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Vitamin D Analogues

What it is: A form of synthetic vitamin D that you rub on your skin.

How it works: Vitamin D creams slow skin cell growth.

Vitamin D creams include:

Side effects include skin irritation, burning, itching, dry skin, peeling skin, or rash. In rare cases, too much vitamin D can be absorbed into the body, which can lead to increased levels of calcium.


What it is: A man-made form of vitamin A.

How it works: It slows skin cell growth and reduces inflammation.

Types of topical retinoids:

Side effects include skin irritation, redness, and sensitivity to sunlight (you need to wear sunscreen while using this medicine). Let your doctor know if you are pregnant or might become pregnant, because this medicine may harm an unborn baby.


What it is: A man-made form of a substance that comes from the South American araroba tree.

How it works: It slows the growth of skin cells.

Types of anthralin:

Side effects include skin irritation. It can also leave brown stains on clothes, hair, bed sheets, and skin.

Salicylic Acid

What it is: The same type of medicine that is used to treat acne.

How it works: Salicylic acid lotions, gels, and shampoos lift scales and help to remove them. Sometimes salicylic acid is used with other psoriasis treatments, such as corticosteroids or coal tar.

Side effects include skin irritation and hair loss.

Coal Tar

What it is: Coal tar is one of the oldest treatments for psoriasis.

How it works: Coal tar shampoos, creams, and lotions slow the growth of skin cells. They also reduce scaling, itching, and swelling. The Goeckerman treatment, once widely used, combines coal tar with light therapy. It has fallen out of favor due to its inconvenience. 

Side effects include skin irritation and sensitivity to sunlight. Coal tar can also cause strong odor and staining of clothing, bed linens, or hair.

Other Over-the-Counter Treatments

A few other over-the-counter remedies can help treat psoriasis, including:

  • Moisturizers containing aloe vera, jojoba, zinc pyrithione, or capsaicin soften skin and relieve itching.
  • Bath solutions containing oil, oatmeal, or Dead Sea salts can help remove scale.
  • Scale lifters containing salicylic acid, lactic acid, or urea also remove scale.
  • Anti-itch creams containing calamine, hydrocortisone, camphor, or menthol can help relieve itching.

Always discuss medications with your doctor, including over-the-counter remedies, to see if they are right for you. Your doctor may also recommend light therapy or an injected drug called a biologic that works throughout your body if your psoriasis is bothering you or having a big impact on your life.


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