Navigating an industry built on false hope and magical ‘cure-alls’ can be challenging when you’re seeking chronic condition support.
As someone who has lived with psoriasis for most of my life, I have come to strongly believe that we’re navigating an industry built on false hope. By this I mean there are brands out there taking advantage of the fact that people who live with chronic conditions will often try almost anything, and pay nearly any price, to relieve their symptoms.
Studies have shown that skin care companies will promote unproven, vague, or even entirely false, claims about products in order to attract consumers.
They recognized an opportunity and have run with it. They promise ‘cures’ to the incurable.
Over the years, I have spent thousands on an ever-growing collection of creams, lotions, and potions that lay, barely used, accumulating dust on my bathroom shelves. None of them delivered on the promises written on their bottles.
So now, there are certain rules I follow when purchasing.
In any pharmacy or supermarket, you’ll likely find rows upon rows of products specifically targeted to people with psoriasis. For me, seeing “psoriasis” written in bold text across the front of packaging is a red flag.
Personally, I have never found relief from using any of these products that use “psoriasis” as a buzzword on their packaging.
Instead of grabbing products that advertise “psoriasis” across the front of the packaging, opt for ones that explain why they’re suitable for those with psoriasis elsewhere on the bottle, in the smaller print.
There’s just something more honest about it and in my experience these products tend to be more effective.
I love discovering products that have a positive effect on psoriasis but are not specifically trying to lure in the psoriasis community.
Whether a product works for me usually isn’t based on how boldly it says “psoriasis” on the label. The difference usually comes down to the ingredients. Look for products with ingredients that address the specific concerns you’re experiencing.
I often ask myself, “What symptoms am I trying to alleviate?”
If built-up, thick scales are your main concern, look for products that contain urea. Urea has both moisturizing and keratolytic (peeling) properties. I’ve found it can help break down scales while also hydrating the skin.
Concentrations of up to 10 percent urea have a moisturizing effect and those with over 10 percent also have a keratolytic effect. The higher the percentage, the greater the peeling action.
If burning or heat is your main concern, consider products that include aloe vera, menthol, or panthenol to soothe irritation and reduce inflammation. In my experience, a little goes a long way when it comes to menthol. A small amount offers me an intense cooling sensation.
Panthenol can be especially good for relieving the burning sensation experienced with inverse psoriasis.
If your main concern is dryness or itchiness, opt for products with oats, vitamin E, and lanolin. For centuries, oats have been used to relieve both itchiness and dryness. Personally, I find oat-based products to be the gentlest on my skin.
Essentially, skin irritation stems from the skin’s barrier being disrupted. Vitamin E can help hydrate and inject moisture back into the skin. Lanolin, repairs, protects and builds upon that barrier by locking in moisture.
Topical corticosteroids may also help reduce the intensity of scales. Using a petroleum-based product around the area may also help protect the cracks as they heal.
For scalp psoriasis, some shampoos have coal tar to help reduce rapid growth of scalp skin cells.
When choosing a product I always think about which part of my body I’m going to use the product on and how frequently.
Often, products come in quantities that are too small for the area you need them to cover. For instance, if you need a full body moisturizer that you’ll be applying multiple times a day, you’re going to need quite a lot of it.
If you find a product that comes in a small size at a big price, (especially if it’s marketed for use on a large area or applied often) I would question it.
Look for products that come in a size that makes sense for their intended purpose and required dosage.
The mistake I made for years was buying before testing. Ask for samples; there’s no shame in it.
The last thing you want is to invest in an expensive product only to realize it doesn’t agree with your skin. At that point, it’s too late to return it and you will have wasted your money.
I don’t tend to buy into the notion that more expensive means more effective. While this might not always be the case, I’ve noticed that products specifically targeted to people with psoriasis tend to come at a higher price than other products on the aisles surrounding them.
Of course, there are a lot of factors that contribute to price, like what size the manufacturing company is, where the product is made, and what ingredients are in it.
Still, I always ask myself, “Based on what I know about the company and the product, does the price make sense?”
Read up on the brand, their story, and the research behind making the product. There’s always an “about us” or “our story” section on a brand’s website that can offer some insight into the background of the product. This context can help you determine the brand’s intentions.
I find that knowing the brand better and understanding the thought process behind a product can create a sense of trust.
Generally, I’m skeptical when I see products aimed at the psoriasis community made by a big brand. I am far more likely to trust smaller brands.
Many brands I trust are run by fellow psoriasis warriors. I often feel like only those who live with the condition can truly understand what it’s like to live with it.
One example is Lanolia, which is run by a mother-daughter duo, Shirley and Karin, who both live with psoriasis. All of their products are made using natural, botanical ingredients. The products are handpicked by Shirley, who is an herbalist, from their family-run farm in Kenmare in Ireland.
Lanolia was founded out of a desire to help people, like themselves, to effectively care for their skin.
They say you live and you learn.
Over the years I have often purchased products on impulse. I bought any product recommended to me or marketed toward those with psoriasis without questioning its suitability.
Listen to your body, and pay attention to what it’s telling you. Take note of its likes and dislikes and what it reacts well to.
Ask yourself, “What symptom do I want to treat, and what result am I hoping to see from using this product?”
Before you buy, consider why you’re buying a product. Will it address your needs? Or are you just buying it because the label says it’s for psoriasis?
It can be a good idea to discuss any treatment changes or questions with a primary care professional or dermatologist. They can tell you the most up-to-date research around effective and safe skin care products geared toward managing psoriasis.
Medically reviewed on May 12, 2022
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