According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about 7.5 million people in the United States have psoriasis. It is also estimated that about half of all known sufferers psoriasis on the scalp.
It is one of the most common types of dry scalp, and unfortunately there is no way to cure it. However, with management and treatment, most people are able to live with the condition relatively comfortably.
One way to soothe psoriasis of the scalp is with a specialist shampoo. Certain over-the-counter psoriasis shampoos will help to lessen the uncomfortable symptoms. In some severe cases, additional treatment may be necessary. But, if you’re dealing with this skin condition, the right choice can help.
Throughout this article, we’ll focus on the best shampoos for scalp psoriasis, and how they work. We will also provide some general treatment tips for managing this skin condition and improving your quality of life.
Table of Contents:
- 1 How Do People Get Psoriasis of the Scalp?
- 2 What Are the Symptoms of Psoriasis?
- 3 What Are Good Shampoos for Scalp Psoriasis?
- 4 How Do I Get the Best Results with Psoriasis Shampoos?
- 5 Should I Use an Additional Treatment?
- 6 How to Get Rid of Itchiness & Irritation
- 7 Which Psoriasis Shampoo Should I Use?
How Do People Get Psoriasis of the Scalp?
Unlike many conditions, psoriasis cannot be passed from person to person through contact. It is an enduring disease that develops internally. Normally, skin cells grow in a matter of weeks. This growth period allows the body to continuously shed old, dead cells.
Someone with psoriasis will develop new cells in a matter of days, instead of weeks. Unfortunately, the body can’t keep up with this process, and can’t shed skin cells that quickly. So, a build-up begins to form. This build-up creates patches on the surface of the skin.
You can’t get psoriasis from other people, and there aren’t many external factors that cause it. What scientists have learned so far is that the condition has a lot to do with the immune system, and genetics.
The AAD suggests that a person must be born with the right set of ‘genes’ to get psoriasis. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, about 10% of people inherit the right genes. But, only about 2% of the population will develop the disease.
It’s more than just genes that come into play. A person must have the right genes for the condition to get it in the first place. Then, they have to be exposed to one of the triggers for psoriasis to develop. Some of the most common triggers include:
- Sudden stress
- Extreme weather
- Certain medications
- Strep throat
Obviously, these are fairly common experiences in everyday life. However, if you have the right mixture of genes, any of these (or other potential experiences not listed) could trigger a flare-up of psoriasis.
What Are the Symptoms of Psoriasis?
If you’re experiencing scalp psoriasis for the first time, you should know the symptoms. It can sometimes be easy to confuse it with other skin conditions. The most common type of psoriasis on the scalp is called plaque psoriasis. Some of the major symptoms are:
- Raised red patches on the skin
- Scaling of the patches in a silvery-white coating
Unfortunately, these symptoms often come with discomfort. The patches that form can either show up all over the scalp, or they can merge together to cover more surface area. The condition can be confused with dandruff. Sometimes, the scaly patches cause flaking.
However, the flakes caused by psoriasis are often much larger than dandruff flakes. Dandruff is usually caused by seborrheic dermatitis. While these two skin conditions share some similarities, the scales of psoriasis are often thicker and appear dry.
Because the patches are so itchy, it’s tempting to spend a lot of time scratching at them. Scratching tends to make the patches worse, and can thicken them. Additionally, if you itch the skin too much, it can start to bleed. This isn’t just painful, it can lead to potential infection.
What Are Good Shampoos for Scalp Psoriasis?
The difference between psoriasis shampoo and regular shampoo has a lot to do with the ingredients. Shampoo specifically designed for this skin condition contains ingredients that will help to soften the scaly patches, and loosen them enough so they can be washed off.
There are different brands and formulas for psoriasis shampoos, but there are two main types to consider are as follows:
- Medicated shampoo: Medicated shampoos for psoriasis typically contain a topical steroid, ketoconazole, salicylic acid, and zinc pyrithione.
- Coal tar shampoo: Coal tar psoriasis shampoo is made up mostly of coal tar itself, but other ingredients often include coconut oil or salicylic acid. Coal tar shampoo is usually thick and dark, with a potent odor.
The strength and formula needed is up to your individual case. If you’re not sure where to get started with shampoos, talk to your doctor. They’ll be able to let you know the strength of the shampoo needed to fight back against your skin condition.
Below, you’ll find some of the best shampoos for scalp psoriasis, based on their effectiveness and ingredients.
MG217 Medicated Conditioning Coal Tar Formula Shampoo Review
The active ingredient of coal tar in the MG217 Shampoo helps to reduce the negative symptoms of psoriasis, including:
- Build-up of skin
Coal tar is a psoriasis shampoo that works by slowing down the growth and production of skin cells. This allows your body more time to shed skin cells naturally, preventing a build-up and reducing the appearance of patches on the scalp. It helps to reduce inflammation and itching, as well.
This particular shampoo contains 3% coal tar. It can also be used as a conditioner to leave hair feeling soft and healthy. Unlike many other coal tar shampoos, this particular brand doesn’t have such an offensive odor. Typically, that can be one of the major drawbacks to coal tar shampoos. They are known for potential staining, and a strong odor. Instead, this medicated shampoo will leave your hair and scalp with a pleasant herbal fragrance.
Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo – Original Formula Review
The good news is Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo is recommended by dermatologists for many different types of scalp conditions, including psoriasis. It is meant to work after just one use, and features long-lasting results.
It’s strong enough to prevent itching, scaling, and flaking, but gentle enough so you can use it everyday. If you’re prone to psoriasis flare-ups, finding a standard shampoo you can use all the time is important. Not only can this therapeutic shampoo help to soothe the symptoms of psoriasis, but it can keep it from coming back as severely with consistent use.
This Neutrogena shampoo also contains a small amount of coal tar (0.5%). Other ingredients include citric acid, sodium chloride, sodium laureth sulfate, and DMDM hydantoin. Combined, they make this particular shampoo very unique. It is a mashup of coal tar shampoo and medicated shampoo.
With so many active and effective ingredients, this treatment is designed to keep working for a long time even after you rinse it away. As the number one brand dermatologists recommend, it’s worth it to try Neutrogena’s T/Gel Shampoo for any scalp condition. It’s also a shampoo you can use consistently for maintenance. With regular use, you’ll have a better defense against the triggers that cause psoriasis flare-ups.
Home Health Psoriasis Scalp & Body Wash Review
For an effective shampoo that doesn’t contain coal tar, one of the best is Home Health Psoriasis Scalp & Body Wash. This medicated shampoo helps to soothe the effects of:
It is paraben-free and contains no artificial preservatives, making it gentle enough to use consistently on your scalp. The active ingredient is salicylic acid (2%). Salicylic acid is great for softening the scaly patches caused by psoriasis. When they become soft, they are easier to wash away. With additional ingredients like honey extract and aloe vera, it starts to soothe the discomfort of skin conditions almost immediately.
Home Health is a company that started 65 years ago, and continues their commitment toward naturally-based bath and body products. Because psoriasis can appear almost anywhere on the body, this shampoo plays double duty. You can use it on your scalp, or anywhere else on your skin where a flare-up might occur. If you’re looking for a natural way to treat your scalp psoriasis, this is a great solution.
How Do I Get the Best Results with Psoriasis Shampoos?
Whether you use a medicated or coal tar shampoo, the ingredients should be powerful enough to soothe symptoms and treat your skin right away. However, there are a few things to keep in mind to get the best/quickest results possible.
- Massage the hair product into your scalp as you would with any other shampoo. For better results, you may want to leave it on for 5-10 minutes (unless the bottle specifically says otherwise) before rinsing. If you have severe scaling, it may take a bit of extra time for the shampoo to fully penetrate the skin.
- If the scaly patches on your scalp have become extremely thick and have spread, you may need to treat them more often. The shampoos listed here, and some others, often claim to work with one use. While using them once should provide relief, it likely won’t make the patching disappear right away. In many cases, you may need to use the product daily for several weeks. However, keep an eye on the overall health of your scalp as you do this. Shampooing your hair everyday can dry out the scalp, and cause more problems. If you notice more dryness and itching start to occur, cut back to using the product two or three times a week.
- Psoriasis shampoo is actually designed for your scalp, not your hair. We usually aren’t used to thinking that way about hair care products. If you want to follow up your use of a psoriasis shampoo with a cosmetic conditioner, feel free. Just make sure the hair care products you regularly use don’t contribute to any skin irritation.
Should I Use an Additional Treatment?
If you’ve tried the best psoriasis shampoo and haven’t seen the results you want, you may consider additional treatment. Typically, shampoo alone is enough to manage symptoms. In severe cases, however, it may not be. Before seeking out any other treatment options, talk to your doctor or dermatologist.
It’s also possible that your body may become resistant to certain shampoos over time. They may start out working well for you, and their effectiveness could wear off after repeated use.
Again, there is no actual cure for psoriasis. Treatment is the key to making sure the symptoms don’t become too bothersome. If shampoo alone isn’t working, your doctor may suggest different treatment options, such as:
- Topical medications
- Steroid medications
- Ultraviolet light treatment
Whether you’re using a medicated shampoo or a topical medication prescribed by your doctors, everything will work better if you can soften and remove the scaly patches as much as possible. If the patches are softened, the medication can penetrate the skin more. To soften the scales, take the following steps:
- Look for over-the-counter products that will moisturize the scalp. Ingredients like salicylic acid, urea, and lactic acid work well for softening scaly patches. Search for products that contain them as an active ingredient.
- Once you have applied a topical solution, gently try loosening the scales. You can do this with a fine-toothed comb.
- Apply your psoriasis shampoo or topical medication directly to the scalp, and use as directed. When the scales are softened, they can wash away easier.
You can also take some preventative steps to limit triggers of your skin condition. While it’s never 100% preventable, some people find it helps to note the following in their personal lifestyles:
- Reduce stress as much as possible
- Avoid injury to the skin
- Ask about possible side effects before starting any medication
How to Get Rid of Itchiness & Irritation
One of the biggest complaints with psoriasis (and a factor that can cause bleeding and potential infection) is itching. While the most important thing is to control the scaly patches, getting rid of the uncomfortable symptoms can make the condition feel less intimidating. If itching has become a problem, your shampoo or medication should soothe it.
However, if you still feel the need to scratch, there are tips you should keep in mind.
- Use a moisturizing conditioner after you shampoo your hair. You may even be able to find a medicated conditioner. But, cosmetic conditioning after using a medicated shampoo is just fine to use. It will keep your scalp from becoming too dry and adding more itch.
- Be aware of the amount of heat you’re using on your scalp. Hair styling tools are not only damaging to the hair. They can affect your scalp, too, and cause dryness. Excessive hot showers can have the same effect. If you’re using a medicated shampoo everyday, try lowering the temperature of your shower.
- For instant relief, cool down any red patches on the scalp. You can apply ice packs or cold, wet cloth directly to your skin. Cold water directly on the scalp can also help. This isn’t a long-term relief solution. But, it can provide some soothing comfort for several minutes.
- Look for psoriasis shampoos that contain menthol. It will provide a cooling sensation that should last after each use.
If you continue to scratch, your psoriasis may become infected. If it does, your doctor will likely prescribe an antibiotic treatment to be applied topically, or taken orally.
Which Psoriasis Shampoo Should I Use?
Any of the shampoos listed in this article can help with the negative symptoms of psoriasis. However, the Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo is recommended by dermatologists. It contains both coal tar, and therapeutic properties to soothe symptoms and help get rid of scaly patches. It’s our top pick for the best psoriasis shampoo.
If you start using a medicated or coal tar product, and you find it’s not working, talk to your doctor. They may be able to prescribe a stronger formula. Or, you may have to look for additional treatments.
Keep in mind that there is no way to cure psoriasis of the scalp. Between medications and self-care, though, most people can manage it without disrupting their life too much. If you use a specialized shampoo or other hair product to treat your skin condition, you’re on the right track. Not only are they great for getting rid of symptoms, but they can help to maintain a healthy scalp so flare-ups are less frequent.