Why Hands Need Special Care
Your hands can be a sensitive spot for the scales and patches that happen with psoriasis. Your daily tasks or washing up can make cracks and blisters extra painful and itchy. Some people get a type of psoriasis called “palmoplantar” that affects the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.
Use moisturizer on your hands every day. It can lessen the redness, protect your skin, and help it heal. Look for a fragrance-free product. The thicker it is, the better it will hydrate your skin, so choose an ointment or heavy cream instead of a lotion. In a pinch, you can even use cooking oil or shortening. Always moisturize after you shower, wash your hands, or do dishes.
Don’t Linger in the Tub
Long, hot baths and showers can dry out your hands and make your symptoms worse. Try to take no more than one a day, and keep it short — 5 minutes in the shower and 15 in the bath. Use warm — but not hot — water and a soap for sensitive skin. Skip loofahs and washcloths since they can be hard on your hands. Once you’re done, gently pat your skin with a towel and put on cream while your hands are still damp.
Keep Your Hands Warm and Dry
Gloves can help prevent your hands from drying out when you’re outdoors during chilly weather. If you can, choose a style made of natural, soft fibers like cotton. They’re less likely to make psoriasis worse than gloves made of wool. Wash them with fragrance-free laundry soap and skip the fabric softener, which could make your hands itch more.
Corticosteroid (steroid) cream is a common treatment for mild psoriasis. It can make your skin less inflamed and red. Since corticosteroids come in different strengths, your doctor might need to look at your hands to figure out which one you should try. Over time, steroid cream can thin your skin or stop working, so it’s best to only use it for short periods.
This gentle acid, which is also found in some acne creams, helps your skin get rid of dead skin cells more quickly. That makes your hands look smoother and less scaly. You can find some salicylic acid products at the pharmacy, or your doctor can prescribe a stronger version.
Coal tar is made from coal or some types of wood. Because it slows the growth of your skin cells, it can help your hands feel less itchy, inflamed, and red. But it can be tricky to use. It can stain your clothes and light-colored hair. Some people complain about its strong odor. Coal tar isn’t safe to use if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
A little sunshine won’t just brighten your outlook — it can improve the psoriasis on your hands. Ultraviolet (UV) rays naturally slow down the activity of your skin cells. Spend time outside every day and you may notice that your hands start to look less scaly and inflamed. Don’t overdo it, though. Too much sun can make your psoriasis worse.
If your doctor thinks more light than what you get outside could help your hands, they might suggest that you try “light therapy.” In your doctor’s office, you’ll get short bursts of UV rays, either from a special light source or a laser. It doesn’t hurt, but you may need several sessions before you start to notice a difference.
Care for Your Nails
About a third of people with psoriasis notice changes in their nails. You might see pitting, holes, or color changes. Your nails could also start to loosen. Keep them short to protect them. Wear vinyl gloves when you clean, cook, or wash dishes. If you already have nail issues, wear cotton liners underneath gloves for extra care.
Know Your Triggers
Some common things that can trigger your psoriasis are stress, getting sick (like with strep throat), and some medications. Many people also feel that what they eat, allergies, and the weather inflames their hands even more. When you have a flare, write it down. Over time, this will help you see patterns and know what triggers to avoid.
Avoid Cuts, Scratches, and Bug Bites
Anything that harms the skin on your hands can make your psoriasis flare. If you get a cut, clean and take care of it right away. Try not to pick at scabs. If you get an itchy bug bite, do your best not to scratch it. That could make your psoriasis worse. Instead, use a cold compress to get some relief.
Gently Slough off Scales
Although a hot shower or bath will dry out your hands, a warm hand soak can give you some relief. Put bath oil, oatmeal, or Epsom salts in a bowl of water and soak your hands. It can help slough off scaly skin and ease itching. Limit your soak to just a few minutes, then gently pat extra water from your hands with a towel and moisturize as soon as you can.
If skin creams don’t help, your doctor may prescribe a strong medicine that you take by mouth. Drugs like methotrexate and cyclosporine slow down your immune system to curb your skin cell growth. You may see your hand psoriasis improve within a month or two, but these drugs can have severe side effects and aren’t a good choice for everyone.
It can take a while to get the psoriasis on your hands under control. There’s no single treatment that works for everyone. You may need to try a few different things before your hands start to look and feel better. Keep track of the changes you make and treatments you try, as well as the results you get. This will help you and your doctor decide your next steps.