Using Emollients for Psoriasis
What creams might work for your face when you have dry skin, eczema or psoriasis? I am asked that question a lot. I have been asking myself that question a lot :). This is why I founded EpiLynx
Read this great summary on is the best thing to use when you have psoriasis.
Substances used to trap moisture on dry, scaly plaques
By Ruth Jessen Hickman, MD
Updated November 07, 2019
Medically reviewed by Casey Gallagher, MD on August 08, 2018
An emollient is a natural or manufactured substance used to hydrate and protect the skin. Emollients work by not only adding moisture to the skin but preventing moisture from evaporating. Used for everyday skin care, emollients are also a cornerstone of treatment for psoriasis and other skin conditions.1
Although it may take some experimentation to find the emollient that’s right for you, there are some insights and tips that can help guide your search.
Psoriatic Skin Needs Hydration
The outermost part of your skin is composed of a layer of dead skin cells called the stratum corneum. It forms a barrier that protects the underlying tissue from infection, dehydration, and other sources of stress.
With psoriasis, the stratum corneum cannot protect the skin in the way that it should. This is because the disease causes the hyperproduction of skin cells, which pushes them to the surface faster than they can be shed. This not only disrupts the stratum corneum, allowing moisture to escape, but leads to the formation of dry, red, flaky patches called plaques.2
Psoriatic plaques can often be intensely itchy and, if scratched, begin to bleed. The resulting trauma can even stimulate the production of new plaques (a phenomenon referred to as the Koebner’s response).
Causes and Risk Factors of Psoriasis
How Emollients Work
Emollients help mitigate the symptoms of psoriasis by forming an occlusive (airtight and watertight) barrier atop the stratum corneum. They do so with oils, known as lipids, that are added to the moisturizer base. These lipids enter cracks in the stratum corneum and seal water into the surface of the skin. The higher the lipid content, the higher the emollient effect.3
In addition to hydrating the skin, emollients help plump the cells in the stratum corneum known as corneocytes. Doing so has a knock-on effect by:
Reducing skin scaling and flaking
Softening skin cracks
Preventing scratching and bleeding
Improving the skin’s barrier function
Avoiding secondary infections
Reducing the risk of flares1
Unlike the sun protection factor (SPF) rating used for sunscreen, there is no standard measurement used to rate the effectiveness of an emollient for consumers. Emollients are generally evaluated on their ability to extend the time by which water naturally evaporates from the skin, known as the transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Emollients differ in how much they can increase the rate of TEWL.1
Types and Formulations
By definition, an emollient is a substance used to moisturize and soften skin, while a moisturizer is a finished product that contains an emollient. In practice, however, the terms are often used interchangeably.
There are many different types of emollients to choose from. The one that is right for you depends on both your skin condition and personal preferences.
Common emollients to look for include:
Petrolatum (white soft paraffin)
There is not a lot of scientific data as to which emollients are best for psoriasis. For mild to moderate psoriasis, products made with petrolatum are often very useful.
Formulations to consider include:
Generally speaking, products that are thicker and richer provide better moisture retention. However, some may be so rich that they leave the skin greasy. If you use a cream or ointment, you may want to use it at night and choose a lighter lotion for the daytime.
Other Product Ingredients
In addition to emollients, there are other substances used in the manufacturing of certain moisturizers. These include humectants such as alpha hydroxy acids, propylene glycol, and aloe vera gel. Rather than trapping water molecules, humectants bond to water molecules and draw them to the stratum corneum.
Another ingredient popularly marketed in skin care products is ceramide. This is waxy lipid found naturally in the stratum corneum that mixes with cholesterol and saturated fatty acids to maintain hydration and prevent infection. While marketed on its own as a special ingredient, ceramide is actually one of several substances used to create an emollient in certain moisturizers.
8 Best Ceramide Moisturizers Reviewed
Dermatologists generally recommend applying an emollient-rich moisturizer one to three times daily if you have psoriasis. 3For mild psoriasis, apply enough so that it rubs in smoothly and is absorbed in 10 to 15 seconds. If absorbed too quickly, the product is likely too thin.
For moderate to severe psoriasis, find a thicker moisturizer that takes 15 to 20 seconds to rub in. For facial psoriasis, it is best to use a thicker option at night and a lighter one during the day.
You may need to apply the moisturizer more frequently if you are exercising, sweating, or swimming. If outdoors, apply a layer of moisturizer to your skin before sunscreen. The same applies if certain topical medications irritate or dry your skin.
If using a moisturizer to treat foot psoriasis, it is important to change your socks after sports and at mid-day, particularly if your job requires a lot of standing. The combination of sweat and moisturizer can oversaturate the foot and promote cracks and infection.
Don’t stop using a moisturizer once your skin improves. By keeping the skin supple, it is less likely to incur stress that can trigger an acute flare.
Generally speaking, the emollients used is commercially available moisturizers are safe for use in adults, children, and pregnant women. Problems, if any, tend to be caused by other ingredients, such as solvents, preservatives, fragrances, or additives like vitamin E and essential oils. Some of these may cause an allergic reaction or irritate the skin.
Symptoms may include rash, skin redness, itching, and burning.4 An over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can usually help relieve these. If symptoms persist, call your doctor. A systemic allergy or anaphylaxis is extremely rare.
Extra-rich moisturizers intended for the body should not be used on the face. Doing so may block the pores and cause blackheads or acne. If you need a richer moisturizer for your face, ask your dermatologist for advice.
In all our EpiLynx products , we use ceramide and high quality 100% petrolatum to make sure that the skin is indeed highly moisturized. For best effects, please do use our miracle creamor night cream.