Scalp Psoriasis: A Treatment Overview

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Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes red, itchy, and dry patches on the skin. When your skin cells grow too fast due to an irregularity in your immune system, your skin begins to accumulate an excess of dead skin cells on the skin, creating the psoriasis lesions. While any area of the body may be affected by psoriasis, the scalp is one of the spots that most commonly gets affected.

Psoriasis on the scalp causes itching, redness, and can be quite irritating. In mild cases, it looks more like a rash, but when it is a severe case, then the lesions look more like scaly patches or plaques. In some severe cases, scalp psoriasis may also reach as far as the ears and neck.

Scalp Psoriasis Treatment

Since your hair is in the way, treating scalp psoriasis is not always necessarily easy as you are dealing with small plaques and flakes that get stuck to the hair with the addition of any liquid medication.

However, there are still many options to manage scalp psoriasis.

Coal Tar Shampoo

Coal tar has been used as a psoriasis treatment for almost a 100 years. Shampoos that contain tar impede skin cell growth, relieve itching, and reduce inflammation. On the other hand, shampoos that contain salicylic acid lessens scaling and supports the shedding of the dead skin cells. There are also tar products that you can apply overnight. Some top shampoo brands: Neutrogena T/Gel, Denorex, and MG217.


If your scalp psoriasis is in the moderate to severe range, there are some creams and ointments you can use.

Tazorac (Tazarotene):  This is a prescription topical medicine that does not contain steroids. Instead, tazarotene contains Vitamin A. If you are using it overnight, it must be applied to dry skin, and you must wait until it dries before hitting the pillow.

Dovonex: Also known as calcipotriol, Dovonex is Vitamin D in medication form. Avoid contact with your eyes.

Steroid Injections

If you scalp psoriasis is severe, your physician may recommend intralesional steroid injections to lessen the inflammation. Steroid injections may be given in combination with anthralin; a prescription lotion that you apply once a day for 15-30 min.

It may take up to several weeks to improve the symptoms of scalp psoriasis. Once you have the symptoms under control, continue using your medicated or tar shampoo at twice a week as a precautionary measure. Consult your doctor to work out the best treatment plan to manage your symptoms.

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