Scalp psoriasis is itchy and uncomfortable. Although it’s not contagious, it’s unsightly. In addition, it can lead to hair loss from scratching and secondary infections. Therefore, it’s important to use one of the best psoriasis shampoos and treatments to get it under control.
Many over-the-counter remedies for psoriasis include either coal tar or salicylic acid. In fact, shampooing twice weekly with a psoriasis shampoo can keep the condition at bay. You might also find that laser or low-level light therapy helps manage psoriasis too.
How does salicylic acid help?
Salicylic acid is a keratolytic that speeds up the shedding of skin. It softens and removes the scales that psoriasis forms. It’s also a common treatment for acne-prone skin because it helps unclog pores. But be careful because using salicylic acid daily on your scalp may weaken your hair.
How does coal tar help?
Coal tar slows down the overly rapid growth of skin cells that psoriasis causes. It also diminishes inflammation and itching.
If you live in California, you might have seen cancer warnings on products containing coal tar. In reality, it looks like you’d need to expose yourself to regular high doses to up your risk. Shampooing a couple of times a week shouldn’t be a problem according to the FDA.
What else helps reduce psoriasis on the scalp?
Don’t forget the conditioner after you shampoo. Use skin and hair care products without artificial fragrances.
The best psoriasis shampoos
Here’s a selection of the best shampoos to manage psoriasis and reduce itching and scaliness.
Neutrogena TGel Therapeutic Shampoo Original Formula
One of the go-to products for people with psoriasis is T-Gel shampoo from Neutrogena. It contains coal tar extract that stops flaky dandruff and soothes the itch after only one wash. Of course, you’ll need to continue using it once or twice a week to keep symptoms under control. But you can alternate with the next product below.
Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo
Neutrogena’s T-Sal shampoo removes excess flakes and keeps the scalp clear. It contains 3% salicylic acid that removes scales, thereby lessening itchiness. Plus, the formula is free from preservatives, fragrances, and dyes.
Sebex Medicated Dandruff Shampoo Generic for Sebulex
Sebex ups the ante with both 2% salicylic acid plus 2% sulfur. Sulfur also helps shed excess dead skin, and it fights bacteria, too. Together these two ingredients reduce flaking and itching.
DHS SAL Shampoo
The SAL (salicylic acid)shampoo from DHS gets rid of crusty buildup and lessens flakiness throughout the day after you shower. It’s often recommended by doctors as an effective solution for psoriasis and other skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis.
MG217 Psoriasis Medicated Conditioning 3% Coal Tar Formula Shampoo
For those in a hurry, try the the MG217 medicated conditioning shampoo. It contains 3% coal tar to eliminate scalp buildup and stop irritation. It’s a smart choice for severe psoriasis, plus it has a pleasant fragrance.
DHS Tar Gel Shampoo Scented
The DHS Tar Gel shampoo is lightly scented to cover up the unpleasant chemical odor of the coal tar. Users comment that it leaves their hair soft and not overly dry after washing. For best results, allow the shampoo to work for five minutes.
P & S Shampoo
The P&S shampoo looks deceptively simple and generic. But it appears to be recommended by the Mayo Clinic among other top names in medicine. That’s because the 2% salicylic acid and lactic acid formula loosens and removes scales and flakes while it makes hair soft and manageable.
Denorex Extra Strength Dandruff Shampoo and Conditioner
Denorex’s Extra Strength shampoo and conditioner combo has 3% salicylic acid for extra power against flaking and scales. But it also contains Vitamin B5 to strengthen hair against the side effects of salicylic acid. And it leaves hair shiny and smooth.
Medicasp Coal Tar Gel Dandruff Shampoo
Medicasp offers a gentle 0.5% coal tar solution for less severe cases of dandruff and psoriasis. It makes a positive difference the first time it’s used. And since it has a fragrance, it doesn’t smell as strongly medicinal as some coal tar shampoos.
Coal Tar Psoriasis Shampoo Psoriatrax 25% Coal Tar Solution
If you want the maximum coal tar shampoo on the market, try this one from Psoriatrax. It’s best for severe cases as it contains a 25% solution of coal tar (for a total of 5% pure coal tar). But it only needs one or two minutes to do the job. Also, take note that it contains sulfates and could be drying to hair if used more than twice a week.
ArtNaturals Scalp 18 Dandruff Shampoo
Besides coal tar, the Scalp 18 shampoo has beneficial natural extracts. It stops the itch and flaking, but it also restores shine, repairs split ends and hydrates hair. It does this work with jojoba and argan oils, aloe, and tea tree, peppermint, and rosemary essential oils.
ORIBE Serene Scalp Anti-dandruff Shampoo
ORIBE is a solid choice if you have mild psoriasis and obsess over your hair. With its 3% concentration of salicylic acid plus ingredients that encourage healthy hair, it’s a popular product. Additionally, it has a delicious signature ORIBE scent.
Dove Dermacare Scalp Shampoo, Dryness Itch Relief
Dove’s Dermacare shampoo is mild but useful in the fight against itching and flaking. It contains pyrithione zinc that resolves dryness and dandruff. Moreover, the shea butter and coconut scent is quite appealing.
Puriya Sulfate-Free Anti-Dandruff Shampoo with Tea Tree Oil
Puriya’s shampoo with tea tree oil lacks many of the most common irritants like parabens, sulfates, salt, and synthetic perfumes. Instead, it has anti-inflammatory ingredients like tea tree, arnica, rosemary, and sage in a pH-balanced base. It lathers nicely and leaves hair soft. Plus, Puriya offers a 180-day money-back guarantee.
DHS Zinc Shampoo
The 2% pyrithione zinc shampoo from DHS soothes red, irritated skin and reduces itchiness and flaking. Fans of this formula say it leaves their hair soft and shiny.
Selsun Blue Sensitive Scalp Shampoo
Selsun Blue’s Sensitive Scalp Shampoo relies on pyrithione zinc and menthol lactate to make your scalp stop itching. It reduces flaking and strengthens the hair with aloe and Vitamins B5 and E. Moreover, it has a clean fragrance.
Scalp treatments for psoriasis
Besides shampoos, you can also apply coal tar and other over-the-counter treatments for psoriasis directly to your scalp.
MG217 Psoriasis 3% Coal Tar Therapeutic Scalp Treatment
MG217 offers a 3% coal tar therapy that you massage into your scalp, let sit for several minutes, then rinse. It controls and reduces symptoms like flaking, scaling, inflammation, and itching. And it’s powerful enough that the National Psoriasis Foundation recognizes it.
Maple Holistics Tea Tree Oil Conditioner + Color Safe Dandruff & Dry + Damaged Hair Treatment
Maple Holistics sells this tea tree oil treatment for dry scalp that works as a companion to your dandruff shampoo. It relies on natural conditioners like keratin, amino acids, and panthenol to smooth and repair damaged hair. Furthermore, it has rosemary, lavender, and tea tree oil to resolve inflammation. And it provides a cool tingle to soothe the scalp.
Scalpicin Scalp Itch Relief
Scalpicin makes use of 1% hydrocortisone to relieve itching from psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis. It has no fragrance, and it isn’t greasy. Apply it as soon as the first itching and redness appears, then continue treatment until the problem is gone or up to seven days.
Dermasolve Psoriasis Scalp Oil
Dermasolve psoriasis scalp oil is a combination of more than 10 natural oils to help you to reduce flaky build-up on your scalp. Dermasolve is invented to moisturize, to stop peeling, and to condition the scalp. It also helps to cool and calm the scalp. You should apply a thin layer to the affected part at night and shampoo the hair next day.
Dermasolve is mild and has no irritation, fragrance, or steroids. It is safe to use on your body and scalp like your face, elbows, etc. It is also suitable for ages six and above. This product is made in the USA.
P and S Hair Liquid
The Hair Liquid from P&S is designed to be left on your scalp overnight. The glycerin, mineral oil, and phenol loosen scales so that they can wash out in the morning. You might also want to use a shampoo like Neutrogena T-Gel plus a scalp brush to remove flakes.
How to remove scales from the scalp
Those silvery white and red scales, all that dead skin built up on your scalp, needs to disappear. It itches, it looks bad, and it stops the medicine from working as well as it could. But picking at the buildup with your fingers isn’t the wisest choice as that can cause infection. Instead, try these tips to remove scales safely.
Doctors often recommend beta and alpha hydroxy acids that are chemical exfoliators. For example, salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid. It softens the keratin in the skin so that the dead parts fall. Lactic and glycolic acid behave in the same way, but they are less harsh on hair and skin.
Next, there’s urea which moisturizes and thins the skin. Plus, it also acts as a mild anesthetic that reduces itching.
Of course, there’s coal tar that stops inflammation and exfoliates dead skin. But it can also make you more prone to sunburn, it stinks, and it can stain towels and clothes.
For psoriasis on your body, you can soak in the bath with Epsom salt. If the crusts are on your hairline, try the same treatment.
Finally, many people with psoriasis find that oiling their scalp and sleeping with a shower cap makes it possible to remove scales in the morning. While there are commercial products for this purpose, you can use natural olive and coconut oils, too.
Once you’ve softened the scales with moisture, oil, or a scalp treatment, it’s time to carefully release them from your head. Try a scalp brush or lay a comb flat and lift up the dead skin with it. Then wash with your favorite shampoo and conditioner.
Keep in mind that it might take a couple of days to remove all the scales. As tempting as it is to rush the process, it’s not worth it because of the bleeding and the fact that you could end up with open sores.
Avoid a flare-up of psoriasis
It’s no secret that too much prolonged or sudden severe stress can trigger a psoriasis flare-up. But other things can cause your skin to react in undesired ways.
To begin, any skin injury can lead to psoriasis returning. This includes sunburn, bug bites, and even getting a tattoo. Therefore, use sunscreen and bug spray and try not to pick scabs or scratch bites.
Unfortunately, medicines can also cause a flare-up. If this happens, contact your doctor right away.
Next, illness can affect psoriasis. Oddly, strep throat is a frequent offender. So are bronchitis and ear infections.
But the weather also has an impact. Cold temperatures and low humidity can make your skin unhappy. However, so can high temperatures and too much perspiration. Be sure to wear appropriate clothing to protect yourself. You might also enjoy a cool mist humidifier.
But what about food? The only clear link so far is that people who drink a lot of alcohol don’t respond to psoriasis treatments as well as non-drinkers. Also, some medications for psoriasis interact adversely with alcohol.
Quick home remedies for psoriasis
There are a few things you can do at home to soothe the itching and reduce the flaking and scaling. These are inexpensive solutions that can help you get by until you have more psoriasis shampoo or topical treatment.
First, try a lukewarm bath with oatmeal, olive oil, Epsom salt, or Dead Sea salt. Soak for fifteen minutes, then rinse well with lukewarm water and apply lotion. Some people enjoy thick creams (as long as they aren’t prone to acne breakouts) to lessen redness and itch.
Apple cider vinegar might alleviate the urge to scratch. Just be sure to rinse well after you let it sit for a few minutes. And avoid putting it on broken skin.
Finally, aloe vera gel is an all-purpose treatment for itchy skin and inflammation. You might have a bottle of it for treating sunburn, or you can crack open the leaf of the plant itself.
Although you might be frustrated with the flaking, scaling, and itching from psoriasis, there is hope. Try one of the top shampoos and treatments for psoriasis and find relief. Many of these products produce positive results after only one use.
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