How to Choose the Right Shampoo When Suffering From Psoriasis?

Psoriasis in the scalp can be a painful experience since it causes itchiness, redness and flaking. The red and flaky patches of skin may even spread right on to your neck as well as to your forehead. It is important that you take care of psoriasis affected sensitive skin, especially if it is the scalp region as it may also affect your hair.

How to Choose the Right Shampoo When Suffering From Psoriasis?

How to Choose the Right Shampoo When Suffering From Psoriasis?

Certain shampoos may come to your rescue to help you deal with psoriasis on the scalp. Some shampoos contain special ingredients that are believed to provide relief from scalp psoriasis.

Shampoos help in different ways in controlling the severity of psoriasis. How each shampoo works and performs depends upon the ingredient it contains. These shampoos may not be great for your hair but it is definitely advisable to use them to help you in dealing with psoriasis on the scalp. So while you may continue using the cosmetically pleasing shampoos, for washing hair, the medicated shampoos can be used for treating psoriasis simultaneously but only after getting the physician’s consent as sometimes your dermatologist may not want you to use non medicated cosmetic shampoos depending upon the severity of psoriasis.

Using Medicated Shampoos

The two main and helpful ingredients that medicated shampoos contain are coal tar and salicylic acid. These two ingredients are also present in creams, lotions or ointments that one may use on other psoriasis affected parts of the body, apart from the scalp. Though effective and easily available, these shampoos should be used extremely gently and only for a limited period of time as per the instructions of your dermatologist.

Extensive and aggressive use of these shampoos may worsen the condition of the scalp by drying it up and making it all the more flaky and sensitive. Also, when overused, these shampoos tend to lose their effectiveness. In fact, doctors will also keep changing the shampoos prescribed to you so that the effect that they have is optimum.

Coal Tar Shampoos

Coal Tar is a very well-known and extensively used treatment for psoriasis. As the name suggests, this shampoo contains the by-products of coal tar. Coal is an active ingredient in this shampoo which has a strong odour and is also thick and dark. You may hence have to deal with a strong odour when you use this shampoo. Some people re-wash their hair with their normal routine shampoos after using coal tar shampoos, if they dislike the odour.

This shampoo helps in reducing the hard, flaky, red and itchy scalp skin. It may also reduce the scaling and soothe the scalp. Apply this shampoo and let it rest on the scalp for about 10 minutes and then rinse it off gently. Avoid rubbing and rinsing it harshly. Harsh application may worsen psoriasis.

The only disadvantage this shampoo has is that it makes the scalp sensitive to the sun. Hence it is important to not expose your head too much in the sun.

Wear a cap, hat or a scarf or be under the shade as much as possible when you are outdoor. Remember, though you have rinsed the shampoo off, the tar remains on your scalp for up to approximately 24 hours. The scalp may be the most sensitive during this period. It is hence important that you protect it from the sun.

Salicylic Shampoos

These shampoos help in soothing the scalp since they help in getting rid of the dry, scaly and flaky skin. Apply, lather, rinse and repeat. Follow this routine twice or thrice a week or as advised by the doctor. One must avoid applying this shampoo if there is cut or a wound and also take precautions by preventing it from entering one’s mouth, eyes or nose.

Salicylic shampoos, when used for a long period of time or used in excessive quantities, can have negative effects on your health and skin. For example, it may lead to increase in dryness and flaking instead of curing the skin plus it may also cause nausea if used more than the required quantity. Hence it is important to follow the doctor’s advice and prescription when using such shampoos with strong ingredients.

Steroid Shampoos

These should be used only if a doctor prescribes it as it needs strict medical supervision. Shampoos with steroids are used only when there is an extreme breakout of psoriasis on your scalp and you need something to provide you an immediate relief from the redness and itchiness.

Once the skin on the scalp settles down a bit and you are relieved from the swelling and flaking to some extent, the doctor may recommend starting a coal tar shampoo and stop using the shampoo containing steroids.

Shampoos with steroids need to be applied when your hair and scalp is dry. After application leave it for about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes or so wet your hair and scalp, lather and rinse off the shampoo with utmost care, ensuring that this shampoo stays off your face and ears since the skin in these parts is more sensitive and thin. Do not forget to wash your hands well too after the usage of this shampoo.

Quick Tips

The active ingredients in some shampoos would be more concentrated than the others. It is up to the doctor to decide as to which shampoo is best suited for you depending on the severity of the psoriasis lesions.

You may need to try more than one kind and brand of shampoos to take the final call and decide which formulation suits you the best. Keep your dermatologist updated on the response of the medicated shampoo as it shall help in creating an efficient roadmap of treatment regime.

Two cotton balls coated with petroleum jelly can be kept in your ears to prevent the shampoo from entering the ears, especially if you happen to use the shampoo that contains salicylic acid or steroids. Do not try to mix and use two shampoos or ingredients as it can have adverse effects on your already deteriorated scalp. Follow only one line of treatment as suggested by your dermatologist.


If psoriasis on the scalp is severe, shampoos may help initially in curbing it. However, over the course of time psoriasis may become resistant to the shampoos. The doctor may then advise other treatments like topical scalp medications, ultraviolet light therapy and may be steroids, in extreme cases.

Psoriasis of the scalp can cause great discomfort and pain; however, with the correct line of treatment and patience, one can be assured of getting relief, soon.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 9, 2018

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