How to Deal With Psoriasis Itch

A common and painful problem

Itching affects between 70 percent and 90 percent of people with psoriasis, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. Some people have described it as a burning, biting sensation, or the feeling of being bitten by fire ants. The foundation offers the following tips to help control your psoriasis and improve your quality of life.

Manage stress

Stress is a common trigger for a psoriasis flareup and also can make the itch worse. But you can take steps to reduce your stress levels.


Sit comfortably on the floor, with eyes closed or barely open, and focus on your breathing for 15 minutes. This can help clear your mind and reduce anxiety.


Exercise increases production of endorphins, which are chemicals that improve mood and energy. Exercise also has been shown to improve sleep and decrease anxiety. A large U.S. study showed that women who regularly participate in vigorous exercise are less likely to get psoriasis than less-active women.

Find a therapist

Consider taking a course in stress management or finding a therapist in your area who specializes in stress management. Connecting with others who know what you are going through can help, too. Find people living with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis at the National Psoriasis Foundation’s

Keep skin moist

This reduces redness and itching and helps the skin heal. Dermatologists recommend heavy creams and ointments to lock water into the skin. Cooking oils and even shortening can be inexpensive substitutes for commercial moisturizers.

Control flaking

Apply a scale softening (keratolytic) product to reduce excess skin and prevent psoriasis plaques from cracking and flaking. Over-the-counter lotions that contain ingredients like salicylic acid, lactic acid, urea, or phenol can help remove scale.

Take a cold shower

Avoid hot baths and try to limit showers to 10 minutes or less. Hot water can make skin irritation and dryness worse. Apply lotion after washing to lock in moisture. Store lotions in the refrigerator for cooling relief.

Try an over-the-counter remedy

There are several ingredients that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating itch. Some of these include calamine, hydrocortisone (a weak steroid), camphor, diphenhydramine hydrochloride (HCl), benzocaine, and menthol. Beware that these ingredients may increase irritation and dryness.

Consider a prescription

Psoriasis has no cure but can be managed in most people, although moderate to severe psoriasis requires lifelong treatment. You may be able to reduce symptoms and improve appearance with topical therapies, such as corticosteroids, vitamin D derivatives (commonly combined with a steroid to slow skin cell growth, flatten lesions and remove scales), anthralin, and vitamin A derivatives (also called topical retinoids).

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HealthAfter50 was published by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, providing up-to-date, evidence-based research and expert advice on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of a wide range of health conditions affecting adults in middle age and beyond. It was previously part of Remedy Health Media's network of digital and print publications, which also include HealthCentral; HIV/AIDS resources The Body and The Body Pro; the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter; and the Berkeley Wellness website. All content from HA50 merged into in 2018.