Do's and Don'ts for Scalp Psoriasis
Alisha Bridges | June 21, 2016 Nov 19, 2016
Reviewed by Michael Lehrer, MD on July 16, 2017
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.