Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes chronic inflammation, which occurs when your immune system stimulates your skin cells to reproduce too fast. These excess skin cells form red skin patches covered by silvery white scales that are the most visible sign of psoriasis. People who suffer from psoriasis are often concerned about both the cosmetic appearance of their skin as well as the pain and itching. About half of psoriasis cases develop skin patches on the scalp. Normal skin cells turn over in about 14 days. When you have psoriasis, though, that turnover is reduced to only 2 days. As a result, psoriasis causes scaling and inflammation. Therapeutic shampoo should reduce the rate of skin turnover by stopping your dermal inflammatory and immune response. Therefore, it's really important that you choose the right shampoo to help your condition.
Method One of Three:
Using Coal Tar ShampooEdit
1Know if you need coal tar shampoo. Coal tar is the oldest treatment for scalp psoriasis. However, when it is used alone, it's only as effective as a mild to mid-potency topical corticosteroid. They are effective as additions to combination therapy, though. It can help slow the growth of the flaky skin cells on your scalp and help restore your skin's health. The strength of the coal tar varies from product to product, but check the concentration of it in the shampoo. The higher the concentration, the stronger the effects.
- Some common brands of tar shampoo that help patients with scalp psoriasis are Zetar, Sebutone, Pentrax, and T-Gel.
- This product may be very smelly. It can also cause irritation, dryness, and reddening of your scalp. Before you use it, try it on a small patch of your skin to see if your react poorly to it.
- Coal tar shampoo also makes you more sensitive to the sun for at least 24 hours after you use it. Avoid the sun when possible after you use the shampoo, or if you have to be out in the direct sunlight, use sunscreen, a hat, or other head covering.
2Learn how coal tar shampoo helps. Coal tar shampoo products have been FDA approved to treat scalp psoriasis. These shampoos help relieve inflammation and itching, reduce scaling and dryness, and help flaking skin. The coal tar kills off the bacteria that causes scalp psoriasis.
- It also helps soften the scales and crust caused by your scalp psoriasis.
3Determine if you should avoid coal tar shampoo. There are certain situations where you should not use coal tar shampoo. In these situations, the side effects of the tar shampoo could cause problems. Talk to your doctor before using coal tar shampoo if:
- You are pregnant, nursing, or may become pregnant
- You are taking any other medications for psoriasis. Ask your doctor if coal tar shampoo will interact with your other medications
- You are taking herbs, supplements, or non-prescription medicines unless you've been cleared by a doctor
- You have open sores or cuts on your scalp
- You are allergic to any of the ingredients
4Apply coal tar shampoo. When you start using coal tar shampoo, pour the recommended amount in your hand and apply it to your hair and scalp, moving it all through your hair and all along your scalp.
- Once it has been distributed through your hair, massage it all over your scalp until it lathers well.  Leave it in for 10 minutes.
- Add water. Shampoo gently for several minutes to remove scales.
- Combine this process with an overnight application of a moderate-strength topical steroid solution to get the best possible effect.
- The exact number of times your need to use the coal tar shampoo will depend on the concentration of your shampoo. Read the instructions on the bottle to find out how often you need to use it.
- On days where you don't use coal tar shampoo, you can use any shampoo that you would normally use.
5Be sure you leave it on long enough, then rinse. Once your whole head is lathered, leave the coal tar shampoo on your scalp for 10 minutes. This allows your coal tar shampoo to work on your scalp. After this, rinse the shampoo completely from your hair.
- Once it is completely rinsed out, repeat the whole process if necessary.
- Avoid letting the lather get in your eyes. If it does run into your eyes, rinse them with water for five minutes.
- If you accidentally swallow any of this shampoo, contact your local poison control center or the emergency room right away.
6Be cautious of other things after using coal tar shampoo. Once you have washed your hair with coal tar shampoo, do not use any other shampoo for at least 24 hours afterwards. You should also avoid being in direct sun for any period of time after you use it.
- Your hair may feel slightly gross after using coal tar shampoo since you do not use conditioner. If you need to help treat hair dryness, find a coal tar shampoo that also includes coconut or other oil in addition to the coal tar.
Method Two of Three:
Using Salicylic Acid ShampooEdit
1Learn how salicylic acid works. Salicylic acid shampoos can help your scalp psoriasis by helping to remove the excess skin and scales of scalp psoriasis. The salicylic acid shampoo may cause the skin on your scalp to swell, then soften and peel off.
2Avoid salicylic acid shampoo in certain situations. There are certain situations where you should not use salicylic acid shampoos. These are situations where salicylic acid may cause you harm. Talk to your doctor before using salicylic acid if:
- You are pregnant, nursing, or may become pregnant
- You are taking any other medications for psoriasis
- You are taking any herbs, supplements, non-prescription medicines, unless you have been cleared by a doctor
- You have any open sores or cuts on your scalp
- You are allergic to any of the ingredients
- You have any kidney or liver issues, diabetes, a skin irritation, skin infection, or poor blood circulation
- You have a history of Reye syndrome
- If you are under the age of 18
- If you are on ammonium sulfate, heparin/warfarin, steroids, methotrexate, aspirin, or sulfonylureas
3Use over the counter salicylic acid shampoo. There are two different types of salicylic acid shampoos you can use. The first is over the counter shampoo. To use this, apply the shampoo to a dry scalp. Starting with five minutes, let the shampoo sit on your hair and scalp. Then rinse your hair thoroughly and wash your hair with non-medicated shampoo and conditioner.
- You can increase the leave in time for this shampoo up to one hour at a time. Just gradually increase the time in small increments.
- There are some other over the counter products that have lower amounts of salicylic acid as well as lactic acid, urea, or phenol that you can also try if the straight salicylic shampoo is too much for your mild psoriasis.
- Follow the instructions on the back of the bottle to know how often to use this shampoo. It will depend on the strength of the concentration of the salicylic acid in your shampoo.
4Wash with regular, non-medicated shampoo. Once you have washed your hair with over the counter salicylic shampoo, you can use any additional non-medicated shampoo on your hair. This will help reduce any residual flaking on your scalp and help hydrate your hair.
- Follow the washing instructions for your normal shampoo like you always do.
5Try prescription strength salicylic shampoo. Medicated salicylic shampoo will be prescribed by your doctor. To start, wet your hair and scalp. Apply the shampoo to your hair using the applicator that comes with it. Massage the shampoo into your scalp. Next, rinse the shampoo thoroughly from your hair.
- Repeat this treatment daily unless you are otherwise directed by your doctor.
- Don't wash your hair with other shampoo after this treatment.
Method Three of Three:
1Learn about scalp psoriasis. The most common type of psoriasis that causes issues for your scalp is plaque psoriasis, also known as psoriasis vulgare. This is a common form of psoriasis that causes reddened plaques covered with thick, silvery scaly skin that develop as patches on your scalp.
- Scalp psoriasis can be very mild, but it can also be severe. In these cases, very thick patches of skin may be very crusted and cover your entire scalp. It can also extend beyond your scalp onto your forehead, neck, and around the ears.
- These patches may also form on the outsides of your elbows and knees, your tailbone, on your buttocks, on your genitals, around the nails, eyebrows, belly button, and anal areas.
2Determine if you are at risk. There are some risk factors for psoriasis that you can look out for. These risk factors include a personal history or family history of psoriasis. Having lighter skin is also a risk factor. You may also develop psoriasis if you have a compromised immune system. This can occur if you have viral or bacteria infections or are under too much stress.
- Age is not really a risk because psoriasis can occur at any age. It often develops between the ages of 15 and 35, but 10 to 15 percent of those with psoriasis develop the disorder before the age of 10.
3Learn the triggers for psoriasis. There are some environmental factors that can cause a psoriasis flare up. These should be avoided if possible when you have been diagnosed with psoriasis. These triggers include:
4Use medical treatments for psoriasis. There are many different medical treatments for psoriasis, which all depend on what type you have and how severe it is. In most cases, there are three basic medical treatments for psoriasis. These include:
- Topical creams and lotions that may contain coal tar, anthralin, corticosteroids, vitamin D3 synthetic derivatives, calcineurin inhibitors, or tazarotene
- Oral medications, such as methotrexate, retinoids, immunosuppressants, biologics
- Ultraviolet (UV) therapy
- A combination of these therapies
- Since the ingredients in these shampoos often irritate your scalp, try the ones that include aloe vera gel or a moisturizing oil in them when you first start using them.
- You can use peanut or olive oil application to the scalp at bedtime to loosen scales.
- Psoriasis is not contagious.
- Dealing with psoriasis can be stressful, but successful management of the disease is possible.
- Before you use these shampoos, treat your scalp with an oil such as jojoba, castor, or olive to help soften any area with scales.
- Shaving (face in men, armpits and legs in women) should be done very cautiously to avoid trauma to the skin; you should use a moisturizer afterwards.
- As your normal everyday shampoos, use a tea tree oil shampoo. It has been shown that tea tree oil can help reduce the symptoms of scalp psoriasis.
- Make sure your skin is well hydrated and healthy. Avoid sunburn and other forms of skin injury.