Healthy Bath Tips for Psoriasis
Oatmeal? Mineral baths? Lukewarm water? How, when, and with what products you bathe can make a difference in psoriasis symptoms. Which tricks and products actually provide a soothing soak for psoriasis skin, and which ones should you avoid? Here, doctors and psoriasis warriors reveal their best tricks for making sure the only thing you’re relaxing away in the tub is your stress, not the possibility of a flare-free day.
Go for a Gentle Cleanser
Joshua Zeichner, M.D.., New York City-based dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, recommends you look for a moisturizing beauty bar or body wash, not a soap. “True soaps have an alkaline pH and can disrupt the outer skin layer leading to dryness.” His pick: Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash, $6, target.com, which, he says, “contains the same types of hydrating ingredients found in traditional moisturizers.”
When there’s a fragrance-free option for your bath products, reach for it, says. Sandy Skotnicki, M.D. dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology and occupational and environmental health at the University of Toronto. Fragrances are a common trigger for psoriasis, thanks to the contact allergies and irritation they cause when they touch the skin. And if natural types like lavender seem like a good swap—not so fast. She insists all scents, including natural ones, can potentially trigger a flare.
Lower Your Water Temp
Since hot water dissolves and strips more of the skin’s natural oils, Dr. Zeichner recommends your bathwater should be “the temperature you would imagine a heated pool to be in the summertime.” Pro tip from psoriasis patient Andrew Cunningham, 34, of Chicago: Ease off on water temp gradually. “I slowly began lowering the temperature each night until I was used to it and it became standard.”
Mineral-rich water spiked with sea salt has been known to help skin’s protective bacterial biodiversity—it’s one of the reasons it was found in a study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology to benefit people with psoriasis. Bob Reynolds, 66, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, can testify. Reynolds started adding a scoop of mineral-rich bath salts into his bath routine after his doctor suggested it might help his psoriasis. The result? “My skin condition has improved dramatically.” His pick: Ohm Spring H2O Mineral Holistic Bath, $17, ohmstateofmind.com. The National Psoriasis Foundation says Epsom salts also can release scales and relieve itching.
Skip the Wash Cloth
While sudsing up with a big fluffy bath puff or wash cloth may seem like a no-brainer part of a bath session, Dr. Skotnicki insists that for psoriasis patients it’s best to avoid them. It’s the texture of these applicators that can cause trouble, she says, as “psoriasis is precipitated and aggravated by trauma and that includes friction.” Instead, using a bar of gentle, low-foaming soap as its own applicator or using your cleanser-covered fingers will do just fine.
Reach for a Treatment Shampoo
To help treat and hold off flares on the scalp, it’s all about having a shampoo with ingredients shown to help hold off plaques. Dr. Skotnicki particularly suggests looking for one containing salicylic acid, a gentle exfoliant which in a research review in the journal Psoriasis was concluded not only to be effective in sloughing off plaques but also helping topical medications penetrate after. Try: Dermarest Medicated Shampoo Plus Conditioner for Psoriasis, $7, riteaid.com.
Colloidal oatmeal (finely ground oat kernels) is proven to soothe inflammatory skin conditions, like psoriais. In a just-released study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, it was found to improve symptoms in 96% of subjects when used topically. But, says, Dr. Zeichner: “Not only is colloidal oatmeal a great ingredient in your skincare, but it also can be used as a bath additive.” And while there are many ready-made products out there (like Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment, $7, walmart.com), he insists, you can put a cup of ground quick oats in your tub and soak.
Limit Your Time in the Water
“Excessive exposure to water, especially hot water can strip the skin of essential oils leading to microscopic cracks, loss of hydration, and skin inflammation.” explains Dr. Zeichner. That’s why you should keep your baths short and sweet—the American Academy of Dermatology recommends 10 minutes for a shower and 15 minutes or less for a bath—it's ok to take an extra few minutes to luxuriate after going to the trouble of filling the tub. “Set an alarm to keep yourself on track,” says Dr. Zeichner.
Moisturize Right Away
Make sure to moisturize right after you towel off—or at least within five minutes of stepping out of the water, says Dr. Zeichner. “Studies have shown that immediate moisturizing better hydrates the skin compared to delayed application of a moisturizer,” he explains. By locking the water from the bath before it has time to evaporate, you’ll get a better result than if you wait until your skin is totally dry.
- Sal Acid and the Scalp: Psoriasis. (2016). “Management of scalp psoriasis: current perspectives.” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5683126/
- Mineral Water and Psoriasis: Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. (2015). “Skin Microbiome in Patients With Psoriasis Before and After Balneotherapy at the Thermal Care Center of La Roche-Posay.” pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26659932/
- Oatmeal Soothing Plaques: Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2020). “Tolerance and subject satisfaction of an over the counter colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) lotion in patients with psoriasis and sensitive skin.” jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(20)32067-3/fulltext#articleInformation