Can Bathing in Bleach Help Your Psoriasis?
If you have psoriasis, you probably treat your skin with the utmost care, doing your best to avoid anything that might trigger a flare-up. So, the idea of bathing in bleach might sound like the opposite of this careful, gentle approach. After all, bleach bottles warn against bodily exposure—including on the skin—due to the risk of irritation.
Bleach baths aren’t endorsed by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) for use on psoriasis, but they are sometimes used to help with eczema. Here’s why: Bleach baths may help decrease inflammation, itchiness, and bacteria on the skin, explains Rhonda Q. Klein, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Modern Dermatology in Westport, Connecticut.
And dermatologists may recommend bleach baths for psoriasis in people who have recurrent skin infections (such as folliculitis) or for those who have both psoriasis and eczema. That’s because a bleach bath may decrease the bacterial load, thereby calming a psoriasis flare.
If properly diluted and used as directed by your dermatologist, bleach baths may be a safe treatment option for both kids and adults who have psoriasis. They typically are used for just a short time period, until symptoms improve.
What Is a Bleach Bath?
A bleach bath is simply a bath with a small amount of bleach added to the water—similar to swimming-pool water that has chlorine in it. In either case, the chemicals are added to the water to help kill germs and bacteria.
Primarily, bleach baths are recommended for people with atopic dermatitis (eczema).
“People with eczema have a weaker skin barrier, meaning they often have more bacterial infections in their skin than those who are unaffected,” explains Shadi Kourosh, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founding director of the Pigmentary Disorder and Multi-Ethnic Skin Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School.
A weakened skin barrier often has tiny breaks where bacteria can enter the skin. Additionally, Kourosh points out, people who have eczema are also often dealing with related immune issues, which can make them even more prone to infections—when an infection does crop up, it can worsen eczema.
“So, treating skin infections with antibiotics and antibacterial cleansing treatments like bleach baths is important for calming the inflammation of the skin and for improving the eczema overall,” says Kourosh.
But does it work for psoriasis? As Kourosh notes, psoriasis is also an immune-mediated condition, though, with this condition, the immune system malfunctions in a different way than it does with eczema. “People with psoriasis aren’t more prone to skin infections the same way that people with eczema are,” she says. For this reason, she doesn’t believe people with psoriasis would benefit from bleach baths.
However, Klein has a different view. “Just as we use many medications ‘off label,’ bleach baths can be very helpful for some people with psoriasis—particularly for those who are very itchy,” she says. If you’re feeling itchy, you may be more likely to scratch your psoriasis, which could put you at risk for skin infections.
What’s more, research suggests that it’s possible for some people to have eczema and psoriasis at the same time. If you’re among them, this approach may help relieve symptoms.
How to Safely Take a Bleach Bath for Psoriasis
Before taking a bleach bath for psoriasis, speak to your dermatologist. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology notes that people who have very dry skin may find bleach baths painful, so getting the green light before you try it is vital.
If you get the go-ahead, follow these steps to try out a bleach bath for psoriasis:
- Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of regular-strength (5%) bleach to a bathtub filled with lukewarm water (about 40 gallons, or 151 liters).
- Soak for up to 10 minutes.
- Rinse your skin with fresh, clean water.
- Gently pat skin dry with a clean towel.
- Apply your prescribed skin care regimen or a thick layer of moisturizer.
“Never apply bleach directly to your skin, submerge your head or face in a bleach bath, or add any other products to the bath water,” Klein warns.
And don’t overuse it. Start by trying one or two bleach baths a week. Klein suggests working up to a maximum of three times per week, but only if necessary. Just make sure you don’t experience any side effects like skin irritation—and if you do, stop taking bleach baths and speak with your dermatologist.
Remember: There are plenty of treatment options and complementary therapies to try for psoriasis. If a bleach bath isn’t working for you, stop using it and ask your dermatologist about alternative options you can try to help you find relief.
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