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5 Skincare Ingredients to Soothe Your Psoriasis

Medically reviewed by Allison Truong, M.D.

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When it comes to shopping for moisturizer, sometimes you simply can’t trust the label. A lotion may say it’s extra moisturizing, but leave skin feeling greasy and unquenched. In caring for psoriasis, doctors say you want a moisturizer that penetrates the dermis—the inner layer of your skin—and helps heal those scaly patches. To find one, know what ingredients to look for on the label, and understand what they do.

Pyrithione Zinc

A common ingredient in anti-dandruff shampoos, pyrithione zinc is a mineral compound that’s effective in treating psoriasis plaques elsewhere on the body. “It’s thought to help normalize the way skin cells grow and work,” explains Adam Mamelak, M.D., a dermatologist practicing in Austin, Texas. “It has anti-proliferation properties—meaning it keeps scaly patches from spreading—and also works to lift those scaly skin cells off of the skin.” Mamelak recommends Noble Formula Pyrithione Zinc Maximum Strength Cream, which contains 0.25 percent of this active ingredient.

Salicylic Acid

This beta hydroxy acid is often used to treat acne, but doctors say it’s also very effective in soothing psoriasis flare-ups. Like pyrithione zinc, salicylic acid is “a keratolytic ingredient, which means it helps to slough scaly cells from the skin’s surface,” explains Zain Husain, M.D., founder of the New Jersey Dermatology and Aesthetics Center in Marlboro. Ridding the skin of these cells not only helps make skin smoother, it also helps moisturizing ingredients penetrate more deeply, says Mamelak. He recommends Gold Bond Multi-System Psoriasis Relief Cream, which contains 3 percent salicylic acid.

Aloe Vera

Not just for soothing a sunburn, aloe vera can reduce the inflammation and itchiness of psoriasis, while moisturizing at the same time, says Mamelak. In a study of more than 2,000 people with psoriasis, researchers found that 64 percent experienced clearer skin after eight weeks of aloe vera application. Look for a lotion like Banana Boat Moisturizing Aloe After Sun Lotion to try it for yourself.

Dead Sea Salts

While salt may not sound like an ingredient you’d typically reach for when looking to moisturize, Dead Sea salts contain magnesium, sulfur, iodine, sodium, calcium, potassium, and bromine, which have been studied for decades due to their potential to improve several different skin conditions, says Mamelak. Not only are Dead Sea salts anti-inflammatory, they’re also purported to improve circulation, resulting in healthier skin altogether. In one study, people who soaked their arms in Dead Sea salts saw softer skin than those who soaked in tap water.

Not everyone can travel to the Dead Sea for a soak, but you can pick up Ahava’s Liquid Dead Sea Salt, which comes in a gel form and is applied topically before a shower or added to a bath. In addition, if you undergo UV phototherapy treatment, using Dead Sea salts prior to your treatment can enhance its benefits, Mamelak says.

Petroleum Jelly

Whether you have psoriasis or not, you probably have petroleum jelly somewhere in your house, because of its versatility and myriad uses. “Thick and oil-based moisturizers are recommended for psoriasis, and few can deliver the same emollient and occlusive properties that petroleum jelly can,” says Mamelak. This ingredient—also called petrolatum—helps to seal moisture into the skin, preventing future scales from forming. Drugstore favorites Vaseline Original Petroleum Jelly and Aquaphor Healing Ointment have both been around for decades, and are doctor-recommended. Petroleum is one of the safest products for the skin and has very little allergenic or irritant potential.

Because people with psoriasis tend to have sensitive skin, when trying new products, it’s best to do a patch test before rubbing the product all over the body. To do this, apply it to a small area of skin, such as on your inner wrist for one week. If you get a rash, that’s a sign that you may be allergic to the active or inactive ingredients in the product and shouldn’t use it on the rest of your body.

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