Psoriasis Baths Dos and Don'ts

Though baths can’t cure your psoriasis, they're a good way to relax. They might help ease stress that can trigger a flare. They can also soften your scales and add water to your skin. (Just make sure to moisturize when you get out.)

Bath soaks, salts, and oils, along with your regular medicine, can be part of your psoriasis care routine. But always talk to your doctor before you try bath additives or any other natural remedies. They’ll let you know what’s safe to use with your treatment.

Types of Bath Additives

There’s not a lot of research on how things you add to your bath can help with psoriasis. But it’s usually OK to try certain home remedies. They include:

Oatmeal. The kind you’d put into a bath, or find in lotion or soap, is called colloidal oatmeal. It’s a really fine powder. Research shows it has anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties. That’s why experts think it can help ease dry, itchy skin.

Dead Sea or Epsom salt. You may notice fewer scales and less itchiness after you bathe in a salt solution. Minerals like magnesium may help lower inflammation and help your skin absorb water.

Coal tar. Ask your doctor how to use it in a bath. You can find it in bath oils, gels, and soaps. Keep in mind that it can be messy and have a strong smell. But coal tar may help:

  • Ease itching and dryness
  • Lower redness
  • Slow fast-growing skin cells

Besides bath solutions, you can also find coal tar in:

  • Shampoo
  • Ointment

Some states require a skin cancer warning for certain coal products. But the FDA says it’s safe to use anything with between 0.5% and 5% coal tar for psoriasis. Coal tar can irritate your skin. So always test the product on a small patch of your body first.

Baking soda. Some people say they feel better after a bath with sodium bicarbonate. That’s the scientific name for baking soda. There’s no scientific evidence to prove that it’ll help your psoriasis. But even if it doesn’t soothe your skin, it’s not likely to hurt it.

Bath oils. Adding oils to your bath may reduce itchiness and dryness. But be careful because bath oils can make your tub slippery.

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What Not to Put in Your Bath

Don’t use anything with harsh chemicals. Everyone is different, but it’s a good idea to stay away from:

  • Any product with fragrance
  • Bubble bath

You should be careful with certain ingredients. They include:

  • Apple cider vinegar. Some people think it helps with itching, but there's no scientific evidence for this. If you try it, be sure to dilute it with water. Otherwise it might sting. Don't use it if your skin is cracked or bleeding.
  • Tea tree oil. This is thought to ease itching, but there's no research to shows that's true. And tea tree oil could give you an allergic reaction. Test a small patch of your skin before using.

How to Take a Bath

Apply any medicine that you use on your skin at least a couple of hours before your soak. That way, you won’t wash it off in your bath. Use water that feels warm to the touch. Hot water can dry out your skin. That may trigger a flare. Also take care to:

  • Bathe (or shower) only once a day
  • Soak for no more than 15 minutes
  • Gently wash your skin

Don’t try to scrub off your scales. They could start bleeding and make your psoriasis worse. You could get something called Koebner phenomenon. That’s when a psoriasis flare shows up after you injure your skin.

What to Do After a Bath

Pat your body mostly dry with a towel. Leave a little moisture on your skin.

Within 5 minutes after your bath, put on a moisturizer to seal in the wetness. Use a fragrance-free cream or thick ointment. If you don’t mind the greasiness, you can use petroleum jelly. If you don’t have a heavy moisturizer, it’s OK to use a lotion.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on May 04, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Lindsey Bordone, MD, assistant professor of dermatology, Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC).

Latanya Benjamin, MD, associate professor of pediatric dermatology, Florida Atlantic University.

National Psoriasis Foundation: “Psoriasis Causes and Triggers,” “Herbs and Natural Remedies,” “Over-the-counter (OTC) Topicals,”

Journal of Drugs and Dermatology: “Anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) contribute to the effectiveness of oats in treatment of itch associated with dry, irritated skin,” “Mechanism of action and clinical benefits of colloidal oatmeal for dermatologic practice.” 

American Academy of Dermatology: “What Psoriasis Treatments Are Available Without A Prescription?” “8 Ways To Stop Baths And Showers From Worsening Your Psoriasis.”

Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism: “Scientific evidence of the therapeutic effects of dead sea treatments: as systematic review.”

Dermatology and Therapy: “Efficacy of a Topical Formulation of Sodium Bicarbonate in Mild to Moderate Stable Plaque Psoriasis: a Randomized, Blinded, Intrapatient, Controlled Study.”

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: “Scaly skin and bath pH: Rediscovering baking soda.”

Indian Dermatology Online Journal: “General measures and quality of life issues in psoriasis.”

International Journal of Molecular Sciences: “Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils.”

University of Maryland Medical Center: “Understanding Eczema and Psoriasis.”

Indian Journal of Dermatology: “Moisturizers: The Slippery Road.”

International Journal of Dermatology: “Bathing in a magnesium-rich Dead Sea salt solution improves skin barrier function, enhances skin hydration, and reduces inflammation in atopic dry skin.”

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