How to treat scaly skin

Last updated at 14:45 01 November 2005

Psoriasis is a common skin disorder affecting about 2 per cent of the population and affects men and women of all ages.

The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown and there is no cure. However there are various treatments available.

Here we look at the different options - both the prescribed and the ones those with the condition swear by:


Patches of the skin condition are red and covered by silver white scales. The symptoms flare-up from time to time and can vary in severity.

A moisturiser may be all that you need for very mild psoriasis.

They are not 'active' treatments but help to soften hard skin and plaques, and may reduce scaling and itch.

Vitamin D based creams

These creams such as calcipotriol, calcitriol and tacalcitrol are popular.

They seem to work by affecting the rate of cell division in skin cells. They are easy to apply and less smelly than other ointments.

However they can cause irritation in some people and should not be used on the face.


The Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Some people swear by this geothermal spa in Iceland.

It involves bathing in the salt and silica rich waters and consulting the dermatologists at the spa.

Coal tar preparations

This is a treatment that has been around for a while. They seem to reduce inflammation and scaling and there are various brands.

Traditional tar preparations are messy to use but modern formulas are less so. Tar based shampoos are often effective on scalp psoriasis.

Steroid creams

These reduce inflammation but can only be prescribed for short periods to stop the skin becoming tolerant to them. They can be applied on the face.

Grape spray

A British study found the daily use of a spray made from the Oregon Grape can help some patients.

"For adults with mild to moderate psoriasis it's definitely worth trying," said Dr Vincent Forte, a Norfolk GP who studied the spray's effect.

She said most patients who responded to the treatment saw an improvement within four weeks.

Stressed woman on telephone

Stress relief

Many sufferers have said that periods of stress make their flare-ups more likely. Learn how to beat stress here.

Short contact therapy

The cream Dithranol is applied sparingly on affected areas until absorbed. It is then washed off after 30 to 60 minutes.

The cream can stain and therefore you should wear old clothes during treatment. The shower needs to be cleaned with a propritary cleaner straight afterwards to also avoid staining.

Nibbling fish

Bizarre as it sounds, Samantha Locke from Glasgow found a spa treatment in Turkey involving nibbling fish cleared her psoriasis after a number of treatments.

Click here for the article.


For severe cases, phototherapy can be treated in hospitals with a UVB or Ultra violet light in the A band.

Patients take tablets which enhance the effects of sunlight and attend several of these special light sessions.


If psoriasis is not helped by the above treatments, powerful medicines which can suppress inflammation may be appropriate.

There is a risk of serious side-effects with these medicines so can only be prescribed with specialist advice.

Sarah Crampton is treated with the synthetic Vitamin A drug Acitretin. Read her story here.

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