Scalp psoriasis

Whether your scalp psoriasis is mild or severe, there are many treatment options to manage the itching and flakes. Treatments range from over-the-counter shampoos and topicals to light therapy and prescription biologics.

Mild scalp psoriasis is marked by slight, fine scaling while severe scalp psoriasis is noted by thick, crusted plaques covering the entire scalp. Psoriasis can extend beyond the hairline onto the forehead, back of the neck and around the ears.

Other skin disorders, such as seborrheic dermatitis, may look similar to psoriasis. However, scalp psoriasis appears powdery with a silvery sheen, while seborrheic dermatitis appears yellowish and greasy.

Treating scalp psoriasis

Treatments are often combined and rotated because your psoriasis may become less responsive to medications after repeated use. Systemic treatments are not commonly used only for scalp psoriasis but may be used if psoriasis is present elsewhere on the body or if psoriasis is moderate to severe.

Mild scalp psoriasis

Very mild scalp psoriasis generally responds well to tar products and salicylic acid.

There are many coal tar and non-coal tar medicated shampoos for treating lesions associated with scalp psoriasis. Remember, medicated shampoos are designed for the scalp, not the hair.

Sometimes doctors inject scalp lesions with steroid medications. This is performed only when scalp psoriasis is mild and involves a few areas. Steroid injections are given sparingly because the body can absorb the medication.

Moderate to severe scalp psoriasis

If you have a more severe case of scalp psoriasis, you may need to try different treatment plans before you find the one that works for you. If crusting of the scalp along with scaling occurs and/or the lymph nodes in your neck are enlarged, indicating a yeast infection, your doctor may prescribe antimicrobial treatment.

Common topical treatments for scalp psoriasis include: Common systemic medication treatments for psoriasis include:

Hair blocks ultraviolet (UV) light treatments from reaching the scalp. You can achieve better results with conventional UV units if you part your hair in many rows, if you have very thin hair or if you shave your head. Hand-held devices called UV combs are available to deliver a higher intensity of UV light. Natural sunlight may also help if the hair is very thin or your head is shaved.

Scalp itch

Itching is often a problem for those with scalp psoriasis. Over-the-counter tar shampoos and shampoos containing menthol can help reduce itching. Topical steroids and oral antihistamines are also effective for reducing scalp itch. Read more about managing itch »

Search the online treatment guide for more treatment information.

Learn more about managing scalp psoriasis: