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What is the best psoriasis cream?

Woman rubbing white cream onto her hand
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If you live with psoriasis it’s likely that you use a variety of creams to manage your symptoms. To learn more about these creams, read on.

About psoriasis cream

A psoriasis cream is any cream, lotion or ointment that is applied to the skin to treat the symptoms of psoriasis. If you’ve received a psoriasis diagnosis from a doctor, you’ve probably received instructions on what kinds of products to use and how to apply them.

There are many varieties of psoriasis cream available, so it’s a good idea to learn about the differences before you start buying and using them.

Psoriasis treatment creams

Most people who have psoriasis will use two types of psoriasis cream:

  • Moisturisers and cleansers known as emollients
  • Medicated creams and ointments

You may wonder which is the best cream for psoriasis, but in truth it depends upon the nature of your condition. Below you’ll find a guide to the main varieties of psoriasis cream, some of which you can buy directly from LloydsPharmacy.

Emollients for psoriasis

Emollients are moisturisers designed for very dry skin. They create a protective barrier on the skin, sealing in moisture, and reducing itching and inflammation.

Different types of emollient are available for people with psoriasis and other skin conditions such as eczema. The “strongest” emollients are ointments, which contain a high concentration of fats and are intensely moisturising. Emollients that come in cream or lotion form are less moisturising, but are also less greasy and will dry on the skin more rapidly.

The primary benefits of emollient creams, lotions and ointments are that:

  • They reduce dryness, scaling, itching and cracking, making you feel more comfortable
  • They can improve the absorption of topical medicated products

When buying an emollient you should look for a non-fragranced product designed for very dry and sensitive skin. Emollients for psoriasis often contain liquid paraffin/white soft paraffin, anti-microbials, and lauromacrogols (which can prevent itching).

Three good options to consider are:

  • Dermalex psoriasis – moisturises the skin to help prevent flare-ups
  • Oilatum cream – relives itching while soothing and rehydrating skin
  • E45 cream – clinically proven to soothe dry skin as well as psoriasis

Emollients also come in the form of bath milks and oils. These can be added to your bathwater and will work to soften plaques and dry skin while you bathe.

Medicated creams for psoriasis

Another important variety of psoriasis cream is the topical medicated treatment. These are products recommended for people with psoriasis either by a pharmacist or a doctor. You will often need a prescription to use the kinds of treatments below as they can be very potent.

The ingredients most commonly found in medicated psoriasis creams are:

  • Topical corticosteroids
  • Vitamin D analogues
  • Calcineurin inhibitors
  • Coal tar
  • Dithranol

These ingredients primarily work by reducing skin cell production, however they can also have an anti-inflammatory effect, which helps to reduce soreness and itching.

Medicated psoriasis creams should be applied directly to affected areas when you’re experiencing a flare-up of symptoms. They are suited to cases of mild or moderate psoriasis, and vary in potency.

Buying psoriasis creams over the counter

You can readily buy emollients in a pharmacy, but medicated creams will typically require a conversation with the pharmacist or a prescription from your doctor.

Coal tar shampoos, including Polytar shampoo, which are a treatment for scalp psoriasis, are usually available to buy without speaking to a pharmacist.

Using psoriasis creams correctly

The main rule for using medicated psoriasis creams is to apply them exactly as directed by your pharmacist or doctor. You can also consult the patient information leaflet supplied with the product – if you can’t find this, you can search for the product on the Medicines.org website and read the leaflet online.

Medicated creams and ointments tend to work better when the skin is soft and moisturised, so it’s a good idea to use your topical treatment after applying an emollient.

When applying emollients you should smooth a large amount of product gently into the skin, in the direction your hair grows. If you rub it in too vigorously this can aggravate the skin and make your symptoms worse.

After applying your emollient you should wait around 30 minutes for it to sink into the skin. At this point you can carefully apply your medicated ointment or cream.

Other treatments for psoriasis

If you’ve found that psoriasis creams are having no effect upon your symptoms, you should speak to a doctor. They may suggest a more potent topical treatment, or refer you to a dermatologist for specialised treatment.

Treatment plans for severe psoriasis typically involve phototherapy with ultraviolet light, or systemic treatments given as tablets, capsules or injections.