Medical News Today: How do you choose the best lotion for psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition characterized by skin that grows new cells too quickly. Psoriatic skin tends to be very sensitive and prone to dryness, cracking, and bleeding.

People living with psoriasis often use lotions as part of their treatment routines and self-care regimens.

Picking the best lotion or knowing what to look for in a lotion can help a person make an informed decision about what may work best for them.

Why are lotions good for psoriasis?

applying cream to psoriasis on elbow
Using creams and lotions should help improve most types of psoriasis.

Lotions are particularly effective in treating psoriasis symptoms for people with mild psoriasis.

Both over the counter and prescription lotions target the affected area through direct application to the psoriasis patches.

Lotions, creams, and other topical ointments are often the first treatment for people with mild psoriasis because they may reduce the scaling, itching, and discomfort associated with psoriasis.

Lotions may also help prevent the skin from cracking and overdrying, both of which can lead to further discomfort and scarring or infection.

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The best lotions for psoriasis

There are many potential lotions and topical treatments that people can try. Often, it can take some time before a person figures out the best combination of lotions and other therapies to treat their psoriasis.

Factors that can influence the lotions that are best for use with psoriasis may depend on:

  • the severity of the psoriasis

  • what type of psoriasis a person has

  • location of the affected area

  • active ingredients in the lotion

  • how the body responds to the lotion

  • the strength of the lotion

Not all lotions contain the same active ingredient or concentration. Lotions containing the following ingredients are considered the best options to treat psoriasis:

Different types of lotions

jojoba oil, seeds and leaves
Moisturizers containing jojoba may help to reduce dryness.

There are several different types of lotions available for a person to choose from. The various types of lotion are characterized by their active ingredients, and whether they are available over the counter or through prescription.

Some of the different lotion types include:

  • retinoids

  • coal tar

  • vitamin D

  • anthralin

  • moisturizers

  • steroids

  • salicylic acid

  • calcineurin inhibitors

What are retinoids?

Retinoids are used to speed up the body’s skin-shedding process. When applied to a psoriasis patch, retinoids help the body shed the excess skin that has built up, which helps reduce the appearance and calm the discomfort from the patch.

Retinoids contain vitamin A, which is used to reduce signs of aging and reverse sun damage.

What is coal tar?

Coal tar is available both over the counter and by prescription. People use coal tar to make their skin look healthier and slow down the growth of new skin cells. Coal tar is often an ingredient in lotions.

What are vitamin D lotions?

People with psoriasis use vitamin D-rich lotions and creams to slow down the growth of new skin cells. Slowing the growth of new cells helps to reduce the intensity of the psoriasis patch on the skin.

Unfortunately, some vitamin D infused lotions may irritate a person’s skin. However, many people still regard vitamin D as a good long-term treatment over the use of steroids.

What is anthralin?

Anthralin also slows the growth of new skin cells and helps reduce swelling associated with psoriasis patches. With minimal to no side effects, anthralin is thought to be safe to take as part of long-term treatment.

What are moisturizers?

Moisturizers provide a boost of moisture to psoriasis patches.

Some common ingredients may include:

  • jojoba

  • aloe vera

  • capsaicin

  • salicylic acid

  • zinc pyrithione.

The best types of moisturizers contain a thicker oil that traps moisture, which helps reduce dryness.

What are corticosteroids?

Steroids (corticosteroids) help reduce swelling and inflammation at the site of psoriasis patches. They also help to slow the growth of new skin cells.

Steroid creams come in a variety of strengths to accommodate for more sensitive and harder to treat areas of the body.

What is salicylic acid?

Salicylic acid helps remove the scaly appearance of psoriasis patches. People with psoriasis often use it in conjunction with other medicated creams because the salicylic acid allows the other creams to penetrate the patch better.

What are calcineurin inhibitors?

Calcineurin inhibitors such as pimecrolimus, crisaborole, and tacrolimus help reduce and stop inflammation.

People with psoriasis may use calcineurin inhibitors when other medications are not working as expected or as well as the doctor had hoped.

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So what lotion should I choose?

They all have potential benefits, and some have minor risks and side effects. The most appropriate lotion will vary between individuals. A doctor may recommend that a person tries several lotions to find a combination that works best for them.

Proven or unproven?

white lotion in hands
Patients may need to try various lotions before finding the best one.

Lotions and creams may or may not be well-researched.

A doctor should have some information on what creams offer effective treatment for the type of psoriasis a person has.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved two types of lotions for use with psoriasis. These two are:

  • coal tar

  • salicylic acid

Any prescription cream needs to pass specific quality standards, so the most uncertainty around the quality of these treatments centers on the lotions and creams that are available over the counter.

Often there is limited data to support the claims about the lotion’s effectiveness in treating psoriasis. If there is any uncertainty, a person should speak to his or her doctor.


Lotions are a safe and often effective method of treating psoriasis. In many cases, a person may need to try a few different lotions before finding the one that works best for them.

Doctors also often combine lotions with other treatment options. It is very likely that a person who uses lotions consistently to treat psoriasis will notice positive results.

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