Psoriasis and Scalp Care

Topic Overview

When you have psoriasis on your scalp, you need to treat your scalp, not your hair.

  • Avoid digging, scratching, and picking at your scalp.
  • Gently remove scales while you are shampooing. You can also use a scale-loosening product, such as mineral oil, peanut oil, or olive oil, or a medicated hair dressing. These are rubbed into your scalp at night, covered with a shower cap, left on overnight, and washed out in the morning.
  • Shampoo as often as needed to control scaling and to allow medicines to reach the scalp. Work shampoo into a lather and let it stay on for at least 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing it out.
  • Use products such as:
    • Mild coal tar shampoos (such as Neutrogena T/Gel, Polytar, and Zetar). Coal tar has an odor and can stain light-colored hair. Some coal tar preparations can be put on for several hours and then washed out.
    • Anthralin preparations (such as Dritho-Scalp). Anthralin can stain not only the skin, hair, and nails but also surfaces such as counters and tubs. This product is applied for a certain amount of time and then washed off.
    • Shampoos containing zinc pyrithione (such as Head and Shoulders and Derma-Cap) or selenium sulfide (such as Selsun). These products may help treat mild psoriasis.

If these methods fail, your doctor may prescribe a stronger corticosteroid solution, such as 1% fluocinolone acetonide (for example, Synalar). Limit use to 1 to 2 weeks to avoid rebound psoriasis (return of more severe psoriasis after treatment).

Related Information


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology
Last Revised January 6, 2010

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