The Right Shampoo for Scalp Psoriasis

The Right Shampoo for Scalp Psoriasis

The Right Shampoo for Scalp Psoriasis

Choosing the right shampoo is key to solving your scalp psoriasis problem.

By Mike Marenick

If you have psoriasis on your body there is a very good chance you also have scalp psoriasis. In fact, over 50% of the people with psoriasis on their body also have scalp psoriasis. If you suffer with this condition it can not only be embarrassing but can also be physically irritating. Scalp psoriasis can cause intense itching and irritation and if left untreated some bleeding can occur. To treat your condition you need to choose the right psoriasis shampoo.

What is Scalp Psoriasis?

Untreated Scalp Psoriasis

Untreated scalp psoriasis on the back of the neck

Scalp psoriasis is an auto-immune disease where your own bodies immune system is tricked into attacking healthy skin cells. If you think about it, what happens with psoriasis is quite easy to understand. If you were to cut yourself your body would naturally try to regenerate healthy skin cells to heal the wound. With psoriasis your body thinks it is injured and tries to heal itself by generating healthy skin cells. But because there is no injury the body ends up over producing skin cells that can not naturally be used by the skin. The result is that the cells build up and cause scaling and a plaque like looking condition on your skin. With scalp psoriasis this can also cause a severe dandruff and flaking problem. The symptoms can occur around the edges of the scalp, behind the ears or throughout the entire head.

What are the Types of Psoriasis Shampoo?

For the basis of this article we will be discussing over-the-counter drug shampoos that can be found at your local pharmacy. There may be some prescriptive psoriasis shampoos available be these will likely contain drugs that also could have severe side effects.

The two most common types of over-the-counter psoriasis shampoos are:

  • Salicylic Acid Shampoo – In these shampoos the active ingredient salicylic acid will be the first item you see in the drug facts box on the back of packaging. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy Acid (BHA) that is known for its ability to penetrate into the skin and loosen skin cells so they can more quickly be removed. This helps to speed up the bodies natural exfoliation process so scaling is removed.
  • Coal Tar Shampoo – In these shampoos the active ingredient is Coal Tar. This dark thick liquid is a by product of coal and has a very strong odor. The odor will often have to be masked by some sort of fragrance to prevent your hair from smelling bad after using it.
  • There are some other less popular active ingredients that can be found in psoriasis shampoos such as  Zinc pyrithione, ketoconazole and Blue Lagoon algae.

Which Type of Shampoo is Right For You?

The easy answer to this question is the right shampoo is the one that works for you. Unfortunately it is not quite that simple. The FDA has provided manufacturers with specific guidelines about percentages of active ingredients that can be used in shampoos that are labeled for the treatment of psoriasis. This means that there could be shampoos available that have more or less of an active ingredient making them weaker or stronger. The range is provided so people who have sensitive skin can use a lower percentage of active ingredient and people with normal skin can use a higher percentage psoriasis shampoo.

Unfortunately the only way to figure out what psoriasis shampoo is right for you is by trial and error. You should start with a salicylic acid shampoo first.  Be sure to follow the directions on the bottle for the best results. Remember that a psoriasis shampoo is not like other shampoos where you can just shampoo in and wash it out quickly. For the medications in these shampoos to be effective you need to leave them on your scalp for a minimum of 3-5 minutes so they have time to work.  You should give these shampoos a good two to three weeks to work before giving up and trying something else. You need to remember that skin cells take 14-21 days to naturally grow and move to the top layer of your skin. It will take some time to see the results of a psoriasis shampoo.

If after three weeks you are not seeing any improvement then you should move on to try either a stronger salicylic acid shampoo or a coal tar shampoo. Eventually you will find a product that works well for you.

Sometimes You Will Need Other Products

Depending on the severity of your condition you may need some other products to get your condition under control. If you have a thick scaly buildup on your scalp then you may want to consider using a scalp oil to help loosen the scales so they can be removed more easily. In addition, using a cream that you can leave on your scalp after you shampoo will provide medication for a much longer time. It is very common for someone with scalp psoriasis to need additional products to get their condition under control.  Typically these products are only needed in the beginning and then the shampoo will be enough to control the condition. If you select a quality shampoo it will likely also contain a conditioning agent. This will allow you to use the psoriasis shampoo without having to use other shampoos afterwards that could possibly irritate your condition.

Treating your scalp psoriasis may sound difficult. However, by reading and educating yourself about the options available and how they work is the first step in regaining a healthy looking scalp. Don’t let all the options scare you. Pick a quality salicylic acid psoriasis shampoo and give it a try. Sometimes the first pick is the right one.

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