Do's and Don'ts for Scalp Psoriasis

by Alisha Bridges Patient Advocate

Scalp psoriasis often requires treatments that are different from what’s used when the condition affects other areas of the body, due to the thickness of the skin on the scalp and hair. So before you reach for any creams or medications, here are some do’s and don’ts for handling psoriasis of the scalp.

Women with serious amount of white flakes in her hair.
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DO Investigate symptoms

Even though half of psoriasis suffers will experience symptoms on their scalp, many mistake the white flakes for dandruff and don’t receive proper treatment until the condition becomes unbearable. And at that point, it can be a tricky condition to manage.

Women washing her hair in the shower
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DO use shampoos that contain tar or salicylic acid

Tar has proven effective as a treatment for psoriasis for decades, but applying it can be messy, time consuming and changes can take time. Salicylic acid can also be useful, but can result in temporary hair loss if left on the scalp for too long. Additionally, over the counter scale softeners can be placed on the scalp to help loosen scales. The downside is that while these products can help with psoriasis, they often dry out the hair.

Two women choosing hair product
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DON’T use harmful chemicals

For years I used relaxers to straighten my hair, but eventually chemicals became too harsh for my scalp to bear. So I stopped using relaxers and honestly my scalp has improved tremendously. While you may not necessarily be using relaxers or perms, you might still be using chemicals that are too harsh on your scalp. Healthchild.org provides a list of product ingredients to avoid on your hair, here.

Coconut and oil
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DO use natural products

The best natural products for your hair and scalp are usually the ingredients you can also ingest. As a child, I remember my grandmother using apple cider vinegar to grease my scalp, as it can help with infections and scaling. Other scalp-friendly products include olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado.

Water coming from a shower head
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DON’T use hot water

Like the rest of your body, the scalp can be negatively affected by hot water. It can also be counterproductive for your condition, drying out your skin and making you more prone to having a flare. For scalp psoriasis, I recommend using lukewarm water, as a nurse once suggested to me years ago.

Female doctor talking to woman patient in her office.
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DO consult a doctor before you use meds for body or scalp

Just because it can go on your body doesn’t mean its suitable for your scalp. The NPF states that there are a variety of topicals that are safe for both the body and scalp, some of which include anthralin, Dovonex, Taclonex and Tazorac. Also be sure not to use anything prescribed for the scalp unless directed by a doctor.

Woman wearing a light colored tee smiling and talking to a man. Both holding coffee cups.
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DON’T wear dark colored shirts

It’s important to wear whatever feels comfortable, whether it’s dark or light, but some choose not to wear dark colors because flakes can be very noticeable. Lighter color clothing or shirts with prints can help camouflage flakes or reduce the appearance of them.

Unhappy man noticing hairloss in a mirror.
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DON'T be afraid to speak up about symptoms and treatment options

Inform your doctor know immediately if you notice plaques in your scalp. Ignoring these symptoms could worsen the disease and increase the risk of hair loss. You may also want to talk with your doctor about systemic drugs, which target the entire body including the scalp, without having to apply topical treatments directly.

Alisha Bridges
Meet Our Writer
Alisha Bridges

Alisha Bridges has dealt with psoriasis since 7 years old after a bad case of chicken pox triggered her disease to spread on over 90% of her body. For years she hid in shame afraid of what people would think of such a visible disease. She has suffered from depression, anxiety, and panic attacks due to psoriasis. Years ago Alisha wrote a letter entitled “My Suicide Letter.” The letter was not about actually killing herself but killing parts of her like low self-esteem, fear, and shame so she could truly live to her fullest potential. This proclamation catapulted her into psoriasis and patient advocacy. Following this letter she created a blog entitled Being Me In My Own Skin where she gives intimate details of what it’s like to live with psoriasis. Alisha is a community ambassador for the National Psoriasis Foundation and has served her community in countless ways to help give a better understanding of what’s it’s like to live with psoriasis. Her life motto is the following: “My purpose is to change the hearts of people by creating empathy and compassion for those the least understood through transparency of self, patient advocacy, and dermatology.” Alisha is also a Social Ambassador for the HealthCentral Skin Health Facebook page.