8 OTC Products to Ease a Psoriasis Flare-Up
Let’s start this one with a disclaimer: The best psoriasis treatment is the one that works for you. That might not be the same one that works for your friend, your sibling or anyone else with the disorder. And as everyone with psoriasis knows only too well, it can take a fair amount of trial and error to find that can’t-live-without cream, lotion or shampoo. (And once you do, it’s like winning the skin lottery, right?)
Having said that, some OTC products do come highly recommended—by users and dermatologists alike—because they tend to work well for a large number of people with psoriasis. Here are eight of the best OTC products for psoriasis. All are worth adding to your shopping list if you haven’t already given them a go.
CeraVe Psoriasis Cleanser
CeraVe Psoriasis Cleanser ($16.23 at Amazon.com) contains 2% salicylic acid, an ingredient used to improve many skin conditions. “Salicylic acid is a keratolytic, which means it works to peel the skin, causing the outer layer to shed,” explains board-certified dermatologist Rhonda Q. Klein, M.D. of Modern Dermatology in Westport, Connecticut. “When used as a psoriasis treatment, it lifts up the psoriatic scales and helps to soften them. It also proactively prevents the build-up of new scales associated with seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis.”
MG217 Psoriasis Medicated Coal Tar Ointment
MG217 Psoriasis Medicated Coal Tar Ointment ($10.79 at CVS.com) is fortified with vitamins A, D and E and it's even earned a Seal of Recognition by the National Psoriasis Foundation (meaning it’s been through a rigorous application, evaluation and approval process and independently reviewed by a panel of dermatology and rheumatology experts, as well as people with psoriasis). “Vitamin A can help improve psoriasis symptoms by reducing the overproduction of skin cells,” says Klein. “And Vitamin D, when applied topically, can help soothe and thin out active plaques.”
Perhaps the ingredient star of the show in this product is the coal tar. “Coal tar can help slow the rapid growth of skin cells and reduce inflammation and itchiness,” explains Klein.
For Lisa P., 29, who has had psoriasis since she was a teenager, it’s a must-have product. “When I want to give my skin a break from prescribed steroid ointment, I use MG217 to relieve my symptoms,” she says. “It reduces plaque patches during a flare, and I also use it sparingly between flares to help keep them at bay. It works much better than lots of other OTC ointments I’ve tried.”
CeraVe SA Cream for Rough & Bumpy Skin
Klein also recommends CeraVe SA Cream for Rough & Bumpy Skin ($19.97 at Amazon). “Salicylic acid is a keratolytic, which means it works to peel the skin, causing the outer layer to shed…it lifts up the psoriatic scales and helps to soften them,” she says. “It contains 2% salicylic acid alongside niacinamide, which nourishes and calms the skin, and ceramides, which are lipids that help reinforce the skin’s barrier to lock in and maintain hydration.”
Urea 40% Cream
It's marketed as a treatment for dry and rough skin on the feet, but Urea 40% Cream by Amélie Monnier ($25.99 at Amazon.com) can also be really effective for psoriasis-prone skin, says Klein. “Urea acts as a humectant, drawing moisture to the skin and dissolving thick psoriatic plaques,” she explains.
Cortizone 10 Intensive Healing Anti-Itch Creme
John G., 43, relies on Cortizone 10 Intensive Healing Anti-Itch Creme ($7.39 at Rite Aid) as part of his psoriasis toolkit. “I apply this to affected areas of my body after my morning shower and before I go to bed, and it helps to soften plaques and reduce itch,” he says.
While stronger formulations are available by prescription, this hydrocortisone 1% cream (a corticosteroid) is a common OTC treatment for psoriasis itch and is proven to be highly effective in the short term. According to a 2014 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, a four-week course of topical hydrocortisone cream applied twice daily reduced the size of psoriasis lesions by almost 20 percent. Additionally, the severity of symptoms decreased from a Target Lesion Score (TLS) of eight (severe) to a TLS of two (mild).
Era Organics Natural Tea Tree Face Cream for Oily, Acne Prone Skin
It’s important to be extra careful about what products you use to treat psoriasis on your face, as many of the common OTC ointments and creams may be too harsh for delicate facial skin, causing thinning. For instance, it’s best not to apply topical corticosteroids to your face unless your dermatologist tells you to.
One of the most popular natural treatments for psoriasis is tea tree oil, which is known for its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. Kristin M., 35, is a fan of Era Organics Natural Tea Tree Face Cream for Oily, Acne Prone Skin ($17.80 at Amazon.com), which contains aloe vera, pomegranate seed oil, dandelion root and salicylic acid, as well as tea tree oil. “I get psoriasis on my chin and around my mouth,” Kristin says. “This is the only thing that reduces redness without aggravating my sensitive skin.”
Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo – Extra Strength
Mild scalp psoriasis sometimes clears up on its own, says board-certified dermatologist Susan Bard, M.D. of Vive Dermatology in Brooklyn, New York. However, a topical treatment is often needed for more severe flare-ups. Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo – Extra Strength ($7.99 at Target) contains 1% coal tar extract and is gentle enough for daily use.
Baker’s P&S Liquid
For stubborn scalp psoriasis, sometimes more than shampoo is needed. Bard recommends P&S Liquid ($22.98 at Amazon), a product with an oily consistency containing mineral oil and the antimicrobial phenol. It’s designed to be applied all over the scalp, massaged in, left overnight and washed out the following morning. “This product is great at loosening adherent scales,” Bard says. “This not only improves the appearance of psoriasis, but it can also allow for greater penetration of any topical medications you may be using as well.”
Finding an OTC product that helps with your psoriasis symptoms feels like a win. But, Bard says, if you’ve tried a few products and there’s no improvement after a few weeks, it’s time to see your dermatologist.