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"Psoriasis is a genetic skin condition that results in the body's immune system attacking the skin, resulting in plaques of thicker skin," says Purvisha Patel, MD, a dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Associates in Memphis, Tennessee. "The thicker plaques can split and crack, causing the nerves beneath the skin to fire," triggering that itchy, inflamed feeling.
While the condition can occur anywhere, it's especially common in sensitive areas like the elbows, knees and buttocks. Luckily, there are plenty of over-the-counter psoriasis creams and lotions that can help.
So, what's the difference between a cream and a lotion? "A lotion is usually formulated with a higher water content than oil, making it lighter, thinner and more easily absorbed," says Kemunto Mokaya, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Houston. "Creams are blends of oil and water with a higher oil concentration, making them richer and thicker in consistency than lotions. Creams form a better barrier than lotions, but can feel greasy."
Here are some great OTC psoriasis lotions and creams that are recommended by dermatologists.
1. Best Overall: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream for Psoriasis
"This has urea and ceramides to help exfoliate the thicker skin and moisturize the skin beneath," Dr. Patel says.
Dr. Mokaya also recommends this cream because it "has 2 percent salicylic acid to exfoliate and remove scales, and has great ingredients like lactic acid, niacinamide (which calms skin), ceramides for barrier repair and shea butter" for soothing the skin.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $19.97 for 8 oz
2. Best on a Budget: Cortizone 10 Anti-Itch Lotion for Psoriasis
Because this cream has 1 percent hydrocortisone, Dr. Patel says it can really help with the annoying itching that often accompanies psoriasis. And while it's an "Amazon's Choice" favorite, it's also very reasonably priced.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $7.99 for 3.4 oz
3. Best for Hands: Gold Bond Ultimate Psoriasis Cream
This cream contains 3 percent salicylic acid, which Dr. Patel says "should help exfoliate the rougher parts of the skin and make it smoother." This makes it a good pick for knees and elbows, too.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $9.99 for 4 oz
4. Best for Body: Visha Skincare Face2Feet All Over Body Balm
According to Dr. Patel, this cream has natural anti-inflammatory ingredients that can help soothe cracked skin while also acting as a moisturizing agent. It also promises to improve the quality of your skin and increase its elasticity, so it's got quite a few perks.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $35 for 10 oz
5. Best for Face: MG217 Medicated Multi-Symptom Moisturizing Cream
"It contains 3 percent salicylic acid, and also has great moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, avocado oil, panthenol (provitamin B5) and aloe vera," Dr. Mokaya says.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $21.33 for 3.5 oz
6. Best Natural: AHAVA Dead Sea Body Mud
"Dead Sea mud has long been heralded as a healing treatment for a variety of skin concerns, including psoriasis, due to the high mineral content,"says Audrey Kunin, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of DERMAdoctor.
The creamy product contains vitamin E, Dead Sea minerals and a calming mandarin and cedarwood scent. It's also vegan and paraben-free.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $29 for 12.3 oz
What to Look for in a Psoriasis Cream or Lotion
1. Contains Salycylic Acid
Keratolytic agents soften and remove extra skin cells, such as those of psoriasis. Dr. Mokaya suggests picking a lotion or cream that contains salicylic acid, as that's the most commonly used and effective agent.
The exception may be if the psoriasis is in your armpits or groin, Dr. Patel says, because those areas are more sensitive. In that case, avoid creams with steroids or harsh acids.
2. Has Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Ingredients
Niacinamide, aloe vera and arnica are good ones, according to Dr. Mokaya. She also recommends opting for a rich moisturizer that contains shea butter or avocado oil to help hydrate your skin.
Caring for Psoriasis
1. Be Consistent
"Consistency in skin care is key to help keep skin healthy and as rash-free as possible," Dr. Kunin says. "Moisturize twice daily, ideally with an active moisturizer that helps lift away dead, dry skin."
2. Take Good Care of Yourself
Creams and lotions certainly help with the condition, but Dr. Patel says the best thing you can do for your psoriasis is to make sure you get at least eight hours of sleep and drink six glasses of water per day.