Climatotherapy for Psoriasis

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on March 29, 2022
3 min read

If you’re living with psoriasis, you’ve probably tried one or more of the typical treatments: lotions or ointments you put on your skin, medicines that work inside your body on your immune system, or sessions with special light boxes.

But they don’t all work for everyone, and some have dangerous side effects. They can also be expensive and inconvenient.

An alternative treatment that may be worth a look is climatotherapy.

Also called climate therapy, this means traveling to a place with an environment that might help you. People do it for skin conditions, breathing problems, and pain, among other things.

With psoriasis, climatotherapy usually involves a combination of seawater and sunshine. It’s not a new strategy. Your grandmother might have gone to the shore during the summer to get relief from her symptoms.

There are clinics and spas catering to psoriasis treatment all over the world. But the Dead Sea in Israel is legendary for its healing properties. The area has unique environmental features that appear to help with psoriasis.

  • It has the lowest elevation in the world, which gives it the highest air pressure.
  • Because the sun’s rays have to travel farther to reach the ground, they get weaker. That means you can stay outside longer without getting burned.
  • It gets little rain and has low humidity.
  • It has the highest levels of salt and other minerals of any natural body of water.
  • High temperatures cause evaporation, which puts those minerals into the air. That creates a kind of haze that helps block harmful ultraviolet radiation.

With this treatment, a doctor prescribes a certain amount of sun exposure and soaking time, gradually increasing over a period of weeks.

At places other than the Dead Sea, you may bathe in a hot spring or coat your skin in mineral-rich mud.

Most of the research on psoriasis and climatotherapy has focused on the Dead Sea. But it’s also been studied at beaches and hot springs in Europe.

The results show this treatment does a good job of reducing and even clearing up skin plaques. But it’s by no means a cure. Improvement is temporary. Most people’s symptoms come back within several months.

A big drawback to climatotherapy is cost and convenience. Not many people can afford to fly to the Dead Sea for a month a couple of times a year. But you can look for a spa or clinic closer to home that offers a combination of UV light and salt water exposure if you want to try it.

And spending time in the sun and soaking in salty water are both recommended home remedies for psoriasis that you can do just about anywhere. You can even buy Dead Sea salts to put in your own tub.

It appears to be a successful treatment for anyone with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. But in one German study, the people who got the best results have what’s known as skin type II: fair skin that burns easily and doesn’t usually tan.

Studies on the Dead Sea therapy have found it to be safe with no side effects for most people.

But it’s important to note that people getting the treatment were under medical supervision with prescribed amounts of sun exposure. Don’t take a DIY approach without talking to your doctor. Too much sun can cause a sunburn and other skin damage and raise your chances of getting skin cancer.