What You Should Know About Skin Care Products and Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that commonly causes red, dry, and itchy patches of skin. Moisturizing twice a day can help to ease the dryness and discomfort, but some of the ingredients in popular products can irritate sensitive skin, says Marc Glashofer, MD, MS, a dermatologist in Garden City, NY. That’s why it’s important to know what you’re using before you open the container.

Ingredients to Avoid

To help you weed through the array of products you can find on many drug store shelves, Glashofer lists common ingredients that can be troublesome for sensitive skin.

Formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers (chemicals that release formaldehyde over time). These are used as preservatives in many beauty products to prevent bacterial growth, but they can cause a skin rash known as allergic contact dermatitis. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers can go by many names; common ones include:

  • Quarternium-15
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Bromonitropropane diol
  • Tris (hydroxymethyl) nitromethane
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone

Anyone managing psoriasis should also avoid hair dyes containing a chemical called paraphenylenediamene. These can cause an allergic reaction.

Better Skin Care Options for Psoriasis Patients

The good news is that psoriasis patients can safely use many beauty products—better yet, some of them can actually soothe or even treat the skin. Glashofer recommends psoriasis patients:

Look for the following “good” ingredients for moisturizing and hydrating psoriasis-prone skin:

  • Petrolatum
  • Mineral oil
  • Lanolin
  • Glycerin
  • Silicone-based derivatives (such as dimethicone)

Find over-the-counter products that can help soothe psoriasis by minimizing the thickness of the skin and promoting the shedding of its upper layers. The key ingredients for these actions include:

  • Urea
  • Salicylic acid
  • Lactic acid No. 5

Choose moisturizers that are fragrance-free and don’t contain dyes.

  • Mask the redness associated with psoriasis by selecting creams or cosmetics that contain a green dye.

For Best Results

It’s important to see a board-certified dermatologist on a regular basis so you can manage your psoriasis flare-ups most effectively. When you suspect certain products are irritating your skin, your doctor can perform a patch test to identify the problem.

Also remember that with any products you use for psoriasis, how you apply them can make a difference: "For best results, gently cleanse with a moisturizing body wash," Glashofer says. "Do not scrub or exfoliate the face or other body surface with psoriasis. This can lead to further loss of hydration, and inflammation." He adds that you’ll also want to avoid using any products on areas of raw skin, open sores, and bleeding.

Marc Glashofer, MD, MS, reviewed this article.


Marc Glashofer, MD, MS, Fellow, American Academy of Dermatology; Fellow, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery; Fellow, American College of Mohs Surgery; Private Practice: Garden City, NY. Email interview June 12, 2014.