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Soap for Psoriasis: What Do Dermatologists Recommend?

Medically reviewed by Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D.
Written by Victoria Menard
Updated on February 20, 2024

If you have psoriasis, you understand the care that goes into selecting the right soap for your skin. It should do its job and get you clean, but that’s only the beginning. Skin cleansers for psoriasis should also be formulated to cleanse flaky, itchy, painful skin without causing further irritation. Add to that the number of ingredients available in many psoriasis-friendly cleansers — like salicylic acid, coal tar, and pine tar — you may not know where to begin in your quest for soap.

Here are some soaps that can help psoriatic skin and prevent worsening existing symptoms. Many MyPsoriasisTeam members have also weighed in on these dermatologist recommendations with their own experiences.

Gentle, Nondetergent Cleansers

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that people with psoriasis use gentle, moisturizing soaps or cleansers formulated for sensitive skin. If you are receiving phototherapy for psoriasis, such as psoralen and UVA (PUVA), ultraviolet light B (UVB), or laser treatments, it’s especially important to use a mild cleanser to minimize skin irritation after sessions.

You’ll also want to avoid scented soaps. Fragranced soaps can cause allergic reactions that make existing psoriasis worse. Skin affected by psoriasis has a compromised skin barrier, so this skin may be more sensitive to dyes and fragrances. One MyPsoriasisTeam member shared that they “bathe in baby soap without any fragrance” to avoid irritation. Other suggested options include CeraVe and Cetaphil.

Avoid scented soaps. Skin affected by psoriasis has a compromised skin barrier, so this skin may be more sensitive to dyes and fragrances.

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CeraVe Psoriasis Cleanser

As one MyPsoriasisTeam member shared, “I use CeraVe. It was recommended by my dermatologist.” The National Psoriasis Foundation has given CeraVe’s Psoriasis Cleanser its Seal of Recognition. This highlights products that are nonirritating and safe for people with psoriasis or very sensitive skin to use as part of their skin care routine.

CeraVe’s Psoriasis Cleanser is formulated with lactic acid, ceramides, and 2 percent salicylic acid to help relieve irritated skin and provide gentle exfoliation. Salicylic acid is a keratolytic — an agent that promotes the shedding of the skin’s outermost layer. It can help soften scaly patches of psoriasis and help other topical medications penetrate the skin more effectively. Ceramides are fatty acids that are vital for keeping the skin’s protective barrier strong and working well.

CeraVe’s Psoriasis Cleanser helps remove psoriasis scales and keeps the skin moisturized. Research has even shown that this cleanser, when used alongside CeraVe’s Body Cream, provided relief from psoriasis and left the skin soft and smooth in the majority of participants.

Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser and Restoraderm Soothing Wash

Cetaphil cleansers such as Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser for the face and Cetaphil Restoraderm Soothing Wash for the body may also be helpful for dry, sensitive skin. Although the Restoraderm line was designed for people with atopic dermatitis (the most common form of eczema), it may be helpful for those with psoriasis. Many MyPsoriasisTeam members have shared that they use Cetaphil cleansers in their daily routines. “I shower with Cetaphil soap,” wrote one member, “and it helps.” Another member wrote that they “use Cetaphil or the generic version for soap. It’s very gentle.”

Tar Soaps

Tars made from coal and wood have been used for their medicinal benefits in products for many years. Like salicylic acid, coal and pine tars seem to act as keratolytic agents by reducing excess skin cell growth and smoothing the skin. They can also help reduce some of the common symptoms of psoriasis, including itching and inflammation.

Keep in mind that tar products can cause irritation, discoloration, and dryness, and they can make you more sensitive to sunlight. The National Psoriasis Foundation advises patch testing a tar product on a small area of skin before using it on the rest of your body, keeping an eye out for irritation or other adverse effects. If your skin responds well, use the product as directed — just make sure to wash it off thoroughly and use enough sun protection, such as sunscreen.

Pine Tar Bar Soap

The Grandpa Soap Company Pine Tar Bar Soap has earned the National Psoriasis Foundation’s Seal of Recognition. This dermatologist-tested bar soap is made with natural pine tar oil. Pine tar, which is made by heating pine wood until it becomes thick and sticky, has been found to have anti-itching, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.

One MyPsoriasisTeam member shared that Grandpa’s Pine Tar Bar Soap has helped them “immensely.” This soap moisturizes, relieves itching, and can be used on the face, body, and hair.

Coal Tar Soap

Coal tar is one of two over-the-counter (OTC) treatments the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved to fight psoriasis. It’s often used in shampoo for psoriasis but can also be found in bar soaps.

Coal tar soap can treat itching and plaque psoriasis, including plaques on difficult-to-treat areas, such as the palms and soles of the feet. However, not all MyPsoriasisTeam members have been completely satisfied with coal tar soap. One member warned that, while coal tar worked, “It has a very strong odor.” Another found that their visible psoriasis lesions improved, but itching did not: “I got coal tar bar soap and my skin looks great, but I’m so itchy.”

Coal tar can also irritate the skin and cause a rash, so use it cautiously and watch for side effects. Some warnings caution that coal tar may cause cancer, but these warnings apply to highly concentrated industrial uses, such as paving. The FDA states that OTC products with concentrations of coal tar between 0.5 percent and 5 percent are safe and effective for psoriasis.

Seal in Moisture After Cleansing

If you have psoriasis, it’s important to moisturize after bathing, no matter what soap you use. Soap is meant to clean the skin, removing a buildup of dirt, oil, and bacteria — it is not naturally hydrating. A moisturizer, on the other hand, is specifically designed to hydrate and nourish the skin. Therefore, using a moisturizer after cleansing with soap is key to keeping the moisture in. The AAD recommends applying a fragrance-free moisturizing cream or lotion within five minutes of bathing or showering.

Learn more about choosing moisturizers for psoriasis.

Soap is meant to clean the skin, removing a buildup of dirt, oil, and bacteria. Therefore, using a moisturizer after cleansing with soap is key to keeping skin moisturized.

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Find Your Team

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 125,000 members from across the globe connect to answer questions, offer support, and share their stories of daily life with psoriasis.

Have you found a soap that works well for psoriasis? Share your recommendations with others in the comments below or by posting on your Activities page.

Updated on February 20, 2024

A MyPsoriasisTeam Member

I have been using CeraVe for years and now my daughter and her girls use it.

posted March 27
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Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D. is a dermatologist at the Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Victoria Menard is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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