By Dr. Peter Klapper Ph.D.
More than 60% of people with psoriasis will develop some scaling on their scalp, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF). Your scalp may be the first place you spot and develop psoriasis.
You may notice small red patches on your scalp or experience your entire scalp covered in large thick inflamed patches that may crack and bleed. Scalp psoriasis can often be mistaken for dandruff.
Know the difference
Scalp psoriasis can look a lot like dandruff. It can cause dry scalp, dandruff like flaking and white scales like dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. This difference though is scalp psoriasis causes a silver sheen and scaly patch on the scalp. Unlike dandruff though, scalp psoriasis can also affect your forehead, the back of your neck, and around your ears. It is important to get a proper diagnosis so you can treat symptoms accordingly.
Itching can make it worse! When your scalp is affected by psoriasis one of the most common symptoms it is itching. While some may experience a mild itch, others may have an intense itching feeling, but either way scratching can lead to bleeding, larger and thicker patches.
The good news is that hair loss is usually temporary. Due to forceful scratching of the scales, it can cause temporary hair loss. Though once it clears hair will typically start to regrow.
How you style your hair may make a difference. Being gentle on your scalp is important with scalp psoriasis. Blow-drying, curling irons and straighteners should be used sparingly. The heat can not only irritate your scalp and pull hair out but can cause flare up. Simple tasks like combing and brushing your hair can scratch the psoriasis causing more flare-ups and dandruff like flaking. Even a tight hairstyle can irritate the scalp and cause hair loss.
Always tell your hairstylist if you have scalp psoriasis and are sensitive to high heat, pulling, or hair treatments like coloring.
Anti-itch lotions and foams can curb the itch, but they can burn or sting when applied to an inflamed scalp. You should always test a small patch first be sure you do not have a reaction to the over-the-counter product.
There are several shampoos like Neutrogena T-Gel Therapeutic Shampoo which contain coal tar. Coal Tar helps to slow the overactive skin cell growth and relieve inflammation. Vanicream Dandruff Shampoo is another that is popular which contains zinc. Zinc has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties that help decrease cell turnover rate. Many of these over-the-counter shampoos can be found in your local grocery store. When you have scalp psoriasis you should always be gentle when shampooing since scrubbing and scratching your scalp can worsen the condition.
If psoriasis plaques on your scalp are too thick, certain treatment options may not work as well. Consider a product that contains salicylic acid. Salicylic acid works by softening the protein in your skin called keratin and will make the scales to come off faster.
When over the counter options don’t work, you may find yourself discussing prescription options with your doctor or dermatologist. Corticosteroids are commonly prescribed to reduce itch, swelling and scaling. This may be in a topical cream, or your dermatologist may inject a corticosteroid directly into the scalp. While it may be very effective it does not come without side effects if used long term. There are prescription creams such as Dovonex, Taclonex which contain vitamin-d to help strengthen the immune system.
Performed by your dermatologist, laser therapy or light therapy directs ultraviolet Blight or UVB phototherapy to reduce inflammation and scaling of plaques. An average cost per session can start at $150. Though it is not recommended if you have a risk or history of skin cancer.
Natural options should always be on your radar such as our natural Psoriasis Treatment which contains powerful organic plant extracts to strengthen the system and quickly soothe and relieve psoriasis both on the body and scalp. This powerful blend penetrates deep into the skin tissue to reduce inflammation, itch, and heal the damaged skin without the use of steroids. The key to our formula is our blend of Pennywort, Sodium Chloride, and Silica which all work to reduce inflammation and heal skin naturally.
When using our natural psoriasis treatment, it is important to remember that it is an oil. This means it’s best to use this treatment on the scalp at night or when you will be in as it will leave your scalp and hair looking oily. You can use a shower cap to help protect your clothes and pillowcase. Simply apply a few drops to the problem area and gently rub in, repeat as necessary.
National Psoriasis Foundation. Scalp Psoriasis. https://www.psoriasis.org/scalp/
American Academy of Dermatology Association https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/psoriasis/treatment/genitals/scalp-overview