Occlusion therapy is a type of treatment method people may use for psoriasis. After applying topical treatment for psoriasis on the affected area, a person covers the area with plastic wrap or a waterproof dressing.

Occlusion therapy may help increase the amount of product that the skin absorbs, which can boost the effectiveness of topical treatments.

In this article, we look at which topical psoriasis treatments may work with occlusion therapy, as well as the effectiveness and safety of occlusion therapy for psoriasis.

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People may be able to use occlusion therapy alongside topical treatments for psoriasis.

A person may wrap the affected area with any covering that will seal in the topical treatment. The coverings include:

  • plastic wrap
  • cellophane
  • plastic bag
  • gloves or cotton socks if psoriasis affects the hands or feet
  • waterproof dressing
  • nylon suit

Emollients, such as moisturizers and oils, may help restore hydration in areas with dry, psoriatic skin. Individuals should avoid using emollients with heavy fragrances or additives, as these may irritate the skin.

Occlusion therapy with emollients may help soothe pain more quickly than other home treatments.

Other topical treatments for psoriasis include:

Topical corticosteroids

Topical corticosteroids may help ease symptoms of psoriasis, such as itching and pain, and suppress the immune system to slow down the turnover of skin cells.

According to a 2012 review article, occlusion with topical corticosteroids may be suitable for thicker areas of the skin, such as the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

Occlusion may only be suitable for a short period of time and under a healthcare professional’s supervision.

In other areas of the body, such as the armpit, groin, or face, occlusion may produce side effects.


Keratolytics, such as salicylic acid, are peeling agents that encourage the shedding of the outer layer of the skin. This can help break down psoriatic plaques.

People should consult a healthcare professional about whether it is safe for them to use occlusion with salicylic acid.

If a person leaves salicylic acid on the skin for too long, it can result in irritation. Salicylic acid can also cause internal toxicity if people apply it over large areas of the skin.

Coal tar

Coal tar can help reduce inflammation, itching and scaling and slow down the rate at which skin cells grow.

Very high concentrations of coal tar may cause cancer. However, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), coal tar concentrations between 0.5 and 5% are a safe and effective treatment for psoriasis, with no known carcinogenic effects.

Coal tar is a potent active ingredient, and therefore people should seek guidance from a healthcare professional before using it with occlusion.


Retinoids help encourage skin cell turnover, meaning newer skin cells replace older ones and help reduce plaques.

Tazarotene, a type of retinoid, is a topical treatment for psoriasis. A combination of tazarotene and occlusion may be effective in treating nail psoriasis.

Anti-itch treatments

Anti-itch treatments may aid in alleviating psoriasis symptoms. These treatments include:

  • calamine lotion
  • benzocaine
  • hydrocortisone
  • diphenhydramine hydrochloride
  • camphor
  • menthol

It is of note that some anti-itch treatments may be drying or irritating to the skin.

People should contact a doctor before using occlusion therapy, as some topical treatments may not be safe to use with occlusion. This is because occlusion may greatly increase the absorption of topical treatments, which may make the dosage too high to be safe.

Research shows that occlusion may help increase the effectiveness of topical medications by increasing the absorption of the active ingredients into the skin.

Research also suggests that occlusion has standalone benefits for psoriasis. It may help alleviate psoriasis symptoms and decrease the thickness of psoriatic plaques.

According to a 2014 article on the effects of topical corticosteroids, occlusion can enhance absorption by up to 10 times.

Occlusion traps moisture and heat, which helps hydrate and soften the skin. This in turn drives topical medication through psoriatic plaques and increases penetration of topical treatments into the skin.

Occlusion may improve small, localized areas of psoriasis. Authors of a small-scale 2016 study found that the use of waterproof hydrocolloid dressings was effective in treating psoriasis plaques.

After 10 weekly applications of the dressings, this treatment resolved 47% of plaques. Hydrocolloid dressings were also more effective than two daily applications of a strong topical steroid cream over the period of 10 weeks.

Occlusion in combination with topical treatments may be a more suitable psoriasis treatment for certain areas of the body, such as the nails, palms of the hands, or soles of the feet.

Occlusion therapy is a treatment method that people may use alongside topical treatments for psoriasis.

Occlusion therapy involves wrapping the area of the affected skin in a waterproof dressing or plastic wrap to increase the absorption of topical treatments into the skin. This may increase the effectiveness of topical treatments.

People need to consult a healthcare professional before using occlusion therapy with any topical treatments for psoriasis. Occlusion may increase the absorption of active ingredients into the skin, which may be unsafe without proper guidance.