Topical Treatments

Topical treatments – medications applied to the skin – typically are your first line of defense when treating psoriasis. Topicals slow down or normalize excessive cell reproduction and reduce inflammation caused by psoriasis.

There are several effective topical treatments for psoriasis. While many can be purchased over the counter (OTC), others are only available by prescription.

Corticosteroids, or just "steroids," are the most frequently used treatment for psoriasis. They are referred to as anti-inflammatory agents because they reduce the swelling and redness of lesions. Anthralin, synthetic vitamin D3 and vitamin A are also used in prescription topical treatments to control psoriasis lesions.

OTC topicals come in many different forms. Two active ingredients, salicylic acid and coal tar, are approved by the FDA for the treatment of psoriasis. There are other products that contain substances such as aloe vera, jojoba, zinc pyrithione and capsaicin, which are used to moisturize, soothe, remove scale or relieve itching.

Learn more about topical treatments

Over-the-counter topical guidance

Learn what ingredients to look for and what to stay away from with NPF's over-the-counter product fact sheet

Test your treatment IQ

How much do you know about your psoriatic disease treatment options? Put your knowledge to the test with our treatment quiz and let NPF help you fill in some of the gaps.



Last updated  by the National Psoriasis Foundation.