Medical News Today: Scalp psoriasis: Shampoos, home remedies, and causes

Scalp psoriasis is an immune system disorder that causes scaly, itchy, and often, painful scales on the scalp.

The symptoms can range from mild to severe, with the most serious ones causing baldness if left untreated.

A variety of scalp psoriasis home remedies and shampoos can reduce pain and itching, speed the healing process, and prevent hair loss.

Scalp psoriasis shampoos

tar soap
Tar soap may help to treat psoriasis of the scalp.

People with psoriasis do not necessarily need to use special shop-bought psoriasis shampoos.

It is possible to make psoriasis shampoo at home. Try mixing psoriasis-friendly ingredients, such as apple cider vinegar or tea tree oil, with your usual shampoo for a gentle homemade psoriasis remedy.

The best ingredients for treating scalp psoriasis include:

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a medication that helps the skin peel. It may also remove psoriasis scales and help the body heal psoriasis patches faster. The higher the percentage of salicylic acid a product contains, the stronger it will be. People should try starting with a relatively weak form of salicylic acid and gradually increasing the strength based on their skin’s reaction.

Other acids

Some other acids, including glycolic acid and lactic acid, can help the skin peel. Much like salicylic acid, they can irritate the skin at higher concentrations. Start slowly, and work your way up to stronger formulas.


Ketoconazole is an antifungal ingredient that can also treat dry, scaly skin. Shampoos containing ketoconazole can help remove both dandruff and psoriasis scales. Because some people with scalp psoriasis also have fungal infections, ketoconazole is an especially useful ingredient that can protect the scalp from painful yeast infections.

Tar soaps and shampoos

Tar soap can help treat psoriasis of all kinds, including scalp psoriasis. Though researchers have spent more time studying coal tar, pine tar soaps and shampoos may also work. It is also possible to wash the scalp with tar soap. The soap has a strong, distinct smell, and can be irritating to skin, however. People should start with a low concentration and work up to more potent formulas but always check with a doctor on the maximum strength to use. 

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Scalp psoriasis home remedies

turmeric root and powder on a board
Studies suggest turmeric may help to reduce the inflammation associated with psoriasis.

The right home remedy can, however, complement medical treatment, improving the appearance of psoriasis lesions.

Home remedies that may help include:

  • Turmeric: Some research on rats suggests that turmeric can reduce the inflammation associated with psoriasis.

  • Apple cider vinegar: This has long been used as a natural disinfectant to prevent infections. It may also ease the pain of psoriasis lesions.

  • Rich oils, such as avocado or coconut oil: These oils may help psoriasis plaques appear less dry and scaly.

  • Tea tree oil: This can be helpful in the treatment of minor psoriasis lesions. Tea tree oil may help the scales disappear, and can ease pain and itching.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Foods containing these acids, such as fish oil and olive oil, may fight inflammation and treat psoriasis. Apply oil directly to the plaques, or eat a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Oats or colloidal oatmeal: Oats can soothe irritated skin, and may help with very dry psoriasis skin plaques.

What is scalp psoriasis?

Scalp psoriasis
Psoriasis causes patchy, scaly skin and shampoos may help to reduce the itching.

Psoriasis is a group of autoimmune diseases that affect the skin. Autoimmune diseases cause the immune system to overreact. In the case of psoriasis, the over-activity causes skin cells to grow more quickly than normal, creating scales and lesions on the skin. The appearance of the lesions depends on the type of psoriasis.

The only type of psoriasis that affects the scalp, however, is plaque psoriasis.

The most common symptoms of scalp psoriasis include:

  • Scales on the scalp: These can be light and fine, or thick and crusty. The scales may be small or can cover the entire scalp.

  • Psoriasis plaques on other areas of the body: Scales can spread from the scalp, extending to the face or neck. They may also appear on distant parts of the body.

  • Hair changes: In more severe cases, hair loss, changes in hair texture, or patchy hair can develop.

How scalp psoriasis is different from other forms of psoriasis?

Scalp psoriasis is not distinct from other forms of psoriasis. In fact, at least half of people who have psoriasis develop psoriasis plaques on their scalp.

What causes scalp psoriasis?

For most people, something triggers the immune system to flare-up, causing psoriasis patches. Triggers vary from person to person, but some common triggers include:

Some people also notice that their psoriasis gets worse after eating certain foods, or as a result of allergies. Research has not yet conclusively proven that these factors can trigger psoriasis.

However, triggers alone do not cause psoriasis. People without a genetic risk for psoriasis will not develop psoriasis even when they are stressed, injure their skin, or get an infection.

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Scalp psoriasis outlook

While home remedies applied directly to the scalp can improve the appearance of psoriasis, they will not cure the underlying disease. The patches will keep coming back and may get worse with each flare-up.

Without treatment, psoriasis can cause serious medical problems such as heart disease. So people who experience symptoms of psoriasis on the scalp should see a doctor. Numerous treatments can slow the progress of the disease, and help people with psoriasis lead normal, healthy lives.

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