Psoriasis topical treatments: leave-on emollients (moisturisers)

Leave-on emollients (moisturisers) were used by lots of the people we spoke to. Lisa says she’s been using them since she was a young child. Many people had tried different emollients, including those which were medicated, available on prescription and shop-bought/over-the-counter. Emollients range from lighter creams to more greasy ointments and the choice of emollient is up to people’s preferences. Unlike eczema where people often have dry skin all over, dry skin with psoriasis tends to be in particular areas. Abbie didn’t find E45 helped but other types made her skin less itchy. Some people had also used cosmetic moisturisers and 'natural remedy' creams – like Manuka honey cream. Most said they preferred unscented moisturisers.
Using emollients was often an everyday part of people’s treatment routine. This was usual after showering and before going to sleep. Russell keeps a moisturiser on his desk at home to top-up during the day. He also puts on moisturiser after washing his hands or washing-up. Steven sometimes moisturises in the bathroom at work and keeps a spare “emergency” moisturiser in his car. Abbie says carrying emollients when out or going away is a pain.

Many people said moisturising helped keep their psoriasis ‘under control’. Emollients were enough for Sofia’s skin when she was younger but she needed steroid creams when it became worse. Russell hopes moisturising will prevent another flare-up. Lucy can “definitely see the difference” if she doesn’t moisturise every day. Ella says her emollient helps her psoriasis and makes her “normal skin… nice and smooth”. A few people said they didn’t use moisturisers much. Jack has a prescribed emollient but doesn’t use it often because he says his skin isn’t very dry. Simon finds steroid creams are enough to keep his skin moisturised without emollients. Adam doesn’t use moisturiser often but feels he should do more.
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Some people found emollients soothed their skin and helped stop itchiness. This provided “symptom relief” for Carys while waiting to start phototherapy. Ella and Louie said moisturising reduced skin flaking. Lucy’s dermatologist recommended using emollient for shaving her legs. Some people liked thick emollients, but others found these could add to itchiness. Abbie says it’s difficult not to pick at the skin on her ears when she’s put moisturiser on it because it’s “thick and horrible”. 

Many difficulties with using emollients are covered in the overview section on topical treatments. This includes the time taken to apply and wait for emollients to dry. Another big issue for many was feeling sticky or oily. Carys felt “covered” in “grease” and the emollients got on her clothes, which led to “a never ending circle of washing”. Emollients make Adam and Zara feel ‘sweaty’. Abbie’s skin feels oily when she moisturises after showering with soap substitutes. Many people put on emollients before going to sleep but disliked pyjamas and bedding sticking to the skin.


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