and Worst Beauty Ingredients for Psoriasis

Salicylic Acid

Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat psoriasis, “sal acid,” as it's commonly called, is available in a variety of products, including shampoos, ointments, lotions, creams, soaps, and pastes. Salicylic acid helps to soften scales and exfoliate or lift them off your skin. Sal acid can be helpful as long as you use it according to directions. Too much salicylic acid, or salicylic acid left on the skin (or scalp) for too long, can cause irritation or stinging. If your shampoo has salicylic acid, focus it on your scalp rather than your hair, because it can weaken shafts, leading to breakage and hair loss (hair should return to normal once you stop using it).


Most shampoos contain sulfates to create a rich, foamy lather — without the froth, it seems, people don’t think their shampoo is working. However, sulfates can irritate the scalp. If you have a sensitive scalp and psoriasis, look for sulfate-free shampoos. Sulfates may be listed under ingredients as sodium laureth (or lauryl) sulfate or ammonium lauryl sulfate.

Coal Tar

Coal tar is another ingredient approved by the FDA to treat psoriasis, including scalp psoriasis. However, you might want to test coal tar on a small area of your skin to be sure it doesn’t cause irritation or redness. Because coal tar can make your skin more sensitive to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, be sure to apply sunscreen to treated areas if you’re going to be outside for any length of time. “Coal tar can be messy, so some people don’t like to use it,” says Stefan Weiss, MD, of the Weiss Skin Institute in Boca Raton, Fla. Refined coal tars such as liquor carbonis detergens (LCD) have less odor and cause less staining, but they're also less effective and can be harder to find.

Tea Tree Oil

“At one time, tea tree oil was seen as the panacea for psoriasis,” Dr. Weiss says of the oil that’s extracted from the leaves of a tree native to Australia. “Now, not so much.” Some people report that tea tree oil helps relieve symptoms of their scalp psoriasis, and others find they’re allergic to it.


The trace element zinc is found in many topical psoriasis treatments and some shampoos. A study from the Skin Disease and Cutaneous Leishmaniasis Research Center in Mashhad, Iran, found that a topical emollient containing zinc pyrithione proved to be an effective treatment for localized psoriasis.

Argan Oil

Extracted from the nuts of the argan tree of southwestern Morocco, argan oil is rich in antioxidants and has been popularized as a food, a health treatment, and a beauty ingredient. However, according to a recent review in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, there’s a lack of clinical studies to definitively support its effectiveness.

Shea Butter

Shea butter is full of moisture, which can make it an effective ingredient in skin care products. When you have psoriasis, it’s important to keep your skin moisturized, Weiss says. Skin creams made with shea butter tend to be thicker, he says, and when it comes to moisturizer, the thicker, the better. Heavy moisturizers for psoriasis help lock in the skin’s natural moisture.

Anti-itch Ingredients

Several ingredients have been approved by the FDA for treating itch: calamine, hydrocortisone (a weak steroid), camphor, diphenhydramine hydrochloride (HCl), benzocaine, and menthol. Try them with caution, however, because some of them can increase skin irritation and dryness.

Fragrance or Alcohol

If you have sensitive skin, look for fragrance-free skin care products and shampoos. Scents added to make products smell good or just to neutralize their odor can be irritating (“unscented” might not be fragrance-free). Also, Weiss advises avoiding products that contain alcohol, because it is drying.

Some people are more sensitive to some ingredients than others. If you’re not sure how you’ll react to a product, test it on a small area of skin before using it. And if you’re stumped, ask your health care provider for suggestions that will soothe skin as they ease off plaques.

The Latest in Psoriasis

Picking at Your Psoriasis Scales? Do This Instead

It’s tempting to peel and pick at those itchy scales, but if you can help it, there are better ways to cope.

What Black Patients Need To Know About The Effects of Psoriasis

Psoriasis can look differently on darker skin than on lighter skin — and knowing how to spot the symptoms is an important first step of the treatment ...

Ways to Protect Your Eye Health — and Preserve Your Vision — With Psoriasis

How to keep the skin condition from negatively impacting your vision.

7 Ways to Take the Stress Out of Your Next Hair Salon Visit if You Have Scalp Psoriasis

Scalp psoriasis symptoms can make a routine trip to the hair salon stressful. But with the right approach, you can have an easier visit — and a healthy...

Do You Need a COVID-19 Vaccine Booster if You Have Psoriasis?

Psoriasis drugs that work by suppressing the body’s immune response may raise the risk of COVID-19 complications. If you’re already immunized, can a booster...

Psoriasis Awareness: A 2021 Special Report

Psoriasis flares have been on the rise in 2021, according to a survey of ishonest readers who have the skin condition. Here’s what might be to ...

Psoriasis: How to Deal with Cracked, Bleeding Skin

Take these steps to heal your skin and avoid future fissures.

Your Psoriasis Diet: Best Foods for Spring and Summer

Ready to break out your favorite warm-weather recipes? Here are delicious anti- inflammatory ingredients you should consider using.

Read more on: beauty, psoriasis