The Best Psoriasis Treatment Creams, Ointments, and Lotions

GoodRx /  Maryann Mikhail, MD

Key takeaways:

  • Psoriasis is a common skin condition that causes red, scaly, itchy, and flaky skin. 
  • Topical products available by prescription and over the counter can help relieve the symptoms of psoriasis. 
  • To find the best treatment combination for your psoriasis, it’s best to see a dermatologist.

Psoriasis is a common skin condition. Outbreaks appear as red and scaly plaques that itch and flake. Treatment for psoriasis can involve topical medications and full-body treatments — either pills, infusions, or phototherapy. In this article, you’ll learn about the topical products that work best. It’s important to note that people with severe, resistant, or extensive psoriasis might not respond to topicals alone. 

The best topical treatments for psoriasis

Topical medications for psoriasis are both prescription and over the counter. They can be used alone or in combination with full-body (systemic) treatments. Not only do creams and ointments help with improving symptoms of psoriasis, they can also help reduce how much systemic treatment a person may need. 

Topical steroids

Prescription-strength topical steroids are the most effective topical treatment for psoriasis. They lessen inflammation, prevent cells from overgrowing, and thin out psoriasis plaques. Dermatologists prescribe them alone or with other treatments. They come in different forms and strengths. All are stronger and work much better than the hydrocortisone you can get over the counter.  

Common topical steroids prescribed for psoriasis are:

There are also combination products that contain topical steroids with other medications such as retinoids and vitamin D analogues. These products work together to get better results for psoriasis than either one alone and include:

  • Taclonex (betamethasone/ calcipotriene) ointment
  • Enstilar (betamethasone/ calcipotriene) foam 
  • Duobrii (halobetasol/ tazarotene) lotion

It’s important to note that topical steroids can stop working for psoriasis if you overuse them. They can also cause side effects like:

  • Thin skin
  • Bruising
  • Stretch marks
  • Broken blood vessels
  • Infections
  • Discoloration

Steroid alternatives

To lower the risk of side effects and keep your regimen working, it’s best to use topical steroids on rotation with other prescription medications like the following.

Tazarotene

Tazarotene (Tazorac), derived from vitamin A, is approved by the FDA for treatment of psoriasis. It works by thinning out psoriasis plaques. The main side effect is irritation. You can minimize this by coupling it with a topical steroid either at the same time or on rotation. 

Tazarotene is much stronger than the retinoids you’ll find over the counter, which wouldn’t necessarily work for psoriasis. It has the potential to cause birth defects, so avoid it if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

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