Topical treatments—medications applied to the skin—are usually the first line of defense in treating psoriasis. Topicals slow down or normalize excessive cell reproduction and reduce psoriasis inflammation.
There are several effective topical treatments for psoriasis. While many can be purchased over the counter (OTC), others are available by prescription only.
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.