The Absolute Best Ways to Soothe Painful Scalp Psoriasis

By RL - June 05, 2020

Psoriasis is a chronic disease that causes skin irritation. More than 125 million people across the globe suffer from this common condition. 8 million people in the United States currently suffer from psoriasis. Skin on the scalp can be affected as is referred to as scalp psoriasis. Treatment for this area of the body is often different because the skin is thicker, and hair often gets in the way. Skin psoriasis can also extend beyond the scalp, affecting the forehead, back of the neck and behind the ears. The cause of psoriasis is the same no matter where it has formed or which area it has affected. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the conditions develops when skin cells grow too quickly. In these cases, the body’s immune system is compromised and sending faulty messages throughout the body. Skin cells are then renewing every few days instead of within a few weeks, and excess skin cells are not being shed. When there are too many skin cells, they remain piled up and scalp psoriasis becomes visible.

Scalp psoriasis can lead to discomfort, can even feel painful, and can feel embarrassing to some people. Some small patches on the scalp can be easily hidden with hair but sometimes it ends up covering the entire scalp or becoming more visible. Common early signs and symptoms include red patches of skin that can either be subtle or inflamed and thick; dry scalp skin can begin to crack and bleed; sore scalp; burning sensations where skin is affected; flaking that looks similar to dandruff; and silvery-white scaling on the scalp. Itchiness is one of the most common symptoms of scalp psoriasis, ranging in intensity from a mild itch to severe itching that can disrupt sleep and affect daily life. When the skin becomes itchy, many people scratch affected areas and this can lead to bleeding, creating larger and thicker patches of red skin, and worsening psoriasis conditions. Hair loss is associated with scratching the affected patches. This is usually a temporary condition connected to aggressive scratching or forcefully removing scaly skin. Most of these symptoms show up in the form of flares. Flares can occur on a regular basis or rarely, and they can be anywhere from mild to serious. Common triggers include dry air, exposure to cold, and additional stress.

A dermatologist will examine the scalp to determine if the condition is scalp psoriasis. A skin sample might also be removed and sent to a lab for further testing before a diagnosis is made. There is a wide variety of treatments for scalp psoriasis but finding the right one for a specific patient can take time, and trial and error. Everyone responds differently to treatments. One solution will not fit every case or condition. By softening the affected area and removing some of the skin plaques, topical treatments have a higher chance of being thoroughly successful. The treatments can penetrate more layers of the skin and get to work well below the top skin cells. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, soaking the scalp in warm water can soften the skin to prepare it for use of topical treatments. Gently combing the scalp by moving the comb softly in a circular motion can help loosen and remove soft plaques.

The American Academy of Dermatology points out that there are many safe treatments which are effective for treating scalp psoriasis. Some of these are available over-the-counter, others only with a prescription. Mild cases typically respond well to products that contain tar and/or salicylic acid. Lesions can be treated using medicated shampoos. These shampoos often contain tar or non-coal tar to treat the scalp, not the hair. Lotions, oils and creams are available to treat psoriasis. More moderate cases of scalp psoriasis can be treating with moderate use of steroid medication injections. Some dermatologists may choose to treat stubborn cases of the condition with light treatments or full body treatments. These systemic treatments are often used if psoriasis is found on other areas of the body. Be sure to ask the dermatologist about vitamins that are a potential treatment for scalp psoriasis.

Informed dermatologists have many helpful tips to offer patients who suffer from scalp psoriasis. Avoiding scratching affected areas can be extremely challenging but it can help reduce inflammation and hair loss. Gently shampooing the region offers better results than aggressively scrubbing or rubbing the area. Additionally, gently loosening and removing skin plaques can help improve the condition but picking too harshly at the skin can result in irritation. Possibly the most common recommendation is to maintain healthy stress management practices. Stress can worsen psoriasis of all kinds. It can lead to flare-ups and hair loss.


American Academy of Dermatology

National Psoriasis Foundation