The Best Face Products for People With Psoriasis, According to Dermatologists
What to know about facial psoriasis
Psoriasis can be uncomfortable, stressful, and embarrassing–and even more so if it affects your face. The trademark thick, red, scaly patches caused by this autoimmune disease usually occur on the knees, elbows, and lower back; but psoriasis plaques can appear on more visible and sensitive areas, too, like around the eyes, ears, and nose.
More than 7 million people have psoriasis in the United States, but luckily facial psoriasis isn't that common in people with mild cases of the disease, says Alan Menter, MD, chair of dermatology and research at Baylor University. People with mild psoriasis might notice flaking on the scalp, hairline, and ears, while more moderate psoriasis might include plaques around the eyebrows or the sides of the nose. "Psoriasis would have to be very severe to have patches on the cheeks," he says. (But hey, it happened to Kim Kardashian!)
Typically, Dr. Menter explains, facial psoriasis plaques aren't as thick, red, or scaly as plaques elsewhere on the body. That allows doctors to treat sensitive facial skin with less potent versions of the steroid creams typically used to alleviate psoriasis symptoms, explains Paul S. Yamauchi, MD, PhD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Still, those steroid creams can leave the skin on your face feeling parched. And you need to pick moisturizers and other soothing products wisely. For example, abrasive cleansers or harsh peels are definitely out: "You have to be much more gentle when treating facial psoriasis," Dr. Menter says. "You mustn't scrub it or pick it."
In some people, what appears to be psoriasis on the face is actually something called seborrheic dermatitis. It can also cause red or white crusty, scale-like lesions, but it's not an autoimmune disease, so it's easier to treat, explains dermatologist and YouTube vlogger Dr. Dray.
If it's really facial psoriasis, you probably have very similar-looking scaly patches on other areas of your body. If it's seborrheic dermatitis, you won't have signs of psoriasis elsewhere. However, because the inflammation caused by seborrheic dermatitis can be similar to facial psoriasis, some face products can be effective for both, Dr. Dray adds.
To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the HEALTH newsletter
These products aren't psoriasis treatments–you'll have to see your doctor for those–but they can help keep your skin hydrated, smooth, and safe from the sun, without exacerbating psoriasis symptoms. Here's what to look for, according to the experts.
Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser
To buy: $16; dermstore.com
Cetaphil is one of the brands dermatologists trust most: All three doctors we spoke to recommended this wash, since the company is serious about monitoring production quality; and its formulations are tailored for people with dry and sensitive skin.
CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser
To buy: $12; dermstore.com
People with psoriasis on their face should look for a non-soap cleanser, Dr. Dray says. CeraVe, another favorite brand among dermatologists, makes a fragrance-free and ultra-gentle version that's safe for sensitive skin, she says.
Eucerin Sensitive Skin Gentle Hydrating Cleanser
To buy: $5; target.com
Dr. Menter says dermatologists often recommend people with psoriasis try Eucerin products, since they are also fragrance- and soap-free. This cleanser is moisturizing too, so it won't dry out your skin.
Vanicream Lite Lotion
To buy: $10; dermstore.com
When it comes to face moisturizers, people with psoriasis should again stick to fragrance-free products, Dr. Dray says, and also look for oil-free picks. She recommends this one to patients regularly.
Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture Ultra-Gentle Facial Moisturizer
To buy: $13; walgreens.com
Another moisturizer that makes the grade, according to Dr. Dray, is this Neutrogena pick, which is specially formulated for sensitive skin and free of oils and fragrances. "Oils on the face can contribute to persistence or flares of seborrheic dermatitis," she says.
Aveeno Eczema Therapy Moisturizing Cream
To buy: $15; walgreens.com
Your doctor might recommend one of several eczema treatments that may also help with psoriasis symptoms. Aveeno products are at the top of the list in that category, Dr. Yamauchi says. "Look for one made with ceramides, which are lipids that help hydrate the skin better," he says.
Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Dandruff Shampoo
To buy: $6; target.com
Your doctor might recommend an anti-dandruff shampoo to tackle psoriasis on the scalp or hairline before trying something with more potent ingredients. Look for shampoos with the active ingredient zinc pyrithione, Dr. Dray says, which can help fight psoriasis plaques and seborrheic dermatitis.
RELATED: 16 Famous People with Psoriasis
Believe it or not, you can use the product elsewhere on your body, too. "It's a shampoo, but it can also be used as a face wash," Dr. Dray says. "I tell people to leave it on their skin for a few minutes before rinsing it off." It's thought that the zinc helps fights inflammation, she explains.
Selsun Blue Moisturizing Dandruff Shampoo
To buy: $7; target.com
Other soothing anti-dandruff shampoos carry the active ingredient selenium sulfide, which is also thought to be anti-inflammatory, Dr. Dray says. It's the main ingredient in Selsun Blue brands. This shampoo can also be used as a face wash, too, she says.
Jason Dandruff Relief Treatment Shampoo
To buy: $12; target.com
This shampoo relies on salicylic acid, which is traditionally considered an acne treatment, but also fights dandruff, and the scaling and flaking of psoriasis on the scalp and face, Dr. Dray says. Jason is a safe brand and popular for being cruelty-free, she says. Just keep in mind that salicylic acid can be drying, Dr. Menter adds, so if you use this shampoo as a face wash, make sure to follow it up with a good facial moisturizer.
100% Aloe Vera Gel
To buy: $16; dermstore.com
Everyone should be wearing sunscreen daily anyway, but sunburns can make psoriasis worse. Cover up with a version that offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of at least 30, Dr. Yamauchi says. Some people with psoriasis on their face worry that if they wear sunscreen every day they'll break out, but Vanicream's version is safe for even acne-prone skin, Dr. Dray says.