Lifestyle and home remediesBy Mayo Clinic staff
Although self-help measures won't cure psoriasis, they may help improve the appearance and feel of damaged skin. These measures may benefit you:
- Take daily baths. Bathing daily helps remove scales and calm inflamed skin. Add bath oil, colloidal oatmeal, Epsom salts or Dead Sea salts to the water and soak for at least 15 minutes. Avoid hot water and harsh soaps, which can worsen symptoms; use lukewarm water and mild soaps that have added oils and fats.
- Use moisturizer. Blot your skin after bathing, then immediately apply a heavy, ointment-based moisturizer while your skin is still moist. For very dry skin, oils may be preferable — they have more staying power than creams or lotions do and are more effective at preventing water from evaporating from your skin. During cold, dry weather, you may need to apply a moisturizer several times a day.
- Cover the affected areas overnight. To help improve redness and scaling, apply an ointment-based moisturizer to your skin and wrap with plastic wrap overnight. In the morning, remove the covering and wash away the scales with a bath or a shower.
- Expose your skin to small amounts of sunlight. A controlled amount of sunlight can significantly improve lesions, but too much sun can trigger or worsen outbreaks and increase the risk of skin cancer. If you sunbathe, it's best to try short sessions three or more times a week. Keep a record of when and how long you're in the sun to help avoid overexposure. And be sure to protect healthy skin with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you're swimming or perspiring. Before beginning any sunbathing program, ask your doctor about the best way to use natural sunlight to treat your skin.
- Apply medicated cream or ointment. Apply an over-the-counter cream or ointment containing hydrocortisone or salicylic acid to reduce itching and scaling. If you have scalp psoriasis, try a medicated shampoo that contains coal tar. For best results, follow label directions.
- Avoid psoriasis triggers, if possible. Find out what triggers, if any, worsen your psoriasis and take steps to prevent or avoid them. Infections, injuries to your skin, stress, smoking and intense sun exposure can all worsen psoriasis.
- Avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol consumption may decrease the effectiveness of some psoriasis treatments.
- Eat a healthy diet. Although there's no evidence that certain foods will either improve or aggravate psoriasis, it's important to eat a healthy diet, particularly when you have a chronic disease. A healthy diet includes eating a variety fruits and vegetables of all colors and whole grains. If you eat meat, focus on lean cuts and fish. If you think certain foods make your symptoms better or worse, keep a food diary to see what effect different foods have.
- Feldman SR, et al. Epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis of psoriasis. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Nov. 22, 2010.
- Questions and answers about psoriasis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/hi/topics/psoriasis/psoriasis.htm. Accessed Nov. 26, 2010.
- Burden AD, et al. Diagnosis and management of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis in adults: Summary of SIGN guidance. BMJ. 2010;341:987.
- Feldman SR, et al. Treatment of psoriasis. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Nov. 30, 2010.
- Light therapy. National Psoriasis Foundation. http://www.psoriasis.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=430. Accessed Nov. 30, 2010.
- Living well: Healthy eating. National Psoriasis Foundation. www.psoriasis.org/netcommunity/learn_eating. Accessed Nov. 30, 2010.
- Aloe. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed Nov. 30, 2010.
- Fish oil. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed Nov. 30, 2010.