Managing Scalp Psoriasis

What is scalp psoriasis?

The scalp is one of the most common sites to be affected by psoriasis, and sometimes is the only area of involvement.

Almost 80% of people with psoriasis will have scalp involvement at some point in their lives, and it is not unusual for the scalp to be the first site to display symptoms of psoriasis.

Some people suffer with mild psoriasis of the scalp whilst others can experience severe scalp psoriasis which can cause intense itching.

Other symptoms include dry and flaky scalp, red scaly patches, a burning sensation or soreness and temporary hair loss.

Summary

Almost 80% of people with psoriasis will have scalp involvement at some point in their lives. symptoms include dry and flaky scalp, red scaly patches, a burning sensation or soreness.

Managing scalp psoriasis guidance

The ISF’s Health Promotion Team has found that scalp psoriasis is one of the most common raised concerns and developed the Managing Scalp Psoriasis leaflet, with guidance on how to manage and treat, what can be a very frustrating part, of living with the condition.

The ISF scalp psoriasis leaflet includes a step-by-step treatment section which includes some really useful techniques you can use at home to treat your scalp psoriasis with over-the-counter and prescribed treatments.

 

 

Soften the scale

  • For treatment to be effective it should relieve the symptoms.
  • It is important to remove the scale before you apply any prescribed treatment, because if the scale is thick the treatment will not penetrate the psoriasis.
  • Soften the scale to gently remove it.
  • This can be done with coconut oil, olive oil, or almond oil. For best results leave oil on scalp overnight.
  • Topical tar preparation such as Cocois® can be effective at softening and removing scale, use as directed.

Gently remove scale

  • Gently remove scale.
  • If you have someone to help remove the scale it would be helpful, if not, try and feel for the scale with the tips of your fingers and use a plastic, fine-toothed comb, flat against the scalp and slowly move the comb in an upward motion so that the teeth of the comb loosen the scale.
  • Take care not to remove scales too forcefully as this can damage the skin and flare your psoriasis.

Summary

It is important to remove the scale before you apply any prescribed treatment, because if the scale is thick the treatment will not penetrate the psoriasis. Take care not to remove scales too forcefully as this can damage the skin and flare your psoriasis.

Wash hair

  • To remove the coconut/olive/almond oil, it may be useful to apply shampoo before wetting your hair and massage in.
  • Then use warm water to wash your hair and get rid of any loose scale.
  • Tar based shampoos are useful in treating scale that is present in scalp psoriasis. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can recommend a suitable shampoo.

Apply prescribed treatment

  • Topical steroids are often prescribed to settle psoriasis flares. These are absorbed better and are more effective when the thick scale is removed.
  • Apply topical steroids as directed by your doctor/nurse.

 

Unfortunately, treatment will not cure your scalp psoriasis. However, the combination of the above mentioned treatments may help relieve the itch and calm a flare-up when used as directed.

In order to maintain improvement, ongoing maintenance treatment is necessary intermittently.  Watch “How to Treat Scalp Psoriasis” by the British Association of Dermatologists or download the Managing Scalp Psoriasis information leaflet.


For more information about psoriasis, visit our Psoriasis Section to download our booklet, What you need to know about Psoriasis or contact the ISF Helpline for one-to-one information and support.

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