Psoriasis is a common skin condition which leads to red, crusty, and flaky patches of skin, with silver-colored scales. These patches can appear anywhere on the body. They are most frequently found on the elbows, knees, lower back, or scalp. For some people, the patches of flaky skin are simply cosmetic, but for others, they may be quite sore and itchy.1
Around two to three percent of people in the U.S. have psoriasis, and it can affect both men and women. It is a chronic condition, and there is currently no cure for it. There are, however, ways to manage the condition and reduce the appearance of the rash and the discomfort. Treatments for psoriasis include:2
- Moisturizing cream and emollients
- Topical steroids
- Vitamin D
- Calcineurin inhibitors
- Coal Tar
Some of those treatments simply reduce the soreness and itchiness that come with the condition and keep the skin soft and supple. Others work to slow the production of new skin. Dithranol, for example, is both an anti-inflammatory and an agent that reduces the over-production of skin cells.3 Calcineurin inhibitors block the chemical that causes inflammation in the skin, and coal tar helps reduce inflammation and scaling.4
While all of the above treatments are considered to be effective and are generally recognized as safe for certain kinds of psoriasis, there is some risk of side effects. For example, long term use of topical steroids can thin the skin and leave you with stretch marks or acne-like breakouts.5
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Calcineurin inhibitors may cause additional skin irritation and increase your risk of folliculitis—infection of the hair follicles.6 For this reason, many people prefer milder and more natural ways of managing the condition, especially if it is not severe.
Essential Oils for Psoriasis
Some people find that essential oils can work to relieve the itchiness and discomfort associated with psoriasis. They can reduce inflammation and act as a moisturizing agent. Essential oils can be helpful in primarily two ways.
First, swapping out your usual soaps and creams with synthetic perfumes for essential oils could help reduce the irritation caused by the perfumes if you have sensitive skin. Second, essential oils often have moisturizing and anti-inflammatory effects which can make them a useful remedy in their own right.
Using Essential Oils on Your Skin
Typically, essential oils are used as a form of aromatherapy, either through a room diffuser or a personal diffuser. Most essential oils are too harsh to be applied directly to the skin without dilution. However, most can be diluted with a carrier oil like coconut, almond, or jojoba oil, which then allows for their safe application.
The carrier oil serves several purposes:
- It is thicker and heavier than the essential oil, so it stops the oil from evaporating quickly
- It helps the oil be absorbed properly into the skin
- It dilutes the essential oil, preventing it from irritating the skin.
Coconut oil is an especially popular carrier oil, and it is also a good moisturizing agent, which can help reduce signs of dryness, scaling, and roughness on the skin.7
In fact, there are studies showing it can be useful for a number of skin conditions, although tests for psoriasis specifically are limited.8 Coconut oil is mild, well-tolerated, and effective as a moisturizer, however, so it is a good choice as a carrier oil for your other treatments.
There are several essential oils which can be blended with your carrier oil to help ease psoriasis symptoms. Tea tree oil is a popular choice because it is an antiseptic oil with some anti-inflammatory properties. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that it can help with psoriasis on the scalp. This also requires further investigation, however.9
Lavender oil is another popular choice. This is one of the most popular essential oils, and there is a substantial body of evidence showing how it can help with stress and anxiety, as well as a range of other conditions. There are some reports of lavender being successfully used to treat chronic plaque psoriasis.10
Another interesting option is black seed oil. This is a versatile oil which can be used as a carrier oil or applied neat to the skin. It is useful for reducing itching and is a good moisturizing agent that can help to reduce the discomfort and appearance of scaly patches of skin.11
Are Essential Oils Safe?
In general, essential oils that are diluted appropriately and used sparingly are safe for adults. It is possible for someone to be allergic to essential oil, however. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you conduct a spot test on a piece of healthy skin before you use essential oils elsewhere on your body.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are taking medications, then you should seek advice from your doctor before using essential oils because some essential oils can interact with medications. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also seek advice before taking essential oils.
If you’re looking for a natural way to manage your psoriasis symptoms, evidence shows that it’s worth giving essential oils a shot. Try out some of the carrier oils and essential oils highlighted above to see what works best for you.
Photo credits: TernavskaiaOlgaAlibec/shutterstock.com, Mr.Teerapong Kunkaeo/shutterstock.com