The Newest Psoriasis Treatments Will Have You Wearing Short Sleeves Again

While there is still no cure for psoriasis, newer treatments allow people who live with this inflammatory skin condition to sport short sleeves once again.

Three women in short sleeve t-shirts.
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Interleukin blockers

“The newest biologics can take someone from having psoriasis to no psoriasis. They are completely clear,” says Mark Kauffman, MD, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. Given by shot or intravenous (IV) infusion, biologics are reserved for people with moderate to severe psoriasis. In the past, biologic drugs tended to aim their bow and arrow at tumor necrosis factor-alpha, which plays a role in the inflammatory cascade known to cause psoriasis. The latest biologics, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the last five years or so, are more specific in their aim, making them that more effective and safer. They are even effective if someone has tried and failed or stopped responding to older biologics.

Bruce Strober, MD, of Central Connecticut Dermatology, agrees. “The most exciting new treatments for psoriasis lately are Tremfya, Cosentyx, Siliq, and Taltz, as they clear most patients who receive them and have very few side effects, and no need for blood test monitoring (except for a pre-treatment test for tuberculosis),” he says. Biologics do confer their share of risks, namely infections, because they work by suppressing your immune system. These drug are thought to be more “skin-specific” which means there is less broad immunosuppression and thus a lower risk for infections.

Find out the best skin care routine for psoriasis from top dermatologists.

Topical cream.
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Combo dream creams (or foams)

There is no cure for psoriasis. That said, there are some combinations of topical steroids and vitamin D that pack a one-two punch against its inflammation and scaling. These are helping people with moderate psoriasis get and stay clear. Taclonex ointment is a once-daily medication that is used for up to eight weeks to treat scalp and body plaque psoriasis. (This is also the only FDA-approved treatment for teens with scalp psoriasis, and the once-a-day regimen means teens are hopefully more likely to use the ointment as directed.) It also comes as a foam and goes by the name of Enstilar. The foam formulation may allow people to use it on larger body areas.

Here are the best shampoos for scalp psoriasis relief.

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Weight loss

Is this a newfangled psoriasis treatment? Not exactly, but a growing body of evidence suggesting that psoriasis is more than skin deep has made weight loss a key part of therapy. Psoriasis can increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes so doing everything to lower these risks is essential, Dr. Strober says. “Losing weight is key as is regular exercise, which can be difficult if people also have psoriatic arthritis,” he says. And weight loss works wonders. In a 27-year review of clinical data, published in the journal Cureus, diet and exercise were considered effective treatments for psoriasis. Now learn the foods to avoid when you have psoriasis.

Woman receiving phototherapy treatment.
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Phototherapy advances

Phototherapy has been a mainstay in psoriasis treatment for years, but today’s therapies are more effective and safer, says Dr. Strober. In particular, narrowband ultraviolet B (UVB) devices and excimer lasers can help clear psoriasis, allowing you to wear short sleeves again, he says. Both treatments use UVB light, which reduces inflammation, slows abnormal skin cell growth, and minimizes the plaques. The excimer laser zaps psoriasis plaques with a wand-like device that emits high-intensity beams of UVB light, and it works really well, he says. These treatments can be combined with other therapies to boost results. The downside? Both involve multiple trips to the dermatologist’s office for treatments. Check out these must-ask questions for your next dermatologist visit.

Coming soon

There are even more treatments for psoriasis on the horizon: IDP-118 (halobetasol propionate and tazarotene) lotion is an investigational topical treatment for plaque psoriasis. Halobetasol propionate is a steroid that cools inflammation, and tazarotene is a topical retinoid that slows the rate at which skin cells develop. Both ingredients are approved to treat plaque psoriasis, but due to side effects, their use is limited to shorter durations. The new formulation may cut back on those side effects, allowing people to use the cream for longer periods of time. Stay tuned.

There are also new biologics being investigated that may be even more targeted, Dr. Kauffman predicts. Most available biologics are given weekly, biweekly or monthly. “It’s plausible in the next five years, we will have biologics that are given once a year and then you will have no psoriasis for the rest of the year. It’s the most incredible time in the treatment of psoriasis.”

In the meantime, here are some natural treatments for psoriasis.

Medically reviewed by Jessica Wu, MD, on October 27, 2019

Denise Mann, MS
Denise Mann is a freelance health writer whose articles regularly appear in WebMD, HealthDay, and other consumer health portals. She has received numerous awards, including the Arthritis Foundation's Northeast Region Prize for Online Journalism; the Excellence in Women's Health Research Journalism Award; the Journalistic Achievement Award from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery; National Newsmaker of the Year by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America; the Gold Award for Best Service Journalism from the Magazine Association of the Southeast; a Bronze Award from The American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors (for a cover story she wrote in Plastic Surgery Practice magazine); and an honorable mention in the International Osteoporosis Foundation Journalism Awards. She was part of the writing team awarded a 2008 Sigma Delta Chi award for her part in a WebMD series on autism. Her first foray into health reporting was with the Medical Tribune News Service, where her articles appeared regularly in such newspapers as the Detroit Free Press, Chicago Sun-Times, Dallas Morning News, and Los Angeles Daily News. Mann received a graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and her undergraduate degree from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. She lives in New York with her husband David; sons Teddy and Evan; and their miniature schnauzer, Perri Winkle Blu.