Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Topical Treatments for Psoriasis

The dry patches of skin you get with psoriasis can be itchy and uncomfortable, but the right treatment plan can help.

Your doctor will likely suggest creams, lotions, foams, sprays, solutions, and ointments. These are called "topicals," meaning you put them directly on your skin or scalp.

Recommended Related to Psoriasis

Me and My Psoriasis

It's summer again, so while everyone else in Michigan, where I live, is shedding sweaters and jeans for tank tops and shorts, I'm looking for cover. This is a yearly ritual, poring over catalogs in search of a breezy, near-ankle-length skirt and chic little cardigan to hide my patchy skin. Those bold-print maxi dresses that are in vogue could solve the problem, but really, how many yachting parties and clambakes do I attend? Stubborn, stubborn psoriasis. You retreat with the sun's rays, but barely...

Read the Me and My Psoriasis article > >

A number of products are available. You can get some over the counter (OTC) at the drugstore, but for others you'll need a prescription. It may take time to find what works best for you.

Choosing a Topical

Moisturizers and lotions that you buy without a prescription can keep your skin moist and help control flare-ups. In general, thick, greasy lotions that trap moisture in your skin work best.

Salicylic acid removes scales that appear on patches of psoriasis. It comes in lotions, gels, soaps, and shampoos. It's especially helpful when used with other skin treatments. Removing flakes of dead skin allows other medications to work better.

Coal tar can help slow the growth of skin cells and make your skin look better. It too comes in many different forms. The weaker products are available OTC. The shampoo helps treat scalp psoriasis.

Coal tar doesn't smell good, and it can irritate your skin and stain your clothes.

Follow the directions carefully. Some studies show that the chemicals in coal tar are cancerous, but this is only true at very high doses. It's safe to use these products if you follow your doctor's instructions.

Steroids (corticosteroids) reduce puffiness (inflammation) and slow the growth of skin cells so they don't build up. They come in different strengths. Weaker formulas may work for sensitive areas like the face, neck, or skin-fold areas like the groin or armpit. You may need stronger ones for tough-to-treat places like your elbows and knees.

You'll probably apply your treatment twice a day. Your doctor may suggest you wrap the area with tape or plastic after you treat it. This is a method called occlusion. It can help some treatments work better, but it may also make side effects stronger.

The side effects include:

  • Thinning of skin
  • Changes in skin color
  • Bruising
  • More visible blood vessels

Today on WebMD

Woman sitting in front of UV lights
About 7.5 million people in the U.S. Get the facts.
stress and psoriasis
What might spark your psoriasis today?
woman bathing
Slideshow: Home Remedies For Psoriasis
woman applying lotion
It starts in the immune system. Read on.
Top Psoriasis Treatments To Try At Home
Woman sitting in front of UV lights
Beware Miracle Diets For Psoriasis
Psoriasis Laser Therapy
10 Questions About Psoriasis To Ask Your Doctor
psoriasis on elbow
Psoriasis (Moderate to Severe)
Psoriatic Arthritis Do You Know The Symptoms