Why Should I Use Moisturizers For Treating Psoriasis?
Although there is little scientific research into the effects of moisturizers on psoriasis, our own experience shows that:
- moisturizers make the skin much more comfortable – they decrease the dryness, scaling, cracking and soreness, and itching;
- moisturizers allow the other active treatments that you use (e.g. tar or vitamin D) to work more effectively.
Which moisturizer is best to use?
There are so many to choose from that it is sometimes difficult to know which to choose. There are, however, two golden rules:
- Moisturizing is absolutely vital for anyone with psoriasis. Although it does not get rid of the psoriasis, it makes it less scaly and much more comfortable.
- The best moisturizer or psoriasis cream is the one that you feel happiest with and that you feel you can use easily on a regular basis.
Discuss this with your doctor and ask her or him to prescribe one that you like and will use. You may find that you need two or three different moisturizers for different parts of your body or different times of day, so don’t be afraid to ask to try several varieties. If you’re also using some home remedies for psoriasis, make sure you let your doctor know about those as well, just to make sure there are no contraindications between them,
Below are some other things to think about when you are choosing a moisturizer.
Lotions are water based and tend to be very runny and easy to apply (e.g. E45 lotion). They are quite cooling but not very good at moisturizing, particularly dry skin. They are useful for maintaining good skin once the psoriasis has gone.
Creams are thicker and a bit greasier than lotions but are still easy to use (e.g. Diprobase). They are less runny and tend to come in pots or pump dispensers. They are usually the best option for day-to-day use.
Ointments are very greasy and thick, and are oil rather than water based (e.g. Epaderm or 50/50 white soft paraffin/liquid paraffin mix). They are the best moisturizers but are less pleasant to use because they are greasy and quite sticky. If, however, your skin is very dry, they are the best option.
Doublebase is a relatively new gel-based emollient that many people find smoothes into the skin very easily.
You should use your moisturizer at least twice a day and more often if possible. Try to make your treatment fit in with your lifestyle as best you can. Some suggestions are to use a lighter cream moisturizer in the morning before going to work or school and then use a greasier ointment before going to bed. Try taking a small pot of cream to work with you and applying it if a patch gets particularly dry, itchy or uncomfortable. If you are applying a moisturizer all over, it is very easy to get through a 500 g pot in a week or so, so make sure that your doctor prescribes enough.
Method of Application
When you apply the moisturizer, you should do this by gently stroking the cream/ointment on in a way that follows the lie of the little hairs on the skin. Try not to rub too aggressively as this will only serve to aggravate the plaques – a gentle repeated motion is best. A pump dispenser is best as it saves you having to keep putting your hand into the pot. If you have a moisturizer that does not come with a pump dispenser, scoop out what you need with a clean spoon – this stops dirt and skin scale getting into the pot.
In The Bath Or Shower
Moisturizing is not just about putting cream or ointments on: it starts in the bath or shower. As indicated in the answer to a later question, in the section ‘Practical aspects’, it is wise to wash with a soap substitute that does not dry your skin. If you choose to bathe, put a bath oil in the water; this helps to create a layer of oil over the skin, which prevents water being lost from the skin. Beware of the risk of slipping, though, when you get in and out of the bath or shower!
To summaries, moisturizing should involve:
- using a soap substitute;
- putting an oil (e.g. Balneum, Oilatum or Diprobath) in the bath;
- using lots of cream or ointment moisturizers at least twice a day;
- choosing the moisturizers that suit you and your lifestyle best.
The final thing to remember is that moisturizers do not actually add water to the skin: they stop it being lost by evaporation from the skin. Make sure you have enough water in your body to help them do their job – don’t let yourself become dehydrated.