Psoriasis is a skin disease that develops when the immune system sends faulty signals that tell skin cells to grow too quickly. Normally, skin cells go through a 28 to 30 day cycle in which new cells are formed deep within the skin, then make their way to the top of the skin’s surface where they are sloughed off by everyday activities such as showering, dressing, sleeping, etc.
Someone with psoriasis will go through the entire 28 to 30 day cycle in a matter of a few days, causing an excessive build up of skin cells on the surface of the skin (usually on the scalp, lower back, elbows, knees, and knuckles, and sometimes affecting the nails) forming thick patches which are dry, inflamed, red and scaly.
There is no magical formula for treating psoriasis – for some it may be a combination of approaches that works best to treat flare-ups and manage the condition – others may require professional intervention (read more about types of psoriasis and what causes psoriasis.) There are, however, home remedies that are not only helpful, they do work to prevent and control outbreaks of psoriasis.
The first goal of treating psoriasis is to prevent further flare-ups and outbreaks. Easing the symptoms and helping the body heal and recover, is the next step.
Showering, bathing, wet compresses all rehydrates dry skin and helps soften and remove thick psoriasis scales without damaging the skin. Regular water therapy also helps reduce itching and redness. Keep the water tepid rather than hot (hot water can increase itching).
You can improve the benefits of water therapy dramatically by adding Dead Sea Salts to a tub of warm water. The Dead Sea contains a unique combination of therapeutic elements that provide an amazing benefit for patients who are not able to completely clear their psoriasis. Dead Sea Salts also make subsequent recurrences of psoriasis less severe.
Simply add a handful of Dead Sea Salts to a bath of warm water and soak for 20 minutes.
Pay attention to the soap you use. Harsh soaps will dry and irritate the skin which increases itching. Choose a mild soap that contains moisturizers, such as Alpha Keri or Nivea Cream Bar, or try soap-free cleansers, such as Aveeno Cleansing Bar or pHisoDerm Dry Skin Formula. Regardless of the product you use, be sure to rinse well and apply moisturizer immediately after to prevent itching and drying.
Coal tar is a thick, black byproduct of petroleum products and coal and is one of the oldest treatments for psoriasis. It reduces scaling, itching and inflammation. Coal tar has few side effects, but it has a strong smell and can be messy, staining clothing and bedding. Coal tar is available in over-the-counter shampoos, creams and oils. It’s also available in higher concentrations by prescription.
Since the thick scales that form on the skin surface can act as a barrier to both medications and ultraviolet light (see our article on phototherapy), therefore, it is important gently remove as much scale as possible. The removal of dead skin build-up each day is very effective as a preventative measure against excessive buildup.
After bathing, the scale will be softened. Gently buff the area with a clean cloth to remove the buildup of scale. Or, try a softening agent, such as salicylic acid. This softens the plaque and makes it possible to remove the scale. Either way, take care not to break the underlying skin.
Moisturizing not only helps prevent dry skin from cracking, bleeding and becoming infected, it also reduces inflammation, makes the scales less noticeable, helps maintain flexibility (dried plaques of psoriasis can make moving certain parts of the body difficult), and helps keep psoriasis from getting worse.
The thickest, or greasiest, moisturizers work best at locking water into the skin — ingredients such as lactic acid seem to work best. Apply a moisturizer right after you step out of a bath or shower. It helps your body hold onto natural oils and water. Thick over-the-counter moisturizers like Eucerin or Neutrogena Norwegian Formula are effective.
Inexpensive alternatives, like cooking oils, lard, or petroleum jelly, offer effective protection. Try the following recipe.
Mix equal measures of Vaseline and extra virgin olive oil to make an effective emollient to retain moisture in the skin as well as lubricate the skin after bathing.
Keep the air moist. For those living in dry climates, or during the winter months, it is important to increase humidity levels. That’s because dry air is bad for dry skin, which is bad news for psoriasis sufferers. Use a room humidifier to put moisture in the air – at least during the sleeping hours.
Other Remedies that Work
Aloe Vera Gel – applying aloe vera gel to the affected areas three times a day, for a month helped about 85% of all patients who tried the therapy. Use a pure aloe vera gel rather than aloe vera cream that contains other ingredients.
Apple-cider vinegar – diluted in equal parts of water, this can temporarily relieve itching and scaling. Simply apply the mixture to the affected areas, leave for one minute, and then rinse off. Or try adding a 1/2 cup of cider vinegar to a bath of tepid water to help restore acidity to the skin.
Chamomile – this is widely used in Europe for treating psoriasis. It contains anti-inflammatory flavonoid compounds. Be Careful! If you have ragweed allergies, do not use chamomile, as it is a member of the ragweed family.
Flaxseed oil – adding flaxseed oil to your diet is like adding fish oil and helps treat psoriasis. Adding 1 – 2 tablespoons daily to salads or cereals – it’s great way to add this helpful supplement into your diet. Flaxseed oil, applied to directly to the affected areas twice a day, also helps heal psoriasis.
DID YOU KNOW?
Certain medications can make psoriasis worse in some people. Be sure all your doctors know about your skin condition, and if a current medications are irritating your condition, discuss alternatives with your doctor.