Though your doctor might recommend effective topical medications for psoriasis, an array of natural ingredients might help soothe the symptoms of your condition, too. Here are 9 skin-saving ingredients that may help ease psoriasis flare-ups. Just make sure you check with your doctor before trying any new treatments — even natural ingredients can interact with other medications or irritate sensitive skin.
Tea Tree Oil
Derived from a plant native to Australia, tea tree oil is used as an anti-inflammatory agent that can help treat psoriasis, athlete’s foot, nail fungus, and acne, says Jennifer Burns, NMD, a naturopathic doctor at the BienEtre Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Tea tree oil is a powerful antifungal, so don't apply it full strength directly to skin, warns Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, a natural health expert in Kihei, Hawaii. Dr. Dean recommends mixing 1 part tea tree oil to 10 parts olive oil and dabbing it on the affected areas with cotton balls. If you have scalp psoriasis, add 10 drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo, and leave it on for 10 minutes before rinsing.
The olive oil you have in your pantry can do double duty as an anti-inflammatory to calm your skin. Thanks to its high fatty acid and vitamin E content, extra virgin olive oil makes a great moisturizer for dehydrated skin. According to a study published in July 2014 in Advances in Skin & Wound Care, olive oil was even found to help heal burn wounds. To ease your psoriasis symptoms, dab a small amount of olive oil on your scalp, elbows, or anywhere you have plaques. This will help to soften dead skin, making it easier to remove, Dr. Burns says. For a soothing full-body soak, add 2 teaspoons of warmed olive oil to your bath water.
Not only does coconut oil moisturize dry skin and hair, but it can help with psoriasis, too. That’s because it helps to hold in moisture, explains Burns. Dab a small amount on your skin in the same way you would apply a moisturizer. The oil can also be used as a scalp treatment to help loosen psoriasis scales.
Found in many health and beauty products, oatmeal helps to relieve the itching and redness associated with dry skin and psoriasis. But if the idea of an oatmeal bath gives you visions of a potentially soggy mess, don’t fret. Here’s a neater way to do it: Burns suggests adding a half-cup of dry oats to a leg of pantyhose, knotting the top, and placing the package in your warm bath instead.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar can be helpful as an anti-itch remedy if used properly. But if you leave it on your skin for too long or don’t dilute it correctly, Burns says, there's a chance that the acidity of the vinegar will dry out your skin, causing more irritation. She recommends mixing one part apple cider vinegar to two parts water. Dab the mixture on your skin or scalp and leave it on for no more than 10 minutes, then rinse. Just don’t use it on areas that are cracked or bleeding.
“I love this plant,” Burns says. “It helps reduce inflammation and helps to speed up healing time.” Its many uses, she says, include soothing skin burns, minor cuts, and scrapes thanks to its strong antibacterial, antiseptic, and fungicidal properties. Aloe vera promotes cell growth and acts as a detoxifying agent. You can use pure aloe gel or look for creams with about 0.5 percent aloe content. Apply two to three times a day to help soften skin and calm psoriasis flares.
Baking soda isn’t just for cooking and cleaning: It can be used in your beauty routine for anything from whitening your teeth to exfoliating dry skin. And its anti-fungal properties make baking soda effective for soothing the itchiness associated with psoriasis. Burns recommends mixing 1 teaspoon of baking soda with a small amount of water to make a paste that you can apply to affected areas.
Dead Sea Salt
People have been traveling to the Dead Sea for thousands of years to wade in the body of water known for its healing properties. It’s 10 times saltier than the ocean, and rich in minerals. For home relief from itching and redness, add Dead Sea salts (or Epsom salts) to a warm bath and soak for 10 to 15 minutes. The salt helps to soften scales so that they'll fall off more easily. Be sure to apply moisturizer after your bath.
Pine Bark Extract
According to a study published in March 2014 in the journal Panminerva Medica, using the pine bark supplement Pycnogenol may improve the effects of your other psoriasis treatments and reduce the number of treatments needed to keep disease progression under control. Pine bark also has antioxidant properties, which make it beneficial for treating acne and slowing the signs of aging. Additionally, Burns says that it can be taken as a supplement to help with the reduction of inflammation associated with psoriasis. Just check with your dermatologist before adding pine bark to your beauty routine.
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