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 can live with the condition relatively comfortably.
One way to soothe psoriasis of the scalp is 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.
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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 shed old, dead cells continuously.
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:
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.
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:
Unfortunately, these symptoms often come with discomfort. The patches that form will show up all over the scalp, or they can merge 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, but it can lead to potential infection.
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:
The strength and formula needed are dependent on your case. If you’re not sure where to get started, 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.
The active ingredient of coal tar in the MG217 Shampoo helps to reduce the negative symptoms of psoriasis, including:
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.
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 every day. 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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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 lifestyles:
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.
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.
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.