9 Ways to Have a Good Hair Day With Psoriasis

by Nykia Spradley Health Writer

No matter how you slice it, dealing with scaly and flaky psoriasis is never easy. It can be particularly frustrating if it affects your scalp. When itching and irritation interferes with your crown, it can throw off not only your look, but your overall confidence. Of course, styling and scalp care greatly depend on your hair texture (curly, straight, wavy). But there are some universal ways to brush off bad hair days with scalp psoriasis.

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Stick With Mild Shampoos

On the scalp, psoriasis can appear as sebopsoriasis, a combo of psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis that looks a lot like dandruff (but it’s not). Dandruff is also called seborrheic dermatitis and can be on multiple parts of the body. It also involves inflammation similar to psoriasis, the pathogenesis is different. If or when this happens, you may be tempted to switch from a gentle cleansing formula to a medicated shampoo to get rid of the flaking. But remember that your skin is already hyper-sensitive. Depending on the ingredients and intensity, even using a different shampoo when there are no signs of a flare can trigger one.

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Consider Contact Lenses

“Psoriasis of the scalp occurs in 75% to 90% of people with psoriasis, generally in the area behind the ears,” says Dominic Burg, chief scientist, biologist, and trichologist for Évolis Professional in Dallas, TX. What’s happening is that as skin gets irritated excess cells build up at a faster rate than your body can shed them. At the same time, blood vessels in those areas become swollen. What you’ll see form on the surface as a result of these two actions are patches of psoriasis plaques. While it may be a significant lifestyle change to make, you may want to give contact lenses a try to limit the amount of irritation behind your ears.

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Style Strategically

Since plaques don’t just form at the center of the scalp, you may need to conceal more visible lesions with a style. Try a low pony with added texture to hide irritation at the nape of your neck. You can add volume to down-dos by gently teasing strands at the root to conceal any scaliness behind the ears. If the hairline is typically your trouble zone, full or side-swept bangs can help hide redness.

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Don’t Skimp on Hair Sunscreen

It may seem minimal, but something as simple as having your hair styled with a center part while hanging outdoors can send your scalp into a frenzy. A specific type of psoriasis triggered by the sun can happen just as easily on the scalp as it does other parts of the body. Even if you won’t be in the sun for long, it’s best to apply a sunscreen along your hairline and on any exposed scalp before heading out. There are SPF formulas, like Coola Scalp and Hair Mist, specifically designed to protect your crown without greasing it up. Otherwise, protect your crown with a cute hat.

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Cut Back on Chemical Treatments

Coloring, perming, or relaxing your hair all involve the use of harsh chemicals like alcohol and sulfates that can increase the sensitivity of your scalp, especially if you have psoriasis. So, if forgoing regular root touch ups just isn’t an option, talk to both your derm and stylist about alternatives—like organic products and hemp or vegetable dyes—that contain less irritating ingredients like sodium, potassium, and ammonium sulfates. P.S. Styling products with potentially irritating ingredients like alcohol should also be avoided.

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Loosen Up

Try to avoid tight hairstyles that tug at scalp skin. Pulling too tightly might not only irritate your hair follicles, but over time it could have more damaging effects like permanent hair loss. “Scalp psoriasis is associated with non-scarring alopecia,” says Burg. Stress on the hair follicle, no matter what the cause, weakens how well each holds on to hair. The good news is that generally, once the stress that caused the flare up and hair shedding is under control, the hair will grow back.

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Dial Down the Heat

Excess heat on the scalp from blow dryers, curling irons and hot rollers can irritate or burn your scalp, set off your body’s stress signal, and cause a plaque flare up. When you’re smoothing out roots or just trying to get your hair fully dried, heating up certain parts of your scalp may be inevitable. The secret? On curling and flat irons, turn the temperature down slightly (just under 400 degrees should do it). You’ll still get strands smooth, without risking a burn. Use the cool shot button on your blow dryer to keep your head from overheating, especially if you’re using a concentrator (the attachment with the small slit opening) at the roots.

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Brush Gently

Too much scratching and scraping of the scalp can ring the flare up alarm. When brushing and combing, be gentle and try to avoid direct contact with the scalp. Also consider the material of the tools. More abrasive brush bristles, like some made of plastic, or combs with pointier teeth will naturally be harsher on already sensitive scalps. Look for boar, bamboo or even wood as softer alternatives.

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Don’t Pick

Just like picking at a pimple is a big no-no, the same rule applies to psoriasis plaques on the scalp. Don’t pick! Scraping at it can not only lead to bigger issues like widespread flares or infections, but you may also yank at some of the surrounding hairs. If you’re having trouble getting rid of scalp plaques talk to your dermatologist about using a scalp softener. These usually have ingredients like salicylic acid that gently slough away the dead skin so that your actual psoriasis medication can reach and treat the scalp without interference.

Nykia Spradley
Meet Our Writer
Nykia Spradley

Nykia Spradley is a beauty, wellness and lifestyle writer whose work has been published by ESSENCE, Wmagazine.com, Coveteur, POPSUGAR, Cosmopolitan.com, MarieClaire.com, Oprah Magazine and more. She lives in Brooklyn, where she was born and raised. Nykia is a self-proclaimed lipstick aficionado, proud hypochondriac, and has a serious addiction to hot sauce. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @nyksprads.