Depending on the severity of psoriasis, dermatologists may suggest or prescribe topical treatments first. Topical treatments, or "topicals," usually come in the form of creams, lotions, sprays, foams, or ointments. They are put right onto the skin and treat the area where they are applied. They range from over-the-counter treatments to more powerful prescription steroids, and they work in different ways.
Over-the-counter topicals for psoriasis
You can buy a variety of topical treatments at your local pharmacy. Over-the-counter treatments like moisturizers, bath and shower oils, and natural salt products work to help reduce redness and itching. Ask your doctor which over-the-counter products could help your symptoms.
Prescription topicals for psoriasis
Some topical treatments are available by prescription only. Here are some of the common ones:
Corticosteroids work on the immune system to reduce inflammation and slow skin cells from growing too quickly. They can work quickly, but if used long term, they can make the skin thinner or the body could resist them.
Vitamin D analogues
Calcipotriene is a man-made form of vitamin D3. It works to slow skin cells from growing too quickly. It is available as a cream and a scalp solution.
Tazarotene is a man-made form of vitamin A that can help slow the growth of skin cells.
Tacrolimus and pimecrolimus are topical calcineurin inhibitors. They work by blocking certain proteins that can cause inflammation. They are less likely to thin the skin, so they're often used on areas with thinner skin.
Important information you should know
All medicines have potential side effects and should be used cautiously and under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Common side effects associated with topical treatments include skin irritation, itching, and burning.
Additional information concerning prescription medications can be found by reading each drug's Prescribing Information or Medication Guide (if available).