp psoriasis, you know that not *every* cream will work on your noggin. Fortunately, this Psoriasis Foundation-approved formula is clinically tested to manage chronic scalp psoriasis. It may help reduce dryness, redness, and flakiness and help repair your skin’s natural barrier.

It’s created specifically for sensitive skin, it’s steroid-free, and according to the brand, it’s made with 96 percent natural ingredients. Reviewers love that, unlike other creams, there’s also no need to wash this one out.

Still, some reviewers complain that results aren’t as drastic as they’d like. For best results, combine this treatment with a shampoo and conditioner formulated for psoriasis.

5. Best salicylic acid cream

MG217 Sal-Acid Multi-Symptom Moisturizing Cream

Price: $

The National Psoriasis Foundation knows what they’re talking about it when it comes to psoriasis, so here’s another one to add to your shopping cart. This moisturizing cream gets its Seal of Recognition for being a max strength (3 percent) salicylic acid formula with optimal hydration properties.

Salicylic acid tends to be a staple of psoriasis treatment for its ability to help relieve itchiness, scales, and redness. This fragrance-free formula also contains shea butter, aloe, avocado oil, and bisabolol to keep skin hydrated and protected.

The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends using this salicylic acid in combo with a coal tar treatment. Salicylic acid helps loosen and remove scales, while coal tar helps slow down the production of new ones.

6. Best plant-based

Bodewell Super Cream

Price: $$$

Looking to invite a little more (minimalist) glam to your skin routine? You’re in luck. Bodewell is basically the Glossier of clinical skin conditions.

The plant-based formula looks and feels luxurious — and has a price point to match. It has 24 plant extracts (like witch hazel, oat seed, and lentil extract), plus vitamins E and B3. It’s designed to treat dryness, swelling, and redness for those with psoriasis, eczema, and sensitive skin.

Keep in mind that despite the Instagram hype around this brand, this is a relatively new product without a traditional review system on its site. The ingredients and testimonials do seem to check out, though.

7. Best for removing plaques

TriDermaMD Psoriasis Control Cream

Price: $$

If you have plaque psoriasis, then you def know the feeling of wanting those scales to eff off, stat. Fortunately, this Psoriasis Foundation-approved cream can help.

The fragrance-free formula contains salicylic acid, aloe, shea butter, oats, and a host of vitamins. It’s designed to exfoliate skin and remove scales while also locking in moisture. It can be used anywhere on your body, from your head to your toes.

Bonus: Reviewers love that it’s nongreasy.

8. Best for hands

Codex Beauty Bia Hydrating Skin Superfood

Price: $$$

If you have psoriasis on your hands, washing and using hand sanitizer 24/7 (thanks, COVID) can take a toll on your already-parched skin. You can use this hydrating formula all over, but it just may feel heaven-sent if you’re dealing with cracked and flaky fingers.

It contains botanicals like calendula, immortelle, heartsease, marsh-mallow extract, and comfrey to soothe and lock in moisture. This vegan, cruelty-free, and dermatologist-approved formula is also Psoriasis Foundation-approved.

Though it’s not specifically formulated to treat psoriasis, reviewers with psoriasis, eczema, and dry skin seem to appreciate its ultra-hydrating properties.

9. Best cortisone cream

Cortizone 10 Anti-Itch Lotion or Psoriasis

Price: $

If you need a budget-friendly option to fight that itch, a cortisone formula just might be it. This max strength (1 percent) hydrocortisone formula is specially formulated for psoriasis and gets rave reviews for combating pain and discomfort.

Though it’s nondrying and can be stellar at soothing, keep in mind that it won’t necessarily treat psoriasis itself. As with all of your options, it’s important to keep up with any prescription meds as well as your fave moisturizer.

10. Best for face and body

Dermarest Psoriasis Medicated Treatment Gel

Price: $$$

If you’re looking for psoriasis-soothing and -fighting ingredients in one package, Dermarest might be it for you. With 3 percent salicylic acid and zinc complex, it helps combat symptoms as well as provide much-needed relief.

It’s recommended for use on your face, palms, scalp, knees, elbows, and even the soles of feet — you name it.

It’s not too spendy when you break it down per ounce, but it seems to often be sold in a multi-pack, which may be a drawback for those looking to try it out before committing.

11. Best itch relief

Gold Bond Multi-Symptom Psoriasis Relief Cream

Price: $

Are you just focused on getting that dang itch to quit? With several intensive moisturizing ingredients, this cream is all about providing the relief you crave.

Hydrating ingredients like ceramides, shea butter, aloe, and vitamin D lock in moisture and can quickly take the itchy edge off. It also contains gluconolactone and 3 percent salicylic acid to exfoliate skin and fight and control symptoms.

Some people don’t love the residue it leaves behind, but still say it’s the next best thing to more costly, stronger prescription treatments.

Good news: It’s also Psoriasis Foundation-approved.

12. Best with ceramide

Curél Hydra Therapy Wet Skin Moisturizer

Price: $$

Ceramides are fatty acids that naturally occur in your skin’s outer layer (aka your epidermis). They help maintain hydration and support skin barrier function. According to 2020 research, folks with psoriasis tend to have lower ceramide levels than those with healthy skin.

By applying a ceramide-rich cream like this one, you may be able to boost your levels of this helpful acid.

This lotion’s meant to be used on damp skin immediately after you hop out of the shower or bath. Moist, warm skin provides an environment for tip-top absorption.

Now that you’ve got the right products, here’s what to do with them:

  • Don’t overcleanse. Many with psoriasis can benefit from cleansing just once a day to avoid overdrying. Ask a derm and follow the instructions on your products to figure out what’s best for you, but twice is def enough.
  • Moisturize morning and night. Twice daily moisturizing is typically ideal if you have psoriasis, but follow your product instructions as directed. If you’re cleansing just once a day, you can rinse your face with just water before moisturizing a second time.
  • Skip the toner. Lots of peeps rave about toners, but they can really irritate and dry out psoriasis-prone skin. One less thing to buy, amirite?
  • Just say no to the loofah. Avoid scrubbing skin with a flare-up, as it may worsen symptoms. Though some exfoliation is good, the ingredients in your products (like salicylic acid) will get the job done in a gentler manner. Try a soft cloth instead.
  • Lay it on thicker in harsher conditions. A heavier hydrating cream may be needed to get you through a cold, dry winter than the summer. Though this tip can serve anyone, those with psoriasis can especially benefit.
  • Bathe smart. Since hot water can be drying, avoid cranking up the heat in the shower. Lightly pat your skin dry when you hop out (instead of rubbing until you’re dry-dry). Moisturizing right away is ideal to lock in water content.

If you have severe psoriasis, over-the-counter (OTC) options might not cut it. If your drugstore lotions aren’t doing the trick, head to a doc for a complete diagnosis and assessment.

Your derm will likely prescribe the lowest level of treatment necessary to halt symptoms. Since psoriasis is an autoimmune condition and isn’t fully understood, treatment can vary widely.

  • Topical creams. Prescription-strength retinoids may help ease severe inflammatory symptoms. Steroid creams also tend to work, but they aren’t usually recommended for long-term use.
  • Phototherapy. Light therapy, including UVB phototherapy and laser therapy, is often used to treat and soothe psoriasis symptoms.
  • Biologics. Biologics are made from naturally derived substances instead of lab chemicals and may include oral meds or injectables. Brands include Humira and Cosentyx.
  • Other oral meds. There are lots of oral prescriptions used to treat psoriasis, including methotrexate and cyclosporine, which suppress your immune system. Hydorxurea is another oral drug prescribed that may inhibit DNA replication.

You may also want to look into home remedies, like a “psoriasis diet” that cuts out certain potential triggers like alcohol.

There are a variety of OTC lotions formulated for psoriasis. Ingredients like coal tar and salicylic acid combat plaque, while ingredients like ceramides, oils, and aloe lock in moisture and repair the skin barrier.

Mild to moderate psoriasis may be treated with careful moisturizing. If you have severe flare-ups or joint pain, it’s best to speak with a dermatologist.