Mild Psoriasis: Non-steroidal Prescription Topical Treatments

Prescription "topicals"—medications applied to the skin—are usually the first line of defense in treating psoriasis. Prescription topicals slow down or normalize excessive cell growth and reduce inflammation associated with psoriasis. They may or may not include steroids.

Many psoriasis treatments require special precautions before and during pregnancy. It is important to consult with your doctor to verify your psoriasis treatments are safe for pregnancy and nursing.

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Dovonex (calcipotriene)

Calcipotriene is a form of synthetic vitamin D3 that is formulated to slow skin cell growth, flatten lesions and remove scale. It also can be used to treat psoriasis on the scalp and nails.

The most common side effect of calcipotriene is skin irritation, stinging and burning. Less common side effects include dry skin, peeling, rash, dermatitis and worsening of psoriasis.

Taclonex (calcipotriene and betamethasone dipropionate)

Calcipotriene combined with the steroid betamethasone dipropionate, slows skin cell growth, flattens lesions, removes scale and reduces itch and inflammation. Taclonex should not be applied to the face, armpits, groin or other skin folds, because of the sensitivity of skin on these parts of the body.

Common side effects include itching, rash, skin thinning and burning. Less common side effects include redness of the skin, folliculitis, skin irritation, worsening of psoriasis, skin color changes and swollen fine blood vessels at the application site.

Tazorec (tazarotene)

Tazarotene is a vitamin A derivative, topical retinoid used to slow skin cell growth. It is normal for psoriasis plaques to become very red before clearing when using tazarotene. The redness is often intense in color, but it is generally not painful. 

The most common side effects are skin irritation and dry skin and increased susceptibility to sunburn. Use a sunscreen and wear sun-protective clothing when using tazarotene. If you experience discomfort, burning, itching or stinging, check with your doctor.

Vectical (calcitriol)

Calcitriol is a naturally occurring active form of Vitamin D3.  It has shown in studies to help control excessive skin cell production.  Calcitriol can be applied to most places on the body except for the face, lips and eyes.

The most common side effects are excessive calcium in urine, itching and skin discomfort. There is an increased chance of skin tumors due to sensitivity to light. A less common side effect is that changes in the limits of calcium metabolism may occur. However, this side effect is extremely uncommon. Treatment should be stopped until the levels of calcium return to normal.

Zithranol-RR (anthralin)

Anthralin is the synthetic substitute for chrysarobin, a substance found in Goa powder made from the bark of the South American araroba tree. Anthralin is used to reduce the rapid growth of skin cells associated with plaque psoriasis.

There are no known long-term side effects to using anthralin. It may cause skin irritation and can stain light-colored hair as well as unaffected skin, clothing and bed linens.

Do you have additional questions about non-steroidal topicals?

NPF’s Patient Navigation Center is the world's first, personalized support center for psoriatic disease. Our Patient Navigators can answer your questions on the latest non-steroidal topical medications, including how to use them and understanding potential side effects.  

For free and confidential assistance, contact our Patient Navigators »