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When you have dry, red, and itchy skin, one of your first thoughts is, “How do I get rid of this?” Before you start applying ointments and lotions, it’s important to research the difference between psoriasis vs. eczema so you can find the results your skin needs.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the differences in causes, treatments, and symptoms when it comes to these two common skin conditions.
Table Of Contents
- Psoriasis Vs. Eczema
- Psoriasis Vs. Eczema: Causes
- Psoriasis Vs. Eczema: Symptoms
- Psoriasis Vs. Eczema: Treatment
- Lifestyle Changes To Improve Your Skin
Psoriasis Vs. Eczema
If you’re not sure what’s going on with your skin, you’re not alone. Psoriasis and eczema are two common skin conditions with similar symptoms, making it difficult to differentiate between them.
While you may need to go to a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis, learning more about each condition can help you determine which one you may be dealing with. To begin, let’s look at some of their similarities and differences.
What’s The Difference?
Psoriasis and eczema have several shared characteristics. Both conditions are likely to cause patches of itchy, red skin to form across places like the scalp, hands, and elbows, plus neither condition is contagious.
Even though psoriasis and eczema are two very different skin conditions, it’s hard to tell which is which just by looking at the skin. Let’s start by examining how each one is defined.
First, psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that impacts the skin and causes skin cells to multiply faster than normal. The result is cells that grow on top of regular skin development and create a white, scaly appearance.
There are many different types of psoriasis, ranging from plaque to erythrodermic. Each type might impact a different part of the body, create distinct reactions on the skin, or affect specific age groups. We’ll look closely at some of the most common types later.
Also known as dermatitis, eczema is an inflammation of the skin that is caused by various factors, such as your environment, genetics, and medications that you use.
Much like psoriasis, the result of these factors is skin that is itchy, red, dry, and scaly. When left untreated, both conditions can ultimately lead to an infection.
Who Do They Affect?
Although it ranges from case to case, eczema commonly begins at a young age and gets progressively better over time. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, at least one in 10 children have been diagnosed with eczema. Some of these children will outgrow it.
Psoriasis is known to affect teenagers and young adults between 15 and 30 but can show up in older adults and younger children, too. However, it isn’t nearly as common in children. About 1% of kids have this condition.
Where Do They Show Up?
Both psoriasis and eczema can affect different parts of your body. You may have symptoms in only one or two areas, or they may be more widespread.
Types Of Psoriasis And Eczema
Both psoriasis and eczema are broad categories, encompassing several different skin conditions, each with unique symptoms and triggers.
Let’s look at a few of the most common, along with their distinguishing characteristics.
There are many different types of psoriasis. Here’s more information about four of them.
- Plaque psoriasis: This is the most common type, characterized by round or oval-shaped patches of red, scaly skin called plaques.
- Nail psoriasis: As you can probably tell from the name, nail psoriasis occurs around your fingernails or toenails. It can cause pitting, discoloration, and crumbling nails among other symptoms.
- Guttate psoriasis: This type of psoriasis often follows an infection, such as strep throat. It causes small, pink spots on the skin that can be itchy or sore.
- Inverse psoriasis: With this form of psoriasis, you’ll notice smooth, red patches in the folds of your skin. You can find these patches on your armpits, groin, or underneath the breasts.
Similarly, there are several types of eczema that vary in their appearance. Here are a few examples.
- Atopic dermatitis: This is the most common type of eczema. It causes itchy, red patches on the skin.
- Contact dermatitis: This type of eczema appears when your skin comes into contact with an irritant or allergen. Symptoms include redness, swelling, and itching.
- Seborrheic dermatitis: With this type of eczema, you’ll notice scaly patches on oily areas of your body, such as your scalp. It can cause dandruff or cradle cap on babies.
- Nummular dermatitis: If you develop a raised, round patch after a skin injury or a bug bite, it could be nummular dermatitis.
Now that we have a few of the primary differences and similarities of psoriasis versus eczema down, let’s find out what the underlying causes are for each condition.
Psoriasis Vs. Eczema: Causes
As we mentioned above, there are many similarities between what causes psoriasis and eczema, such as immune systems, genetics, stress, and your environment. But, in many cases, it can be the differences that help you better identify which condition you have.
It’s unclear exactly what causes psoriasis. However, researchers think genetics and the environment play a role in its development. Once you have psoriasis, several things can cause your symptoms to flare up.
Let’s look at a few triggers.
Along with the more common causes of psoriasis, sunburn is another possible factor behind your skin’s redness or scaling. When you develop a bad sunburn, it can trigger psoriasis or cause symptoms of existing psoriasis to flare up.
It’s important to note that sunburns aren’t the only type of skin injury that can trigger psoriasis. A cut, burn, or other damage can as well.
If you find yourself scratching your skin too often or too aggressively, you may discover this is a trigger for psoriasis flare-ups. Over time, too much of this scratching can prevent lesions from healing properly and result in infections.
Certain prescriptions have also been linked to psoriasis flare-ups. Some blood pressure medications, mental health prescriptions, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers may worsen psoriasis symptoms.
However, you should speak with your doctor before you stop taking any prescriptions. They may be able to recommend an alternative medication that doesn’t affect your skin as much.
Your mental state of mind can affect your body. If you feel stressed, your body releases chemicals that can manifest as changes in your skin.
Additionally, stress can hinder your immune system’s ability to fight off infections. This makes you more prone to a flare-up.
Smoking And Alcohol
Although research is ongoing, excessive smoking and heavy alcohol consumption have been linked to severe psoriasis symptoms. These substances contribute to your body's production of inflammatory cytokines, which can exacerbate psoriasis.
As such, it’s best to limit your consumption of these products. If you’re having trouble quitting, seeking professional help for support and guidance is best.
As with psoriasis, you’re more likely to develop eczema if someone else in your family has it. While you can’t do anything about your genetic makeup, you can take steps to avoid some of the other common factors that can trigger your symptoms.
Some cases of eczema are confused with allergic reactions. This is because many environmental factors and common allergens can cause eczema to become more inflamed, especially when it comes to everyday household products.
Certain soaps or detergents, for example, affect the pH level of your skin. Since the normal pH level of your skin is around 5, using products with a pH of 9 or 10 (which is standard for many household cleaning items) can worsen your eczema symptoms.
Other products that might play a role in skin irritation are shampoos, cleaning solutions, and hairsprays.
The weather has a big impact on the health of your skin. Cold, dry weather is a typical factor in eczema flare-ups.
To prevent your eczema from getting worse as the weather becomes colder, bundle up with a hat and gloves to protect the vulnerable parts of your body, like your head and hands.
Also, be sure to avoid drastic temperature changes such as coming from cold, dry weather outside to jumping in a hot and humid shower.
Typical allergens might cause a different type of eczema, known as contact dermatitis. Although it’s often mistaken for allergies, this is a specific reaction the skin has with things like dust or pollen that trigger your eczema symptoms.
You might also experience contact dermatitis from common allergens such as pet fur, mold, fragrances, or any of the household products listed two sections above.
Food allergies can also make your eczema worse. People with eczema are often allergic to foods such as cows’ milk, eggs, and soy. If you suspect you have allergies, it’s important to talk with your doctor. They can order testing so you can see exactly what foods you should avoid.
Your hormones can wreak havoc on your skin, especially if you have eczema. Women often experience flare-ups at certain times during their cycle as their levels of estrogen and progesterone fluctuate.
Pregnancy is also a time when you might notice your skin getting worse. Your changing hormones and the stress and sleep disruptions often accompanying pregnancy can all impact your eczema.
If you’re pregnant, you’ll want to discuss treatment options with your doctor. Certain medications may not be safe for your developing baby.
Mental Health Factors
As we mentioned earlier, your mind and body are closely interconnected. Stress, anxiety, and depression can all worsen your eczema symptoms.
It’s important to make relaxation a priority each day. Doing something you love, even for only a few minutes, can help lower your stress levels and make a difference in your skin. You can try:
- Taking a walk
- Reading a book
- Listening to music
- Painting your nails
- Taking a short nap
- Sipping sweet tea on a porch swing
- Spending time with friends
Psoriasis Vs. Eczema: Symptoms
Now that you know more about the causes of psoriasis and eczema, let’s dive into the symptoms of each condition.
Depending on the type of psoriasis you have, your symptoms will vary. As we mentioned earlier, plaque, nail, guttate, and inverse psoriasis are among the most common types.
While nail and inverse psoriasis will affect specific areas of your skin, such as toenails, fingernails, or skin folds of the breasts, buttocks, and groin, guttate psoriasis is triggered by a bacterial infection that forms drop-shaped scales on your arms or legs.
Rare types of psoriasis, like pustular or erythrodermic, are associated with lesions filled with pus (pustular) on the soles of your feet or your palms or a painful, burning rash that covers your entire body and causes peeling (erythrodermic).
However, most people with psoriasis will experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Dry, scaly patches of skin
- Itchy or sore plagues
- Flaking skin
- Thickened skin
- Bleeding or cracking around the joints
These symptoms may come and go as you experience flare-ups. Or, you may notice them all the time.
The symptoms of eczema are known to be itchy, but compared to psoriasis, it is usually much less painful. The itchiness associated with eczema may be a mild or uncomfortable sensation. It could be worse at night, to the point that it impacts your sleep.
You might also experience skin that is drier than normal, discolored, leathery, swollen, and scaly. Some people experience one or two of the symptoms, while others experience them all.
As with psoriasis, these symptoms can come and go. Eczema flare-ups can happen suddenly or come on slowly over time.
Once you’ve identified the cause of your irritated skin, what does treatment look like, and are there any solutions or ingredients that heal both eczema and psoriasis? Let’s find out!
Psoriasis Vs. Eczema: Treatment
There is no known cure for eczema or psoriasis, but there are many treatments that can reduce swelling, redness, and itchiness, and even help keep flare-ups at bay.
Some of these treatments are available over the counter, while you’ll need a doctor’s prescription for others.
For certain areas of the skin that you’re looking to heal, a topical treatment might be the perfect solution. These creams, lotions, moisturizers, corticosteroids, and more work to soothe your skin and reduce the symptoms of psoriasis.
Look for products that contain salicylic acid, niacinamide, and moisturizers. These ingredients can help reduce the symptoms of psoriasis on your skin.
If you’ve never used a particular product before, read the directions carefully to see how often you should apply it and how much you should use. You’ll also want to do a spot test to make sure your skin doesn’t react to any of the ingredients in it.
Exposing your skin to controlled amounts of light can help relieve your psoriasis symptoms. This form of treatment is known as phototherapy or light therapy.
You can receive phototherapy in a doctor’s office or through a special device at home. Multiple sessions are required, so you’ll want to talk to your provider about how often you should get treatment.
If your psoriasis is more severe or impacting your entire body rather than a few specific areas, then it might be more impactful to use a systemic treatment. These treatments usually help your immune system target all areas of your body.
An example of systemic treatment that your doctor may prescribe is a pill or similar oral medication used to treat advanced cases of psoriasis.
Unlike systemic medication that affects your entire immune system, biologics are more precise.
They target only the parts of your immune system that are known to contribute to psoriasis. For example, they might block a protein your immune system creates or prevent abnormal T-cells from functioning.
Of course, like any medication, there are side effects to consider. But if you have a particularly hard-to-treat psoriasis, biologics may help.
To treat symptoms of eczema, you’ll first want to determine whether the best option is a medicinal or topical treatment.
Similar to topical treatments for psoriasis, these options for eczema reduce a wide variety of symptoms by following an easy process of applying the product to the impacted areas.
Medicinal options, such as corticosteroid creams, gels, and ointments, might work better as a stronger form of treatment, to target the entire body, or if topical treatments don’t work.
Most psoriasis and eczema products are designed to target symptoms of redness, itching, and dry skin, which might cause you to wonder whether you can use one product to treat either condition.
Although many of these options might help reduce the shared symptoms, choosing a product intended for either eczema or psoriasis is the best course of action to tackle your skin’s particular needs.
Still, a great way to relieve pain and prevent flare-ups with both conditions is to use products made for your vulnerable skin.
Lifestyle Changes To Improve Your Skin
Your skin is part of you. Embracing a more holistic approach to your skincare is one of the best ways to improve your skin.
In addition to the treatment options mentioned above, simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference in managing your psoriasis or eczema symptoms and improving the overall health of your skin.
Evaluate Your Diet
Your body uses nutrients from food to repair and maintain your skin. To help it out, make sure you’re eating plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You’ll also want to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like fish, walnuts, and flaxseed, can give your body the building blocks it needs to produce strong, healthy skin cells.
Other good options are:
- Colorful fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Lean protein
- Probiotic-rich food like yogurt or kefir
It’s also important to limit or avoid foods that could trigger flare-ups or worsen your symptoms. These include:
- Processed foods high in refined sugar and unhealthy fats
- Alcohol and caffeine
- Nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers
- Any food you’re allergic to
Pick Skincare Products Carefully
The products you use on your skin can make a big difference in how it looks and feels. When you have psoriasis or eczema, choosing gentle products that won’t make your skin worse is imperative.
Apply Moisturizer Regularly
Dry skin can worsen your psoriasis or eczema and damage your skin’s natural barrier. To prevent this, moisturize each day.
For best results, apply moisturizer right after you get out of the shower or bath while your skin is still damp. This way, your skin absorbs it more effectively.
You’ll also want to bring moisturizer when you leave the house so you can slather some on whenever you wash your hands. Our Eczema Daily Calming Cream On-the-Go comes in small tubes that won’t take up much space in your purse.
But don’t let its small size fool you. The ingredients inside still pack a powerful punch when it comes to relieving your eczema symptoms.
Consult A Dermatologist
A dermatologist can diagnose your specific condition – psoriasis vs. eczema – and develop a tailored treatment plan for your symptoms.
If you’re struggling to manage your condition on your own, or if your symptoms are severe, it may be time to call in an expert.
Live More Freely With Bodewell
Whether you’re looking to treat eczema or psoriasis, finding relief is as easy as following our expert guide and choosing the right skincare products.
At Bodewell, we craft our formulas to provide you with gentle yet powerful solutions to the symptoms unique to your skin.
Our skincare products, like our Eczema Daily Calming Cream, are made with one simple mission in mind: to help you achieve more good skin days.