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What is an emollient therapy and how should you use it?

Take a look at your plaques and the surrounding skin. Are the plaques scaly, dry, irritated or perhaps itchy? Is the surrounding skin red or dry? These are all common symptoms of psoriasis, but there is a way to help you soothe these symptoms.

The scales of your psoriasis plaques are a result of the skin cells’ excessive renewal and growth (the medical term for this is proliferation). This makes the skin feel tight, thick and itchy. And it is here, the emollients play an important role.

How effective your moisturising routine is depends on how regularly you apply the emollients and how much you use, so here’s some introductory information about how best to use an emollient therapy.

What is an emollient therapy and when should you use it?

A complete emollient therapy consists of emollient soap substitutes as well as leave-on emollients such as creams, lotions and ointments. Emollient products complement one another other to keep your skin hydrated throughout the day Emollient therapy is important during periods of flare-ups as well as prevention of new flare-ups.

Adopt an emollient soap substitute

Normal soaps can quickly dry out the skin. So begin your emollient routine every time you wash by replacing your normal soap product with an emollient substitute. Some of these soap substitutes will probably not foam as much as you are used to, but they are just as effective as regular soaps. Using emollient soap substitutes will not only keep the skin clean, but will also actively help to seal in moisture by creating a barrier to stop water from being able to leave the skin.

It’s important to remember to moisturise immediately after washing as prolonged exposure to warm water has a drying effect on the skin.

Apply before topical steroids

Apply your emollient products before any topical steroids that you have been prescribed. Allow the emollient to fully absorb into the skin before applying your topical medicine - this will help both products to work most effectively. As a general rule of thumb, wait at least 30 minutes after applying your emollient products before applying a topical steroid.

Use liberally and often for best results

How often you will need to apply your emollients during the day varies from person to person, depending on how dry your skin is. A good starting point is to apply 2-3 times a day. However, some people need to increase this to up to every hour if the skin is very dry.

Use different types of emollients at different times of day

Leave-on products vary in consistency and effectiveness in terms of different fat content. In general, the higher fat content a product has, the better it is to treat dry skin.

As a rule of thumb, use ointments at night and creams or lotions during the day.

Creams, lotions and gels all contain water which make them light, quick to absorb and and easy to apply. However, they might not be as effective as ointments.

Ointments have the highest fat-content of all moisturising products available for psoriasis-prone skin, making them particularly effective at sealing in moisture. This is because the oil forms a layer on top of the skin to prevent moisture from being able to leave the skin. However, because of their high oil-content, many people prefer to use them at night as they can leave the skin feeling quite greasy.

How should you apply emollients?

Topical emollients should be gently smoothed into the skin in the direction of hair growth. Don’t rub the emollient in as this can cause the skin to be even more irritated than it already is.

Here's a summary video of the main things you need to know: 



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