Too-Good-To-Be-True Psoriasis Treatments

If you’re hoping for a magic pill to keep your psoriasis under control, beware: Scammers are out to fool you.

Do your research and talk to your doctor to find out whether you’re considering bogus psoriasis treatments and would do better with a prescription psoriasis medication. “In general when I talk to patients about treatment, I tell them that over-the-counter remedies are not particularly effective,” explained dermatologist Junko Takeshita, MD, PhD, a clinical instructor in the dermatology department at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

What's more, miracle cures or supplements promoted by scam artists could be downright dangerous. “I think people are always looking for alternative treatments because the systemic medications can have adverse side effects," Dr. Takeshita said, but she noted that even treatments called natural approaches could be psoriasis scams and may actually lead to more severe side effects than you might expect. Read on to know when to be leery.

Skin-Cap, Blue-Cap, and Psor-Val

Different names, same idea. Manufacturers of these products tried flying under the radar of agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), putting prescription-strength active ingredients in their products. Not really bogus psoriasis treatments, they can work — but they can also be extremely dangerous because of high levels of topical steroids. “At the right dose, these are used to help control flares of psoriasis,” explained Takeshita. “It’s not surprising it would be effective.” But ongoing use of strong topical steroids, especially without your doctor's supervision, can lead to adverse effects such as thinning skin, skin infections, and other complications.


Not to be confused with the fiber product Miralax, this is another topical treatment with high levels of steroids, specifically clobetasol. Miralex, which was made in Canada, was the subject of a class action lawsuit in 2002 after the Canadian government issued a warning that included the risk of plaque psoriasis turning into the pustular form after stopping Miralex. If you're tempted to seek out stronger meds like this in another country, don’t: “They don’t provide the same level of regulation that we have here,” Takeshita warned.


Exorex is a line of expensive gels and shampoos advertised as containing emulsified coal tar to treat psoriasis. But there's no magic here — emulsifying coal tar usually just means processing it with emollients. The FDA allows coal tar to be marketed for psoriasis treatment, and coal tar treatments have long been used to manage plaques, but many common drugstore brands contain as much or more coal tar as Exorex. Prescription topical treatments might be more effective. So talk to your doctor about whether coal tar products are appropriate for you.

Zinc Supplements

Though zinc pyrithione is a common ingredient in topical psoriasis creams and may offer some relief for psoriasis plaques, a 1994 clinical trial found no benefits of taking zinc orally for psoriasis. Yet bogus psoriasis treatment centered on zinc supplements is still circulating. “I’m not aware of any studies showing that zinc is effective in treating psoriasis,” emphasized Takeshita. “It doesn’t make sense to me why zinc would help.” She said that you could feel better with a healthy, balanced diet and by losing weight if needed, but there’s no reason to spend money on zinc specifically.

Neem Oil

Found in a variety of cosmetics, neem oil is also used as a pesticide, made from the seeds of the neem tree. The oil is touted as a skin soother for psoriasis. “If a product is truly an oil and doesn’t have any other ingredients, it might not be treating the psoriasis as much as cosmetically making sure the skin doesn’t look as flaky,” said Takeshita. Also, beware that even herbal products, including neem oil, have the potential to irritate skin. Takeshita advised discontinuing the use of any item that makes your skin worse or less comfortable.


Small studies on oral nystatin for psoriasis done in the 1980s and '90s might have been behind this bogus psoriasis treatment. Nystatin is an antifungal cream, but while psoriasis plaques itch and irritate, they aren't caused by a fungus. People who have used this might have found some benefit if they were experiencing a co-occurring fungal infection, but it's unlikely that you'd otherwise see a benefit from an antifungal treatment. Before you add another topical treatment to the mix, check with your doctor to make sure you really need it, and it won’t interact with other treatments you are using.

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, skin, psoriasis, psoriasis treatment