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How to Get Head-to-Toe Relief From Psoriasis

There are over-the-counter products that can help you manage the symptoms of psoriasis and extremely dry skin, especially with a few considerations.


Matt Werbach

Editor, National Psoriasis Foundation‘s “NPF Advance” Magazine

With all the itching, pain, and flaking, it can feel like your psoriasis or extremely dry skin is trying to compel all your attention. It makes it hard to focus and enjoy life. Luckily, there are a number of products that may be effective for addressing these relentless symptoms. You deserve relief, so we took a look at some things to consider before trying an over-the-counter (OTC) product.


First, an important note: No moisturizer, shampoo, sunscreen, or cream will address the systemic inflammation of psoriatic disease. When you have psoriasis, what you see on the skin is only the visible part of the disease. Psoriasis is associated with inflammation throughout the body that can lead to related conditions and diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even anxiety and depression. 

Consult your healthcare provider to find the right treatment to address psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis and its underlying systemic inflammation. Talk with your provider about the OTC products you plan to use, and remember that what works for one person may not work for another. 

Lotions, balms, and creams

When you are making your next OTC moisturizer selection, keep in mind that not all lotions and creams are created equal. Many contain chemicals, fragrances, and dyes that could irritate your skin. Some essential oils, for example, which lend their scent to many face and body products — even those formulated for sensitive skin — can irritate the skin of some people. 

Choose the antibacterial solution that maintains moisture for healthy practices and healthy hands.

Use caution or avoid harmful chemicals, fragrances, dyes, and some essential oils 

What about sunscreen?

Protecting skin from the sun is an important part of a healthy skincare routine. While some people with psoriasis say they experience some improvement in skin symptoms with mild exposure to sunlight, protecting skin from the damage the sun can cause remains vitally important, which is why in June, the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) turned to Laura Korb Ferris, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, to help shed some light on the important questions related to sunscreen and psoriasis.


Dr. Korb pointed out that ultraviolet light from the sun penetrates the layers of the skin and can cause extreme sunburn or even increase your chances of developing skin cancer, so lather up or spray it on. 

Dr. Korb said it’s important to look for sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, and are at least SPF 30. You should also consider avoiding peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), wearing a hat, and wearing clothing with UV protection.

Symptoms on the scalp

In June 2019, NPF interviewed board-certified dermatologist Meghan Feely, M.D., a clinical instructor at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, to get some tips for dealing with the cracking, flaking, and itchy scalp associated with psoriasis. She shared that OTC psoriasis shampoo products primarily utilize two active ingredients in various combinations with other ingredients that are intended to be non-irritating to the skin.

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The two active ingredients you should look for in OTC products are salicylic acid and tar (either coal or wood tar). Salicylic acid works to soften plaques and scales, and remove scales from the skin, and tar made from coal or wood works to slow skin cell growth and reduce inflammation, itching, and scaling.

Where to begin

You should always start any skincare routine by talking with your healthcare provider. If you experience psoriasis — even just the mild symptoms of the disease — you should also talk with your dermatologist about how to appropriately treat the disease and the body-wide inflammation associated with it. Shampoos, moisturizers, and sunscreens can work as powerful complementary tools in concert with a prescribed treatment plan. 


To learn more about products to soothe the symptoms of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, browse the NPF Seal of Recognition directory at These products have been made to be non-irritating for people with extremely dry skin or psoriasis. NPF does not endorse any product or brand.

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