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Psoriasis: Skin, Scalp, and Nail Care

Introduction

If you have psoriasis, your skin is very sensitive. To protect your skin, avoid:

  • Skin care products that irritate your skin.
  • Scratching and picking your skin, and skin injuries such as cuts or scrapes.
  • Cold, dry climates. Cold weather makes symptoms worse.

The most important thing you can do is to keep your skin moist. Use moisturizing creams, ointments, and lotions.

How do I protect my skin, scalp, and nails?

Your skin

Protect your skin by:

  • Avoiding harsh skin products. For example, use a mild soap (such as Dove, Basis, or Neutrogena) instead of deodorant soaps or other harsh soaps (such as Camay, Lava, or Zest). Avoid lotions that contain alcohol, which can dry the skin and make psoriasis worse.
  • Preventing skin injury. Don't scratch and pick your skin or cuts and scrapes. An injury to the skin can cause psoriasis patches to form anywhere on the body, including the site of the injury. This includes injuries to your nails or nearby skin while trimming your nails. Tight shoes, clothing, watchbands, and hats can also irritate the skin.
  • Avoiding cold climates. Cold, dry weather makes symptoms worse.
  • Being careful in the sun. Although short periods of sun exposure reduce psoriasis in most people, too much sun exposure can damage the skin and cause skin cancer. Also, sunburns can trigger flares of psoriasis.

Your nails

Protect your nails by:

  • Soaking them before trimming.
  • Trimming them short and filing the edges smooth to avoid injuring them or scratching yourself. Avoid excessive cleaning under the nail, because it may promote psoriasis scale buildup.
  • Not cutting, tearing, or biting the skin around your nails (cuticles).
  • Using colorless nail polish to protect your nails.
  • Wearing gloves when working with your hands.

For moist skin

You can keep your skin moist by:

  • Using moisturizers after bathing. Some doctors believe that petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) works well. Crisco solid vegetable oil works and is very inexpensive. Other good moisturizers are Cetaphil, Lubriderm, and Eucerin.
  • Taking baths or soaks once a day to replace skin moisture that may be lost due to cold, dry climates or to drying medicines. You will benefit most by applying an ointment, cream, or lotion within 3 minutes after your bath to seal in moisture. Otherwise, when the water evaporates, it will make your skin even drier. Adding bath oils to your bath water can also help, but this can make the tub slippery. If you add oils to your bath water, be very careful.
  • Using a mild soap (such as Dove, Basis, or Neutrogena) instead of deodorant soaps or other harsh soaps (such as Camay, Lava, or Zest).
  • Using a home humidifier to increase moisture in the air.
  • Applying creams or lotions, then wrapping the area with fabric or plastic to keep the skin moist (called occlusion therapy).

Your scalp

Protect your scalp by:

  • Not digging, scratching, or picking at it.
  • Using a shampoo with salicylic acid, such as Neutrogena T/Sal.
  • Shampooing as often as needed to control scaling and allow medicines to reach the scalp. Work shampoo into a lather and let it stay on for at least 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing it out.

Medicines

Use prescribed medicines by following the instructions for skin products and medicines prescribed for you.

Credits

Current as ofApril 17, 2018

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Amy McMichael, MD - Dermatology


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