As we learn more about the complex nature of skin conditions, especially inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis, the research is starting to come to the conclusion we've suggested for some time: Some of the best care is holistic.
If you're here, I'm going to assume you've spoken with a dermatologist already. If not, you should. Psoriasis also connected with other conditions like psoriatic arthritis, depression1, diabetes2, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic disease3—making a trip to the doctor even more important, says board-certified dermatologist Keira Barr, M.D.
What are some natural at-home remedies?
1. Salt baths
One small study4 showed that dead sea salt baths help psoriasis sufferers with their symptoms. The 30 participants who had patches that covered less than 30% of their body took one daily 20-minute bath for three weeks. Because of its small sample size, more research is needed here to confirm its benefits and to account for the reasons why this is helpful. There's also emerging research suggesting5 balneotherapy (mineral thermal baths) can increase skin microbiome diversity. We're big fans of baths for their relaxing and soothing qualities, so even if just used as a stress-relief measure, they might be useful.
2. Scalp care
If you suffer primarily from scalp psoriasis, there are a few natural shampoos on the market that may help those tricky patches under hair. You can also use special scalp oils to soothe inflamed patches. (There are also prescription options that you may consult your doctor about if you so choose.) And by using these regularly, it can act as a preventive measure. For hair products, always skip harsh surfactants and look for ingredients like oat, tea tree oil, or apple cider vinegar rinses.
3. Topicals like turmeric and maybe aloe
Turmeric is a beloved anti-inflammatory. We often recommend it in dishes, drinks, or supplements here. One small study found that when formulated as a topical gel, it even helped psoriasis patches. According to the 2015 study6, patients applied it to patches, and over the nine-week study, redness, thickness, itchiness, size, and scaling had decreased.
Less conclusive evidence shows that some respond well to aloe, a common at-home remedy you'll hear about. However, this comes with mixed results, according to a 2015 review of the clinical studies7: They found that no conclusive statements could be made with the available research. Finally, in a 2018 study8, researchers found that patients with mild to moderate psoriasis responded well to a mixture of aloe and propolis, which might be an area for further research.
4. Dietary changes
You might also look into dietary triggers, as we are now beginning to see the link between what you're eating and flare-ups. A recent study found that a keto cleanse might lead to psoriasis-induced skin inflammation. And older studies even9 found a connection between weight and psoriasis recurrences, advising that finding a healthy weight might help temper outbreaks.
And more recent research10 suggests there's a strong connection between your gut microbiome and psoriasis (as well as other inflammatory skin conditions), making eating a balanced, gut-healthy diet even more important.
Anyone with a chronic inflammatory skin condition could benefit from evaluating your lifestyle triggers and addressing those. As we know, stress is a trigger; look for ways to mitigate anxieties in your life through mindfulness, meditation, exercise, prioritizing sleep, or however else that may look for you.
So what actually causes psoriasis?
It's an inflammatory, chronic skin condition that happens when your skin cells' natural turnover rate rapidly increases—resulting in dry, itchy, sometimes painful patches. It commonly appears on the elbows, knuckles, and scalp; it can, however, appear anywhere on the body.
The disease affects 8 million people in the United States and usually presents itself between 15 and 25, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. We don't fully know what causes it, but it's related to the immune system, genetics, and environmental factors, Barr tells us.
"It's thought to be related to an immune system issue with T-cells, specifically T-regulator cells as well as other white blood cells, called neutrophils. While T-cells normally travel through the body to defend against foreign substances, such as viruses or bacteria, if you have psoriasis, the T-cells attack healthy skin cells as if to heal a wound or to fight an infection," Barr says. This triggers the increased production of healthy cells, resulting in the lesions. "Dilated blood vessels in psoriasis-affected areas also create warmth and redness," she says.
That's why it's vital to address inflammation in your treatment, as noted above.
What can trigger flare-ups?
So now we know what causes it, but when you get a flare-up, those are usually the result of "triggers." As a preventive measure, you should identify and avoid these as much as possible. Some common triggers include:
- Irritation or injury to the skin
- Certain medications (speak to your doctor)
- Any infection (especially streptococcus infection) that compromises the immune system
- Allergies, weather, and diet are likely contributing factors as well
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.