Psoriasis affects nearly eight million Americans, and while there’s still no full-blown cure (though the good news is that scientists are working on it), there is one way to keep some of its peskier side-effects at bay: with gentle exfoliation to treat a psoriasis flare-up.
“Psoriasis is the overgrowth of the top layer of skin cells in the epidermis, and is thought to be brought about by an immune reaction in the skin,” says Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Connecticut. She adds that it can happen at any age, and tends to show up in the form of a flaky, itchy rash.
“While it’s not curable, it is treatable, which means there is no reason for anyone to be walking around with a skin condition that makes them feel uncomfortable,” says Dr. Gohara. Derms tend to prescribe treatments and suggest topical steroids to help tone down the inflammation, but to treat psoriasis scaling at home, all you need is a gentle (repeat: gentle!) chemical exfoliator.
“When people have thicker plaques on their skin, use of an alpha hydroxy acid, such as lactic acid, or a urea-based product can really go a long way to help to get those scales off the skin,” says Dr. Gohara. Lactic acid is famous for being one of the most gentle exfoliants out there, while urea acts a keratolytic and a humectant, getting rid of thick dry skin build-ups while hydrating and softening the skin.
Though scrubbing at your psoriasis patches can make them worse (it leads to something called the Koebner Phenomenon, in which flare-ups appear in areas of trauma), gently exfoliating them with an acid can help remove some of the plaques. “Keep It simple,” says Dr. Gohara. “Cleanse, use a gentle exfoliator over the plaques if need be, and moisturize every night.”
Below, three body products that will help you fight a psoriasis flare-up the minute you step out of the shower.
Lactic Acid: AmLactin Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion, $13
For a gentle exfoliating lotion that will also leave your skin soft and smooth, this lactic acid-based treatment has got you covered. Specifically designed for treating super-dry skin, it combines lactic acid with natural moisturizing factors that mimic the ones found in your skin, making it perfect for everyday use on your psoriatic patches and all over the rest of your body.
Shop now: AmLactin Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion, $13
Urea: Eucerin Dry Skin Intensive Lotion – 10% Urea, $19
If you’re dealing with patches of plaque, turn to urea to help you get rid of them. This lotion is formulated with 10 percent of the stuff, plus ceramides and other moisturizing ingredients that strengthen your skin barrier and lock in hydration.
Shop now: Eucerin Dry Skin Intensive Lotion – 10% Urea, $19
Lactic Acid and Urea: SkinCeuticals Body Retexturing Treatment, $61
Shop now: SkinCeuticals Body Retexturing Treatment, $61
To get your daily dose of exfoliating ingredients in a single product, try this treatment, which is formulated with 17.7 percent urea and sodium lactate, a lactic acid derivative that exfoliates while helping your skin maintain moisture. It’s also got niacinamide, which strengthens the skin barrier and fights inflammation, and hyaluronic acid for an added boost of hydration. It’s designed to resurface and replenish rough, textured skin, and with such an A-plus ingredient profile, it does exactly that.
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