If your search for relief from scalp psoriasis leaves you scratching your head, set your mind at ease. Remedies are as close as your corner store, and some you may already have in your pantry.
There are a lot of good products you can buy without a prescription, says Joel Gelfand, MD. The trick is using them the right way.
Your first step: Soften and remove the scales that build up on your head. Once they’re off, your skin is ready for the creams that bring relief.
Prepare Yourself for ‘Takeoff’
The right shampoo can get you on your way. Use one that has salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin. It causes peeling, which is just what you want to loosen up the scales. Other helpful ingredients to look for are lactic acid, urea, tar, and phenol.
Another way to get the job done: Put oil on your scalp. Not the stuff that goes in your car, but the kind you eat. Vegetable, coconut, or olive — they all help get those scales off.
Whether you go for the oil or the liquid, the important thing is to put it on your head and leave it there for 30 to 60 minutes.
If you have thick scales, Halasz suggests a few other ways to boost the oil’s scale-busting power once it’s on your scalp:
- Wrap a hot, moist towel around your head, turban-style. Leave it on for about 20 minutes.
- Use a hair dryer to heat it.
- Put on a shower cap (to protect your pillows and sheets) and wear it all night as you sleep.
Next comes a shampoo and comb-out. Use a fine-toothed comb, and be gentle, Halasz says. If you’re rough and scratch your head, it will make your psoriasis worse. “One of the worst things you can do is pick flakes out with pressure, such as with your fingernails or a comb.”
Without the scaly layer, your scalp is ready to absorb treatments that stop that burning itch and clear your skin.A common pantry item could help soothe your skin. “I often encourage patients to wash with half apple cider vinegar and half water if they have an itchy, flaking scalp,” says Sandy Johnson, MD.You’re likely to have a bigger choice at the drugstore than the supermarket, though. Look for ingredients in lotions, gels, and shampoos that fight fungus or reduce inflammation, such as:
If you want something to cool or numb your scalp, try products with camphor, menthol, acetyl alcohol, aloe vera, or benzyl alcohol.
Don’t Be Hasty
Patience is the key for home remedies. “You have to have lather time,” Halasz says. “With shampoos, you should lather, keep it on the scalp for 2 to 3 minutes, rinse, repeat. If you want the medicine in there to do something, it needs to be on there for at least 5 minutes total.”
No matter what you use, don’t scrub it in, Johnson warns. If it’s shampoo or conditioner, get it all out. “We often see rashes due to a product being left on the scalp that was meant to be washed off,” she says.
Shine a Light on the Subject
Stuff that goes on your scalp isn’t your only option. If your psoriasis seems to get better in the summer, light therapy may give you year-round relief even when the sun doesn’t shine.
Handheld devices send ultraviolet B light (UVB) through prongs that look like brush bristles. You have several brands to choose from at different prices. “Occasionally, insurance will even pay for it,” Halasz says.
If none of these remedies works for you, call your doctor.
“Scalp psoriasis can be stubborn and hard to treat,” Gelfand says. “If it’s not responding, see a dermatologist with experience in treating the disease.”