Having scalp psoriasis is a little like having angry dandruff. Scalp psoriasis can cause an accumulation of silvery flakes in your hair. But these flakes are more scaly than greasy. And the skin on the scalp from which they fall is usually red, irritated, and itchy, and sometimes painful.
About 80 percent of people who have psoriasis anywhere on their bodies will eventually experience psoriasis on the scalp. For anyone who has psoriasis that starts on the scalp, the condition seldom stays in one place. Psoriasis on the scalp can move to the forehead, the neck, the face, and inside the ears. Psoriatic skin becomes dry and cracked, and the cracked skin invites bacterial infections. And hair care can become a nightmare.
Hair Care Can Trigger an Outbreak
Any hair care that causes pain can trigger a new outbreak of psoriasis on the scalp. Maybe the hair is combed a little too vigorously. Perhaps the water for the shampoo is too hot. Or there is an allergic reaction to a dye or a hair care product. When this happens, the nerves in the scalp generate a neurotransmitter called substance P, the pain chemical, and the skin gets a signal to start an incredibly rapid repair process. Skin can produce 10,000 times as many new skin cells as are needed to repair microscopic damage, and redness, flaking, drying, and cracking start all over again.
A Vicious Cycle
But there is nothing that exacerbates scalp psoriasis more than scratching. Sadly, there is a vicious cycle of stress, scratching, and psoriasis outbreaks. Compounding this, patients who have psoriasis tend to have “burned out” adrenal glands. Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition. If someone with psoriasis also has chronic stress, their adrenal glands can lose the ability to produce cortisol.
When psoriasis causes an itch — and sooner or later, it always will — they scratch. Scratching a skin plaque from psoriasis has a predictable outcome. It will itch some more. More itching leads to more scratching, and more scratching leads to more itching. The underlying problem, however, is not having the physical energy to respond to stress.
Psoriasis is Controllable
What can people who have scalp psoriasis do to control their outbreaks? Mind-over-psoriasis. First, realize that psoriasis is controllable. How much hair loss is normal? How much skin irritation is normal? None! What causes hair loss is not psoriasis, it’s the response to severe psoriasis. When people see convincing evidence that they don’t have to deal with endless outbreaks of psoriasis, they experience less itching. They scratch less. Their skin cracks less and forms less scar tissue that kills hair follicles. Success is followed by success in psoriasis control. So how do you get on the path to success?
Anything highly processed, overly greasy, or super sweet isn’t a good choice for you if you have psoriasis. Instead, eat a diet rich in anti-inflammatory food like plenty of fruits, vegetables, fatty fish, heart-healthy oils, including omega-3 essential fatty acids. These dietary changes may help to reduce the frequency and severity of your flare-ups.
Practice Gentle Hair Care
No more tangles has to be a priority, but pomades for frizzy hair are a no-no. Don’t use harsh shampoos either. Finally, tilt your head back when you rinse so any irritant chemicals in your shampoo splash on less noticeable regions of skin. Board Certified Dermatologist, Dr. Leslie Storey recommends using tar shampoos, Nizoral or Tea Tree Oil Shampoo.
Be Nice to Your Skin
Invest in over-the-counter skin treatments. Any skincare product that contains salicylic acid (which is related to the active ingredient in aspirin) will help exfoliate dry skin and take redness out of the skin. It can relieve pain and itching. There are products with salicylic acid specially formulated for psoriasis of the scalp.
You aren’t doomed to deal with scalp psoriasis forever. Know you can control it, and follow these simple tips until your scalp is psoriasis-free.