It's estimated that up to 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis, an auto-immune disorder that effects the skin, for which there is no cure. This disorder, which is characterized by red, itchy and sometimes white/silver scales, can impact various parts of the skin - including the scalp. And while breakouts on certain parts of the body are easy to hide until the condition subsides, it can be much more difficult to do so on the scalp.
The good news is that scalp psoriasis can be managed, and there are various ways to go about doing it.
What Is Scalp Psoriasis?
Psoriasis occurs when your immune system starts sending faulty signals triggering your skin cells to grow too rapidly. This can result in a pileup of silvery scales and red patches. Many people with psoriasis experience this on their scalp, but you can also find these patches and scales behind your ears, on your forehead, and on the back of your neck.
What Are the Symptoms of Scalp Psoriasis?
When it psoriasis plaques appear on the scalp, you might notice:
- Silvery-white scales and flaking that looks like dandruff: Psoriasis often looks like dandruff. Many individuals with this condition notice flaking, but there's a big difference between dandruff and this condition. Scalp psoriasis can cause a dry scale and silvery sheen on your scalp, unlike dandruff.
- Reddish scalp patches: You might not notice some of these patches. Others, however, can be extremely thick, noticeable, and inflamed.
- Dry scalp: Your scalp might be so dry your skin starts cracking and bleeding.
- Bleeding: Since scalp psoriasis can cause significant itching, just about everybody scratches. This scratching can cause your scalp to bleed. It can often make your psoriasis worse. It can make the patches thicker and larger.
- Itching: Itching is a common symptom of scalp psoriasis. For some, the itch they experience is mild, but for others, it's so intense, it can cause sleepless nights and interfere with daily life.
- Soreness or burning sensation: Your scalp can burn and feel very sore.
- Temporary Loss of Hair: If you're using force in an attempt to eliminate the scale or if you're scratching your scalp excessively, it could cause hair loss. Your hair will typically grow back once the condition clears.
Your symptoms can come and go. For some individuals, they only experience a mild flare-up on their scalp, while others will experience many flare-ups that can be mild or serious.
Five Tips on How to Care for Scalp Psoriasis
One way to help manage scalp psoriasis is to understand your body and why breakouts occur. While some breakouts may come out of nowhere, others are triggered by stress, the weather or infection. Being able to anticipate when a breakout may be coming is key to managing it. It could also be key to preventing the flare up entirely. We've put together these five tips to help manage breakouts when they do arise:
1. Scratch Less
This is often easier said than done, as scalp psoriasis breakouts can lead to itching, but there are several over-the-counter products you can apply to the affected area to soothe it. While we'll get into more of these products in the next section, simply using a conditioner while bathing and applying cold packs to itchy areas can go a long way toward relief.
2. Select the Right Care Products
To piggyback off the first tip we listed, there are a bevy of over-the-counter products that you can use to soothe the affected area of the scalp. Some of these products you'll want to look for include special shampoos, gels, ointments and soaps. Look for products that contain coal tar, urea and salicylic acid, as these are special ingredients that help soothe the flare up and also help make it easier to peel the scales that have developed away. Psoriasis Honey's Skin Renewing Cream contains salicylic acid to help the turnover of skin cells along with moisturizing oils and beeswax to nourish the skin.
3. Learn to Safely Remove Scales
The care products that we mentioned above in tip No. 2 above don't just help soothe breakouts, but they can also soften the scales so they're able to be removed. Do this by gently combing the scales to further loosen them after applying the right products to your scalp. After the scales are loosened, they can often be washed out using shampoo. It's important to remove scales in this safe, effective way. Some people may pick at the scales, however this can make any breakouts even worse. Gentle removal is best, and the products we've highlighted above can help you do it.
4. Choose the Right Hairstyle
Though at times it may be practical to hide psoriasis with hats, headbands or bandanas, it's not always practical. The good news is that how you style your hair can also help you hide any flare ups. You'll want to try to avoid any tight hairstyles, as pulling the hair into more of a "locked in" position can irritate affected areas. If you can, try to add volume and texture to your hairstyle, as a little bit of bounce can help hide scales. Bangs or adopting more of a shaggy hairdo can also help cover any breakouts that have developed on the forehead. Many barbers and salons know the best styles to help hide psoriasis, so don't be afraid to talk to them about your condition on your next visit.
5. Head Wear Do's and Don'ts
Like we noted above, donning hats, headbands or bandanas is one way to conceal psoriasis breakouts, but you want to make sure what you wear is doing more good than harm. On this note, make sure that any head wear isn't fastened too tightly, as this could cause more irritation to the affected area. We'd also suggest wearing lighter covered head wear, as this will help hide any flaking that occurs.
Leave a comment and tell us your story and what are your favorite tips are for managing scalp psoriasis.
I have had scalp psoriasis for years and now behind my ears. I’m allergic to coal tar and a lot of shampoo ingredients. What would be your best product to use? I’ve had shots and creams that burned and shampoos that made it worse. Willing to try something new.
I have psoriasis in my ears, as well as behind my ears, head and feet. What would be the best product you have? Can it be used in the ears?