Skip to main content

Can’t find relief from the itch of psoriasis? Don’t let it get under your skin. Here’s what a top dermatologist recommends during a breakout.

“The first step is to make sure the skin is well moisturized,” says Isabella Gyening, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Kelsey-Seybold’s Berthelsen Main Campus and Dowtown at The Shops locations. “Regular use of a moisturizer, particularly after bathing, can help reduce the itching associated with psoriasis.”

Even though there is no surefire cure, psoriasis flare-ups can be minimized by following these tips:

  • Don’t let skin get too dry, especially during cooler weather when the humidity is low. This makes psoriasis worse. After bathing, pat dry with a towel. When skin is still a little moist, slather on a heavy moisturizer to help seal in moisture. Using a moisturizer twice daily or every few hours also can help reduce “scales” and itching.
  • Don’t smoke. It dries out skin and may aggravate existing psoriasis.
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol. It dehydrates and prematurely ages the skin.
  • Tame stress, which can make psoriasis flare up in 40 to 80 percent of people with the skin condition. Try reducing stress with meditation, yoga or deep breathing.
  • If your scalp is scaly, avoid wearing your hair pulled or pinned back as this may irritate your skin. Skip blow-drying, which makes the scalp even drier. An over-the-counter shampoo with coal tar or salicylic acid may help. Prescription foam also is available for the scalp. Ask your dermatologist.
  • Ask your doctor if any medicines you take could make your skin worse. Some over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and medicines that treat depression and high blood pressure may be culprits. Also, ask about creams or lotions that may ease your symptoms. Oral medicines and other treatments, such as light therapy, can help more severe psoriasis. Your dermatologist may recommend a cream, lotion or other product with coal tar. Be aware that these can stain fabrics. It’s probably best to apply at nighttime with old pajamas and sheets.

What is it?

Psoriasis is a persistent non-contagious skin disorder with red or purple thickened patches and silvery scales most often appearing on the scalp, elbows, knees and lower back. But it can also appear on the face, palms and feet.

Dr. Gyening says the exact cause of psoriasis is not known. It does tend to run in families, which means there may be a genetic component to the cause.

Middle of the night outbreak

Avoid the urge to scratch. That will only make it worse. Try using an ice pack to help calm the itching. Or soak for 15 minutes in a bath mixed with Epsom salt, Dead Sea salt or a soothing oatmeal product.

Alternate Text
Isabella Gyening, MD, FAAD

​I strive to foster a patient-doctor relationship based on mutual respect. I am passionate about giving patients information about their condition and treatment. I believe that when patients are involved in the care process, outcomes are better.