Over-the-counter (OTC) shampoos are good for treating mild scalp psoriasis symptoms or removing scales so prescription scalp topicals can penetrate. With help from Meghan Feely, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New Jersey and New York City, who serves as a clinical instructor at Mount Sinai Hospital’s department of dermatology, we compiled the following tips. (Learn more about psoriasis by requesting our free Psoriasis E-Kit.)
The following shampoos have all received the NPF Seal of Recognition, which highlights OTC products that are created to be safe for people with psoriasis. (For more information on scalp psoriasis and how to treat, request your free Scalp Psoriasis Fact Sheet.)
MG217 Medicated Conditioning Coal Tar Formula Shampoo
Active ingredient: 3% coal tar
Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo-Stubborn Itch
Active ingredient: 0.5% coal tar
Dermarest Psoriasis Medicated Shampoo Plus Conditioner
Active ingredient: 3% salicylic acid
3 things to remember
Use all products as directed. Even effective treatments can cause side effects, such as irritation, itching and redness, that can aggravate psoriasis.
Medicated shampoos are meant to treat the scalp, not the hair. Separate sections of hair and gently apply medicated products only to roots. You can follow medicated shampoos with a moisturizing conditioner.
The best way to know if an OTC product is safe and effective: Ask your dermatologist.
3 ingredients to Look For
The following ingredients can help reduce itchiness and flakes, as well as gently soften and remove thick scale.
- Hydrocortisone is a mild corticosteroid that can decrease itching and inflammation.
- Coal tar decreases skin cell growth and helps the scalp shed dead skin cells.
- Salicylic acid is a “keratolytic,” or peeling agent, that helps soften and remove thick scale. (Urea and lactic acid work similarly.) Once scale is removed, other medications will be able to penetrate the skin more easily, potentially increasing effectiveness.