About half of the 8 million Americans (and 125 million people worldwide) affected with psoriasis have the condition on their scalp, aptly called scalp psoriasis. Scalp psoriasis formation has no relation to our hair types or textures, so pretty much anyone can develop the condition. Mild cases are characterized by fine, powdery flakes. Moderate cases involve scales, while more severe cases include plaques, which are raised, scaly patches of skin.
On lighter skin, these plaques appear red and silver; on darker skin, plaques appear purple, grey, or dark brown. The condition can cause itchiness, inflammation, and discomfort, and the temptation to scratch might lead to infection or hair loss.
Managing scalp psoriasis involves some trial and error, as you find the over-the-counter shampoo or topical that works for you, without causing further irritation. A board-certified dermatologist can also prescribe medicated formulas, oral treatments, or administer a laser if you're not seeing an improvement from home remedies, if you need to take this route.
Ahead, we offer 10 solutions for managing scalp psoriasis with home remedies, so you can get relief fast.
What Is Scalp Psoriasis?
Scalp psoriasis is a type of psoriasis that affects the scalp and appears as flaking plaques. It can also spread to your forehead, the back of your neck, or behind and inside your ears. Some people can experience itching, burning, soreness, or discomfort.
1. Treat Scalp With Witch Hazel
One of the most effective over-the-counter herbal treatments is witch hazel. To use, massage it directly onto scalp after washing. Continue to massage the area until the witch hazel is fully absorbed. From there, you can rinse you scalp and style your hair as you normally would.
Please note that home remedies and non-medicated treatments are best used on mild cases of scalp psoriasis to help ease discomfort and are not considered "proven cures."
2. Apply Aloe Vera to Scalp
The soothing properties of aloe vera can have some healing properties for people with mild to moderate scalp psoriasis. Aloe vera creams that contain 0.5 percent aloe can help reduce itching, inflammation, flaking, and redness on the scalp. Aloe should be applied up to three times per day to keep skin moist. It may take up to a month to start feeling and seeing positive effects.
3. Try an Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
A home remedy to combat itchiness involves applying an apple cider vinegar rinse. Apple cider vinegar may help reduce itchiness associated with scalp psoriasis. Dilute the apple cider vinegar with water, apply to the scalp, and rinse the skin thoroughly to prevent irritation. You'll be able to see results in several weeks. Use up to a few times per week. Please take the aforementioned precautions when using this home remedy, and also note that people experiencing cracked or bleeding skin should not use apple cider vinegar at all.
4. Mix Tea Tree Oil Into Your Shampoo
Tea tree oil, due to its antioxidant properties, can be soothing to scalp psoriasis. You can try mixing psoriasis-friendly ingredients, such as apple cider vinegar or tea tree oil with your usual shampoo. This can serve as a gentle, homemade psoriasis remedy. However, this is usually only an effective measure in very mild presentations of scalp psoriasis.
5. Massage Coconut Oil into Scalp
A coconut oil hair treatment might be one of the more indulgent ways of managing scalp psoriasis; plus, the healthy fats are known to boost skin health. Massage a few drops onto your scalp and put on a shower cap. Once the oil is on your scalp, set your timer for 20 minutes. After your time is up you may remove the cap and wash your hair as usual.
6. Soak Up Some Sun
Often for severe scalp psoriasis, phototherapy is another remedy to give a go. Basically, there are light therapy tools used to shine artificial UVB light on your scalp and those rays help slow the growth of skin cells.
To get a low dose of phototherapy, go sit in the sun (but only after talking to your dermatologist first about how to do so safely)! Natural sunlight also contains UVB rays and may help treat psoriasis.
Whenever you’re out in the sun, be sure to wear sunscreen since prolonged sun exposure isn’t great for the rest of your skin — also, sunburn can be especially dangerous for people with psoriasis so sunscreen is your absolute best friend.
If you’re on a medication for psoriasis, you may be more prone to sunburn. And to be clear, sunlight isn’t as effective as artificial phototherapy, so ask your healthcare provider before you give sunbathing a try.
7. Avoid Scratching
Scalp treatments are important for people with scalp psoriasis to help eliminate some of the dead skin. For an at-home scalp treatment, try the Scalp Detox in conjunction with the Scalp Renew from Act + Acre, a brand that helps restore the microbiome of the scalp.
Do note that any attempt to manually remove plaques is not recommended. We highly caution against picking off the scales, since it could actually trigger increased scaling and flaking. People with psoriasis can experience the koebner phenomenon, which describes a new plaque of psoriasis that can develop anytime the skin is injured or traumatized in some way. As much as possible, avoid scratching the scalp as not only can it make psoriasis worse, it can also lead to bleeding and possible hair loss.
8. Limit Your Use of Styling Tools
Be gentle when styling your hair, in order to avoid irritating the scalp. It’s best to avoid tight hair styles, as pulling too tight on the scalp can lead to irritation. Additionally, curling irons, rollers, coloring, perming or relaxing your hair should be limited–especially if there is an active flare–as these can be irritating on the scalp.
If you're concerned about concealing plaques, try a low pony with added texture to hide irritation at the nape of your neck. You can add volume to down-dos by gently teasing strands at the root to conceal any scaliness behind the ears. If the hairline is typically your trouble zone, full or side-swept bangs can help hide redness.
9. Maintain at Home With The Right Products
While home remedies are an additional step that could be a terrific way to help relieve scalp psoriasis, the main steps to take always start with what you’re putting on your head. It begins with washing your hair, which if you use drugstore shampoos and conditioners, that right there could be the reason behind an agitated scalp. Preservatives, those yummy smelling fragrances, and the cheap chemicals like parabens and SLS added to hair products can all worsen psoriasis.
Instead of buying big brands, consider the natural approach with every hair wash! Wild Naturals has a psoriasis-formulated shampoo and conditioner tailored to relieve the scales, itch, and dryness associated with it. Swap out your hair products with natural hair care and see the difference with regular use that’s much easier to add into your regimen.
10. Consult a Dermatologist
If you don't see improvement with over-the-counter remedies, it's time to see a board-certified dermatologist. Dermatologists can prescribe prescription shampoos, topical steroids, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories in the form of solutions, foams, gels, sprays, or oils. Another course of treatment includes intralesional steroid injections into the plaques themselves, oral medications such as Otezla, or biologics.
Another option might be a type of laser treatment known as the excimer laser which delivers ultraviolet light at 308 nm to the psoriatic plaques on the scalp. It’s a good idea to keep an open dialogue with your dermatologist about lifestyle and treatment, as consistency is key for effectiveness.