As part of psoriasis treatment we often include everyday health and beauty aids, shampoo, and skin care items that we can get without prescription. It’s important, though, to check the ingredients labels carefully — and, of course, to know which ingredients will help relieve itch and help loosen psoriasis plaques, and which ones can irritate and even inflame skin psoriasis. Even from among all the psoriasis-friendly formulas, it might take some trial and error to find the most suitable and effective products. We give the breakdown of some of the most commonly used beauty ingredients for psoriasis:
Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat psoriasis, “sal acid,” as it’s commonly called, is available in a variety of products, including shampoos, ointments, lotions, creams, soaps, and pastes. Salicylic acid helps to soften scales and exfoliate or lift them off your skin. Sal acid can be helpful as long as you use it according to directions. Too much salicylic acid, or salicylic acid left on the skin (or scalp) for too long, can cause irritation or stinging. If your shampoo has salicylic acid, focus it on your scalp rather than your hair, because it can weaken shafts, leading to breakage and hair loss (hair should return to normal once you stop using it).
Tea Tree Oil
Some people report that tea tree oil helps relieve symptoms of their scalp psoriasis, and others find they’re allergic to it. Its reputation for clearing up nail infections and reducing inflammation may be why some people consider using tea tree oil for their psoriasis. There are plenty of skin and hair products for sale that contain tea tree oil. However, there aren’t any published studies to support its use for psoriasis. If you want to try it, be mindful.
Most shampoos contain sulfates to create a rich, foamy lather — without the froth, it seems, people don’t think their shampoo is working. However, sulfates can irritate the scalp. If you have a sensitive scalp and psoriasis, look for sulfate-free shampoos. Sulfates may be listed under ingredients as sodium laureth (or lauryl) sulfate or ammonium lauryl sulfate. Need a suggestion for your scalp? Try Naftalan Oil and Shampoo.
Coal tar is another ingredient approved by the FDA to treat psoriasis, including scalp psoriasis. However, you might want to test coal tar on a small area of your skin to be sure it doesn’t cause irritation or redness. Because coal tar can make your skin more sensitive to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, be sure to apply sunscreen to treated areas if you’re going to be outside for any length of time. Refined coal tars such as liquor carbonis detergens (LCD) have less odor and cause less staining, but they’re also less effective and can be harder to find.
The trace element zinc is found in many topical psoriasis treatments and some shampoos. A study from the Skin Disease and Cutaneous Leishmaniasis Research Center in Mashhad, Iran, found that a topical emollient containing zinc pyrithione proved to be an effective treatment for localized psoriasis.
Extracted from the nuts of the argan tree of southwestern Morocco, argan oil is rich in antioxidants and has been popularized as a food, a health treatment, and a beauty ingredient. However, according to a recent review in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, there’s a lack of clinical studies to definitively support its effectiveness.
Shea butter is full of moisture, which can make it an effective ingredient in skin care products. When you have psoriasis, it’s important to keep your skin moisturized. Skin creams made with shea butter tend to be thicker and when it comes to moisturizer, the thicker, the better. Heavy moisturizers for psoriasis help lock in the skin’s natural moisture.
Several ingredients have been approved by the FDA for treating itch: calamine, hydrocortisone (a weak steroid), camphor, diphenhydramine hydrochloride (HCl), benzocaine, and menthol. Try them with caution, however, because some of them can increase skin irritation and dryness.
Fragrance or Alcohol
If you have sensitive skin, look for fragrance-free skin care products and shampoos. Scents added to make products smell good or just to neutralize their odor can be irritating (“unscented” might not be fragrance-free). Also, Weiss advises avoiding products that contain alcohol, because it is drying.
Calendula oil is a natural oil extracted from marigold flowers (Calendula officinalis). It’s often used as a complementary or alternative treatment. Calendula oil has antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties that might make it useful in treating psoriasis, soothing eczema, and relieving diaper rash. Calendula oil might improve the overall appearance of your skin. Calendula has the ability to prevent your body’s release of histamines, which can cause redness, pain, allergies, and inflammation. And when it comes to treating breakouts, calendula’s gentle nature means it won’t dry your skin out and is safe to use with other anti-acne ingredients, that’s why it is an active ingredient of Naftalan Oil and is often used with people suffering from psoriasis.
Some people are more sensitive to some ingredients than others. If you’re not sure how you’ll react to a product, test it on a small area of skin before using it. And if you’re stumped, ask your health care provider for suggestions that will soothe skin as they ease off plaques.