Shampoos for scalp psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin disease that occurs when your immune system sends flawed signals to your skin cells, telling them to mature and reproduce too quickly. But if you’re living with scalp psoriasis, then you already know this. You’ve probably tried your fair share of different treatments and shampoos for your scalp. If you’re still willing to experiment or aren’t happy with your current choice of shampoo, this guide is for you!

Finding the right shampoo can alleviate those more intense symptoms and make it easier to enjoy the day or sleep. In this guide, we look at the best psoriasis shampoos and their key attributes. Hopefully after reading this, you’ll know exactly what type of shampoo will work best for your scalp psoriasis.


Tar-Based Shampoos

Coal tar is one of the oldest and most commonly used treatments for psoriasis. Tar works by:

  • Slowing the growth of skin cells, preventing some of the excess buildup
  • Killing off the bacteria that causes scalp psoriasis
  • Soothing irritation
  • Softening scales and crusting
  • Helping restore your skin’s health

Coal tar shampoos vary in concentration and (as one would expect) a higher concentration means stronger effects. The FDA only allows up to 5% tar to be sold over the counter, since extremely high concentrations may be carcinogenic. Don’t worry, levels of tar that may cause cancer are the types to be found in industrial paving! You won’t be at risk from a shampoo. Nevertheless, the link warrants certain restrictions on what you can get without a prescription.

Speaking of risks, there are a couple things you should know about coal tar shampoo:

  • It may be smelly and cause irritation rather than helping. Like most topical medications, you should test it on a small patch of skin before using it.
  • It makes you sensitive to the sun for at least 24 hours after use, sometimes longer. Plan accordingly and pay special attention to sun exposure. On the day following a hair wash, hats and sunscreen are an even better idea than usual!
  • If you get coal tar shampoo in your eyes, rinse them with water for at least five minutes. If you swallow any, contact a poison control center immediately.
  • Talk to your doctor before trying coal tar shampoo if you are:
    • Pregnant, nursing, or may become pregnant
    • You are already taking other psoriasis medications (including over-the-counter treatments!)
    • You have sores or cuts on your scalp

Now that we’ve gotten all of the warnings out of the way, let’s get to the tips! If you and your doctor think coal tar shampoo is a good choice for you, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Coal tar shampoo works best if you leave it in for a full ten minutes after lathering. You can even rinse and repeat if necessary.
  • Don’t use conditioner afterwards. If your hair is prone to dryness, try to find a coal tar shampoo with added coconut oil or other oils.
  • Read the instructions on the bottle regarding how often to use the coal tar shampoo. You can use normal shampoo on off days if you like.
  • If your doctor says it’s right for you, you can use a moderate-strength topical steroid solution overnight after using your coal tar shampoo. This is often an effective combination.

Some common examples of coal tar shampoo include:

  • Pentrax
  • Sebutone
  • T-Gel
  • Zetar

Salicylic Acid Shampoos

Does salicylic acid already sound familiar to you? If so, there’s a good chance you or one of your loved ones struggles with acne.

Salicylic acid is actually used to treat a variety of skin conditions, including several types of psoriasis! The acid causes the skin to shed its cells, which may cause extra flaking in the short term. However, a salicylic acid shampoo can have excellent long-term effects on your scalp psoriasis symptoms.

As with tar-based shampoos, there are a couple situations in which you should avoid using salicylic acid. In fact, some of them are the exact same. Talk to your doctor if any of the following apply to you:

  • Currently pregnant, nursing, or may become pregnant
  • Taking any other medications for your psoriasis (including over-the-counter treatments!)
  • Have a cut or open sore on your scalp
  • You have any of the following issues:
    • Kidney or liver problems
    • Diabetes
    • Skin irritation or infection
    • Poor circulation
    • A history of Reye syndrome
  • You are under 18
  • If you are on:
    • Ammonium sulfate
    • Heparin/warfarin
    • Steroids
    • Methotrexate
    • Aspirin
    • Sulfonylureas

Salicylic acid shampoo also comes in both prescription and nonprescription varieties. If you and your doctor think an over-the-counter salicylic acid shampoo is right for you, here are some instructions:

  1. Apply shampoo to a DRY scalp
  2. Let it sit for 5 minutes (you can gradually increase this time if needed)
  3. Rise your hair thoroughly
  4. Wash your hair as usual, with a normal shampoo and conditioner

How often you use the medicated shampoo will depend on the concentration of the salicylic acid. Remember to read the instructions carefully and consult with your doctor if needed.

If you only have mild psoriasis and salicylic acid shampoo is too harsh, you can either find a brand with a lower concentration or try a shampoo with:

  • Lactic acid
  • Phenol
  • Urea

If your nonprescription option seems like it’s not making enough of a difference, you may want to ask your doctor or healthcare provider if a prescription option is better for you. There are a few differences when it comes to prescription salicylic acid shampoos:

  • Apply to a WET scalp with the provided applicator
  • Massage in and rinse thoroughly, without waiting 5 minutes
  • Repeat daily unless instructed otherwise
  • Don’t use a traditional shampoo and conditioner afterward

Keratolytic Shampoos

Keratolytic shampoos are somewhat like salicylic acid shampoos, since they also work by forcing the excess cells to shed. However, keratolytic shampoos are a more intense treatment option and typically only used for severe cases of psoriasis. Keratolytics are typically only used on the scalp, since it’s one of the thickest layers of skin on the body and sometimes requires extra heavy lifting. Ask your doctor or healthcare provider if a keratolytic shampoo could be right for you.

Alternative Treatments

There are a variety of other ways to alleviate psoriasis symptoms. Though there is no link between non medicated shampoos and a cure for psoriasis, certain alternative options may help remove scales and moisturize the skin. These include:

  • Aloe vera
  • Capsaicin
  • Coconut oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Zinc pyrithione

Some psoriasis patients use phototherapy, a light therapy that exposes them to controlled amounts of UV light. Others make sure that whatever treatment shampoo they use contains eggs, which have over 70 naturally-occurring vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Orally taking fish oil has also been known to help.

Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s risk-free. Please be sure to run any changes or treatment ideas by your dermatologist or other health care provider before trying them.

Of course, a healthy lifestyle is something that will help with any medical condition, including psoriasis. Eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep, and managing stress are always good ideas.


Psoriasis can be both physically and emotionally painful, but finding the right shampoo can work wonders for your scalp. From coal tar shampoo to salicylic acid shampoo to even the strongest keratolytic shampoo, you can find the right shampoo for your scalp psoriasis. Just don’t forget to let your doctor know about any changes you make!

We’d also like you to know that if you live in Central Florida, you may qualify for a psoriasis clinical trial at our clinic in DeLand. If you’d like to learn more


Salicylic acid or Coal Tar in a Gel, Lotion, Cream or Ointment?

Posted on July 30th, 2013 7/30/13

There are so many different kinds of psoriasis products, coal tar and salicylic acid are the two main over the counter topical solutions. What makes them work so well? Which one works better for what you need? Here’s some helpful direction.

Salicylic Acid promotes sloughing of dead skin cells and reduces scaling. Sometimes it’s combined with other medications, such as topical corticosteroids or coal tar, to increase its effectiveness. It may sound familiar to people how have dealt with acne medications. Salicylic acid will cause more flaking in the short term, but it has a long-term positive effect on symptoms.

Coal tar a thick, black byproduct of the manufacture of petroleum products and coal, coal tar is probably the oldest treatment for psoriasis. It reduces scaling, itching and inflammation. The tar slows the growth of the skin cells and soothes the irritation and scaling. Higher concentrations of tar in a shampoo mean the product is more potent. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows shampoos with up to 5 percent tar to be sold over the counter. Coal tar is a tar so it can be messy, staining and have an odor.

Excerpts taken from: article 1 or article 2

There are many ways to apply coal tar or salicylic acids. There are creams, shampoos, lotions, ointments and gels. Which one to use, right? That depends on what it needs to do. Each one moisturizes and a plain moisturizer by itself can lessen psoriasis. It can combat and reduce the symptoms like itching, redness and scaling but without a coal tar or salicylic acid included it can only get so far.

Ointments are 80% oil and 20% water. They are ‘occlusive,’ which means they trap moisture and heat in very well. Ointments promote medication absorption over all other formulations. If an ingredient is in an ointment, it is always more potent than the exact same ingredient packaged in a cream or lotion.

Lotions are thinner than creams, and are often packaged in a pump. They absorb very quickly and feel very light on the skin. They are easier to distribute on hairy areas. Most over-the-counter body moisturizers are lotions.

Gels are emulsions that contain oil-in-water. They usually have an alcohol base. They dry into a thin, greaseless, nonstaining film. Like lotions and foams, they are ideal for spreading on hairy areas and large areas.

Creams are a semi-solid emulsion, half oil and half water. This formulation is typically the easiest to use. They spread easily, absorb quickly and wash off with water. They have a medium viscosity or heaviness, and are reasonably hydrating without feeling too heavy on your skin.

Read the complete article

For more information on Coal Tar and Salicylic Acid read more in the Your Psoriasis section or come back next week for a closer look at each solution.

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Neutrogena T/Gel

Generic Name: coal tar topical (KOL TAR TOP ik al)
Brand Name: Balnetar, Denorex Extra Strength, DHS Tar Shampoo, Elta Tar, Ionil T, MG217 Medicated Tar, Neutrogena T/Gel, Oxipor VHC, Psoriasin, Scytera, Tarsum, Tegrin Medicated, Theraplex T

Medically reviewed by on Mar 5, 2019 – Written by Cerner Multum

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What is coal tar?

Coal tar is a by-product of coal processing.

Neutrogena T/Gel (for the skin) is used to treat the skin symptoms of psoriasis, including dryness, redness, flaking, scaling, and itching. Coal tar is not a cure for psoriasis, and it will provide only temporary relief of skin symptoms.

Coal tar may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

Follow all directions on your medicine label and package. Tell each of your healthcare providers about all your medical conditions, allergies, and all medicines you use.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use Neutrogena T/Gel if you are allergic to coal tar.

Ask a doctor or pharmacist if it is safe for you to use this medicine if you have other medical conditions, especially:

  • if you are allergic to any drugs; or

  • if you are receiving ultraviolet radiation treatment for your psoriasis.

Coal tar products may contain lanolin, mineral oil, or other emulsifiers. Check the label of any coal tar product you are using. Talk with your doctor before using coal tar if you are allergic to any of the ingredients.

Ask a doctor before using this medicine if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Do not allow a young child to use this medicine without adult supervision.

How should I use coal tar?

Use exactly as directed on the label, or as prescribed by your doctor. Do not use in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.

Apply coal tar cream, lotion, ointment, or solution according to the directions on the medication label. Some forms of coal tar may be applied 1 to 4 times per day.

To use coal tar bath oil, pour 1 to 3 capfuls into a warm bath before bathing. The oil can make the bathtub slippery. Take care to avoid a fall.

Shake the coal tar shampoo well just before each use. Use enough shampoo to create a rich lather. Massage the shampoo into your scalp and rinse thoroughly. Apply the shampoo a second time and leave it on your scalp for 5 minutes. Rinse thoroughly.

Coal tar shampoo may discolor blond or colored hair. This effect is usually temporary.

Do not use coal tar to treat large skin areas. Do not use coal tar over long periods of time without your doctor’s advice.

Some forms of coal tar can stain fabric or other surfaces.

Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve, or if they get worse while using Neutrogena T/Gel.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat. Keep the medicine tightly closed when not in use.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Since Neutrogena T/Gel is used when needed, you may not be on a dosing schedule. If you are on a schedule, use the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not use extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

An overdose of Neutrogena T/Gel is not expected to be dangerous. Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222 if anyone has accidentally swallowed the medication.

What should I avoid while using coal tar?

Do not use coal tar together with other psoriasis medications unless your doctor tells you to.

Avoid getting Neutrogena T/Gel in your eyes. If this does occur, rinse with water.

Do not use coal tar to treat the skin of your groin or rectal area.

Avoid exposure to sunlight or artificial UV rays (sunlamps or tanning beds). Coal tar can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight and sunburn may result.

Coal tar side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Stop using Neutrogena T/Gel and call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe stinging, burning, swelling, or other irritation of the treated skin.

Common side effects may include mild skin irritation or skin rash.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect coal tar?

It is not likely that other drugs you take orally or inject will have an effect on topically applied coal tar. But many drugs can interact with each other. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Copyright 1996-2018 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 1.07.

Medical Disclaimer

More about Neutrogena T / Gel (coal tar topical)

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Other brands: Psoriasin, Ionil T Plus, Medotar, Denorex Therapeutic Protection, … +17 more

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Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Dandruff Treatment Shampoo, 16 fl. OZ

  • 4.4-fl. oz bottle of Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic and Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
  • Original Formula helps cleanses and provides relief from scalp itching and flaking
  • T/Gel shampoo starts to work against itching and flaking after just one just
  • Controls symptoms of dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis
  • Anti-dandruff shampoo is formulated with coal tar extract and can be used daily
  • Therapeutic shampoo is from the #1 dermatologist recommended brand
  • Scientific tests prove the active ingredient works for hours after the shampoo is rinsed off
  • This shampoo helps maintain a healthy scalp and leave hair clean and manageable

Get lasting relief from itching and flaking with Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic and Anti-Dandruff Shampoo. Safe for daily use, this original formula helps control itching and flaking caused by chronic scalp psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and even common dandruff. Scientific tests prove that coal tar extract, the active ingredient in T/Gel Shampoo Original, continues to work for hours even after the shampoo is rinsed off. This dandruff treatment starts working after just one use and you can use this therapeutic shampoo just once a week to reduce dandruff for an entire week.* From a dermatologist-recommended brand, this shampoo helps maintain a healthy scalp and leaves hair clean and manageable.
*Use as directed, for best results use twice a week.

Treat Scalp Psoriasis With the Right Shampoo

Tips for Better Results With Psoriasis Shampoos

To use psoriasis shampoo, massage the product into your scalp, leave it on for a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes unless otherwise instructed, and then rinse it out. Before using the shampoo, you may want to coat two cotton balls with petroleum jelly and place them in your ears to keep out the shampoo.

When you have active psoriasis lesions on your scalp, you may need to use psoriasis shampoo repeatedly to get the lesions under control. Often, this means using the shampoo daily for several weeks. While most psoriasis shampoos are safe to use every day, this may lead to scalp irritation over time. So once you have your lesions under control, you can help avoid irritation by cutting back on your use of the psoriasis shampoo to just twice a week.

Remember that psoriasis shampoo is designed to treat your scalp, not your hair. So you can follow a psoriasis treatment with your favorite cosmetic shampoo and conditioner for general hair care and reduce the smell that some psoriasis shampoos have. Recent advances have actually made some medicated psoriasis shampoos more cosmetically pleasing, so you may be pleasantly surprised.

Choosing a Psoriasis Shampoo at the Drugstore

Many brands of psoriasis shampoo are available over the counter at your local drugstore, or your doctor can prescribe a stronger, prescription psoriasis shampoo for you.

In some cases, you may need a shampoo with a special mixture of ingredients to be effective for your scalp psoriasis. If the right preparation isn’t available as an over-the-counter or prescription psoriasis shampoo, don’t attempt to mix different preparations, since this can be dangerous. Your doctor can write a special prescription, and a pharmacist will mix, or compound, your customized psoriasis shampoo for you.

When You Need Treatments in Addition to Psoriasis Shampoo

When your scalp psoriasis is more severe, psoriasis shampoo alone may not be enough to treat it. It’s also possible that even if the shampoo works for you initially, your psoriasis may eventually become resistant to its effects. In these cases, your doctor may recommend other treatments, such as topical scalp medications, a course of steroid medication, or ultraviolet light treatments.

Biologic drugs have proven to be effective in treating scalp psoriasis. A study of 145 patients with scalp psoriasis published in December 2016 in the Journal of European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology found the biologic drugs, uystekinumab and infliximab to be most beneficial, with adlimumab and etanercept also yielding satisfactory results.

In extreme cases, Takeshita recommends that people use oil-based topical steroids to help with softening and gentle removal of the scales. “Salicylic acid in shampoos is helpful, but in very severe cases a person needs more than topical treatments; such as, oral systemics or biologics,” Takeshita says. “Phototherapy can sometimes be helpful for severe cases as well, but usually this approach is reserved for those who have extremely short hair, or are bald, since the hair gets in the way of treatment.”

Although it can be challenging — and even frustrating at times — to deal with scalp psoriasis, you can bring it under control once you get on the right treatment plan.

Psoriasis is a chronic and auto-immune condition that can affect even the scalp. This can be frustrating and unsightly, resulting in redness and flaking. Your scalp will also always be itchy! It is worse than dandruff as it is also painful. Fortunately, there is an easy way to provide a remedy against the symptoms – the use of the best shampoo for psoriasis.

A good shampoo will not treat scalp psoriasis. Similar to the other types of psoriasis, this is a condition that cannot be cured. However, with the use of the right shampoo, the symptoms can be lesser. It can provide relief, especially when used regularly. If you are not sure which shampoo will work the best, keep on reading the rest of this post and learn from some of our suggestions.

Table of Contents

Our Top Picks for the Best Shampoo for Scalp Psoriasis

To start with, here are some of the top-rated products that you should include on your list, as well as some of the reasons why they are great.

MG217 Psoriasis Medicated Conditioning

Among others, the benefits of using this psoriasis shampoo can be attributed to the fact that the main ingredient is 3% coal tar. It also has a maximum strength formula, which can provide you with the assurance of its effectiveness. Using this shampoo will prevent the recurrence of the most common symptoms of scalp psoriasis, which include scaling, itching, flaking, and redness. It also has an herbal fragrance, which will make the hair smell fresh after every wash. To achieve the best results, it is recommended that you use this shampoo twice a week.

Neutrogena T/GEL Therapeutic Shampoo Original Formula

This is a shampoo that is formulated for the treatment of dandruff, which will also work effectively for scalp psoriasis. From the first use, the results can already start to be evident. While it has coal tar, you can expect that it will remain gentle on the scalp and hair. Users of this shampoo did not report irritation. Also, the coal tar has been scientifically proven to relieve the itchiness and flakiness even hours after it has been rinsed off. The shampoo is also recommended by dermatologists, so there should be no reason for you to be hesitant about using it.

Puriya Sulfate-Free Anti-Dandruff Shampoo with Tea Tree Oil

If itching and flaking are common problems for you, this psoriasis shampoo can help. The secret to its effectiveness is the proprietary combination of its natural ingredients that are gentle on the scalp. These ingredients include tea tree oil, rosemary, arnica, and sage. They have antifungal properties that will allow the results to be quickly evident after just a few washes. It also provides hydration to the scalp through its moisturizing effect. In turn, this will improve the circulation of the blood on the scalp.

Denorex Therapeutic Dandruff Shampoo + Conditioner

This is a two-in-one shampoo, which makes it provide the best value for the money. While it effectively gets rid of the stubborn flakes and itchiness, it also conditions the hair to make it softer. One of the reasons for the effectiveness of this product is the use of salicylic acid, which has been clinically-proved to reduce the symptoms that are associated with scalp psoriasis. It can get rid of the dead cells on the skin and prevent them from going back.

Art Naturals Scalp 18 Shampoo

Using this therapeutic shampoo will be effective in moisturizing, hydrating, and soothing the scalp and the hair. These benefits can be attributed to the use of natural ingredients, which include lemon oil, cypress oil, and argan oil. With these ingredients, irritation of the scalp will be prevented while also making the hair soft and shiny. It will remove the dead cells on the top layer of the scalp and will prevent the new ones from appearing. It is also a cruelty-free product, which is perfect if you care about the environment.

Tree to Tub Soapberry for Hair

Using this shampoo will provide you with soft hair and a scalp that is free of irritation. It has a pH level of 5.5, which is just exactly what the skin needs. It utilizes the gifts of nature as key ingredients, promising the best outcomes without the adverse effects. It has healing botanicals and essential oils, which allows the shampoo to deliver anti-fungal and anti-bacterial benefits. It does not contain parabens, sulfates, gluten, silicone, and artificial fragrances. It is also hypoallergenic, making it a great choice for people with a sensitive scalp.

PsoriaTrax Anti-Dandruff Tar Shampoo

The main ingredient of this shampoo is 25% coal tar solution, which is equivalent to 5% of coal tar in a 12-ounce bottle. With the strong formulation of the shampoo, this is one that is directed towards those who are already suffering from a severe case of scalp psoriasis. Nonetheless, the strength of the shampoo can also be a disadvantage for people with sensitive scalp as it can make them prone to irritation. Before using this shampoo, it is recommended that you first make sure that you do not have a sensitive scalp.

Dermarest Psoriasis Medicated Shampoo plus Conditioner

This is made by a company known for their other psoriasis relief products, including ointments and creams. The medicated formula is one of the good reasons to choose this above all others. The good news is that there is no need for a prescription if you want to purchase this shampoo. It has zinc and Vitamin B5, two of the main ingredients that can be credited for the ability to soothe the irritation on the scalp. It also comes with a grease-free formulation to make your hair look great!

Wild Naturals Eczema Psoriasis Shampoo

Your itchy, dry, and flaky scalp can be effectively addressed by using this shampoo, which is formulated for both psoriasis and eczema. It is 80% organic and 98% natural, providing you with the guarantee that it won’t cause irritation when it is used. Plus, it is also sulfate-free, which is why it is great even for people with a sensitive scalp. Its main ingredient is manuka honey, which can be found exclusively in New Zealand. The latter has anti-bacterial properties to heal the scalp. It is also perfectly balanced at a pH level of 5.5, making sure that it will not strip natural oils. It is effective as well in moisturizing the scalp.

Healthy Hair Plus Anti-Fungal Shampoo and Conditioner

You will enjoy the best value for money when you buy this product as it includes not just a shampoo but also a conditioner. One of its main ingredients is emu oil, which is known for dealing with inflammation and redness to be effective against scalp psoriasis. It can kill fungi and bacteria that can cause scalp irritation. It also prevents the build-up of oil on the scalp. The shampoo and conditioner also contain coconut oil, which is great for its moisturizing benefits.

What is Scalp Psoriasis?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, scalp psoriasis can cause red patches, dandruff-like flakes, dryness, bleeding, burning sensation, itchiness, and even temporary hair loss. It requires a different approach to treatment compared to psoriasis on the skin. While the scalp is basically still skin, it is thicker and hair can get in the way, which is why it is important to address it differently.

The main causes of scalp psoriasis are similar to those that cause skin psoriasis. It can be caused by genetic defects that attack the immune system. New skin cells will form quickly on the scalp while the old ones will not shed. There are also environmental factors that can trigger scalp psoriasis.

Key Ingredients to Look for in a Psoriasis Shampoo

When looking for a shampoo that can be effective in dealing with scalp psoriasis, one of the ingredients that you should look for is salicylic acid. This is a medical-grade ingredient that can reduce inflammation of the scalp. It can be too strong for some, especially for those with a sensitive scalp. However, it is highly effective in making the scales softer.

The second ingredient that you should be on the lookout for is coal tar, which is derived from coal and wood. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, coal tar is effective in slowing down the formation of new skin cells. It can also be effective in the reduction of scaling and itchiness.

Look for a shampoo that does not contain parabens, sulfates, and other harsh chemicals that could damage the skin and the scalp. Essential oils and botanicals will be great, especially those that can deliver moisturizing benefits.

To improve the effectiveness of the psoriasis shampoo that you are using, the right application will be important. Make sure to massage it thoroughly on the scalp so that the ingredients can be absorbed by the skin. You also have to leave it on for five to ten minutes. Pay attention to the label when it comes to the frequency of use. When the condition is severe, you might need to use the shampoo regularly. In most cases, using it twice a week will already be enough.

Dealing with Scalp Psoriasis

Aside from using the right shampoo, here are other tips and tricks that will prove to be effective when addressing scalp psoriasis:

  • One of the ways to treat scalp psoriasis is through exposure to ultraviolet lights with the right wavelength, which is about 313 nm. However, this can be difficult if you have thick hair. The strands of hair can block the UV rays and may not fully reach the scalp during the treatment procedure.
  • There are also medications that can be injected or taken orally, although they are recommended only in severe cases of scalp psoriasis. Some of the oral drugs that can be prescribed include methotrexate, cyclosporine, acitretin, and apremilast. Meanwhile, the drugs that can be injected include adalimumab and etanercept. Be sure to consult with a dermatologist to know which one will work best for you.
  • Taking Vitamin D supplements will also be helpful. It can calm the immune system to make the skin cells grow at a normal rate. This will make the plaques less scaly and thinner.
  • Creams can also be used for dealing with scalp psoriasis, especially those that contain steroids. However, the problem is that they are greasy. They can make the hair look oily.
  • Do not remove the flakes on the scalp by hand. It can be tempting to do this, especially when it is itchy, uncomfortable, and unsightly. However, removing the flakes can only irritate the scalp and may make the problem worse.
  • Wearing hats and scarves will also help to hide the signs of scalp psoriasis. However, regardless of the headwear that you will choose, make sure that it is not too tight as it can worsen the irritation.
  • It is also important to take note that most of the psoriasis shampoos available on the market are formulated for the scalp and not for the hair. With this, you might still need to use a regular cosmetic shampoo and conditioner to make the hair smoother.
  • Having scalp psoriasis can be stressful. It can make people lose confidence and can significantly affect their quality of life. One good way to deal with it is to be a part of support groups. This can help to provide stress relief. In one report that has been published in the British Journal of Dermatology, it has been reiterated that psychosocial stress can increase the symptoms of psoriasis, which makes stress management important.

It can be frustrating to deal with scalp psoriasis! This debilitating condition can be frustrating, especially if you have already tried several methods of treatment and none proved to be effective. That being said, your best course of action is to use a shampoo with a special formulation, including those that have been mentioned above. With just a few washes, you can bid goodbye to the recurring symptoms of scalp psoriasis.

Last Updated on Jan 14, 2020

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’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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