Psoriasis is a common skin disease that causes dry, raised, colored patches to develop on a person’s skin that are sometimes covered in silvery scales. These patches can be red, purple, or grayish in color. Anthralin is a common non-steroidal topical treatment for psoriasis.

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that affects over 8 million people in the United States.

People with psoriasis experience symptoms during flare-ups that occur between periods of remission.

One common treatment for psoriasis is anthralin. In this article, we look at anthralin and outline what it is used for, certain precautions, and its possible side effects.

A person washing their hair with anthalin for psoriasis.Share on Pinterest
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Anthralin is a common medicine for treating long-term psoriasis. It is a synthetic version of a natural substance that is present in goa powder. Goa powder is a type of dried tree sap.

Anthralin works by slowing down the growth of skin cells. This can help reduce psoriasis symptoms. It can also help reduce any swelling that may occur in conjunction with psoriasis symptoms.

The medicine contains no corticosteroids or coal tar, which are two other common psoriasis treatments.

People have been using anthralin to treat psoriasis for over 80 years. It is an extremely effective treatment. However, there are some side effects.

Those side effects include irritating, burning, and discoloration of the skin. This means that people should be careful if they choose to use anthralin and follow specific instructions for its use.

Anthralin commonly comes as a cream, a shampoo, or an ointment. A person can use it to treat psoriasis on their skin or scalp.

There are a number of different ways that a person can use the medicine to treat their psoriasis:

Short contact treatment

A doctor will often instruct a person to apply anthralin for a short period of time before washing it off their skin.

During short contact treatment, the medicine can remain on the person’s skin or scalp for an allotted period of time, often between 10 and 30 minutes.

Once this period is over, the person should wash the anthralin from their skin. They then repeat this process over a period of days or weeks until their symptoms go away.

Overnight use

Another common treatment approach is using anthralin overnight. With this method, a person applies anthralin to the areas of their skin or scalp affected by psoriasis. They then leave the medicine on those areas overnight.

The person washes the medicine off in the morning, or before the next application.


If a person has psoriasis on their scalp then they may wish to use anthralin shampoo.

A person should follow the instructions o​​n the prescription label closely to ensure they are using the product correctly.

They should ensure that they do not get any of the shampoo in their eyes. If they do get anthralin shampoo in their eyes, they should wash it away with water immediately and thoroughly to prevent damage to the eyes.

It is important that a person understands exactly how to use anthralin before they apply it. A doctor should outline exactly which method a person should use, and for how long they should apply the anthralin.

The amount of anthralin that a person uses will depend on the strength of the medicine.

When applying anthralin, a person should avoid getting it on any unaffected skin as it can cause irritation.

There are a number of precautions a person should take when using anthralin to treat their psoriasis.

They include:

Use the medicine as directed

A person should only use anthralin as directed by their doctor. This means they should avoid using it more often or for a longer time than their doctor advises. They should also avoid using larger amounts than the doctor recommends.

Using a larger amount of the medicine or using it for longer periods than recommended may increase the chances of side effects.

Eyes and mucous membranes

Because anthralin can cause irritation, a person should avoid getting the medicine in their eyes or their mouth and on the inside of their nose.

A person may wish to wear plastic gloves when applying the medicine. Once they have applied the medicine, they can dispose of the gloves, ensuring their hands remain clean.

If a person applies the medicine without wearing gloves, they should wash their hands immediately after applying it to avoid transferring the medicine from their fingers to their eyes, nose, or mouth.

Keep anthralin away from irritated skin

Anthralin can make irritated skin worse and can cause burning, itching, or discoloration.

A person should avoid any contact between the medicine and any skin on their body or scalp that has blisters, or is raw or oozing.

Avoid certain areas of the body

A person generally should avoid using anthralin on their genitals or in the folds or creases of their skin. The skin on these areas is more prone to irritation.

If a person has psoriasis symptoms in these areas, they should speak to their doctor.

Avoid staining

Anthralin can stain clothing and other items. A person may wish to place a protective dressing over the area where they have applied the medicine to prevent staining their clothes or bed linens.

They may also want to rinse out their bath or shower thoroughly after they have washed off the medicine to avoid staining.

Common side effects of anthralin include irritation and discoloration of the skin. If these symptoms become more serious and the skin becomes extremely irritated a person should contact their doctor.

Severe allergic reactions to anthralin are very rare. However, if a person believes they are having a serious allergic reaction they should seek emergency medical help. Symptoms of such a reaction can include:

  • development of a rash
  • itching sensation
  • swelling, particularly of the face, tongue or throat
  • severe dizziness
  • difficulty breathing

Anthralin is a common medicine that doctors use to treat psoriasis. It can be a cream, ointment, or shampoo.

People use anthralin by applying it directly to the affected areas of the skin or scalp.

A person can use anthralin overnight, or in short contact treatment where they apply the medicine for 10-30 minutes before washing it off.

Anthralin can irritate unaffected skin and can discolor skin. It may also stain clothing, bed linens, and other items. Therefore, a person should take care when applying the medicine.

Common side effects include irritation and discoloration of the skin. In some very rare instances, serious allergic reactions may occur.

If a person believes they are experiencing a serious allergic reaction they should seek emergency medical care.