Safe styling for scalp psoriasis

| Emily Delzell

Have scalp psoriasis and want to visit a hair stylist? Here's what you need to know.

Baring your scalp psoriasis to a hair stylist for the first time can cause some self-conscious moments, but with clear communication, salon visits needn't be embarrassing—or a potential source of psoriasis flares.

Hala Wachter, a salon owner in Birmingham, Ala., has had many clients with psoriasis in her 25-plus years as a hair stylist. "I understand it can feel embarrassing, but most experienced stylists have seen lots of scalp conditions, including psoriasis, so clients should be reassured that open communication is the way to go."

Talking with your stylist about your unique condition also ensures he or she has the information needed to protect your scalp from trauma, which is important to keep in mind for flare prevention, said Jason S. Reichenberg, vice chair of the department of dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Austin.

"Psoriasis only indirectly affects the hair, so with a few cautions, I don't ask patients to change their styling practices," he said.

He and Wachter offer these tips for maximizing comfort and minimizing flares.

  • Inform your stylist. Most stylists are familiar with psoriasis, but for those who aren't, explaining that the condition isn't contagious or a fungal infection are key points to make, Reichenberg said. A consultation is the first part of any hair treatment, and this is the time to talk with the stylist about your scalp psoriasis as well as any sensitivity to styling products of which you're already aware.
  • Understand the styling process. Having scalp psoriasis doesn't necessarily rule out any hair treatment, including coloring, straightening or relaxing, or blow-outs, said Reichenberg. But he noted almost any ingredient—as well as intense heat—can cause a reaction, so talk with your stylist about the potential for irritation with specific treatments before going forward. If there's any doubt, check with your dermatologist first.
  • Protect your scalp. Wachter works with clients in a number of ways to shield their scalp—some, for example, bring in their own hair products instead of using a salon line. For others, she applies a barrier around the hairline and ears to prevent irritation. And clients who've had past sensitivity to all-over hair color can often get highlights without a problem because the stylist applies color just above the scalp and wraps the treated hair in foil to process.
  • Ask for gentle treatment. Avoid burns from hot irons and trauma from firm brushes, which shouldn't be rubbed against the scalp.
  • Safeguard your style. Check with your stylist about potential interactions among the ingredients in your own products and the salon treatment. Coal tar, for instance, can discolor bleached or tinted hair.

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