A close of someone applying a cream treatment to their scalp psoriasis

Understanding Scalp Psoriasis: The Causes and Treatments

Psoriasis is a disease whereby the body’s immune system sends false signals that cause skin cells to pile up too quickly. This creates raised patches of skin that have silvery scales, surrounded by red inflammation.

This skin disease can happen anywhere on the body, including around joints (elbows, knees) but scalp psoriasis is the most common.

Although there isn’t a cure for it, there are effective treatments to manage flare-ups and reduce the symptoms.


  1. What is scalp psoriasis?
  2. What causes psoriasis on the scalp?
  3. Which over the counter treatment is the best for psoriasis?
  4. How do you get rid of psoriasis on the scalp naturally?
  5. Conclusion

What is scalp psoriasis?

To understand psoriasis we need to first look at how skin cells are formed. The outer layer of skin (called the epidermis) is the visible layer which comprises hardened cells called keratinocytes that are packed closely together. The body continuously produces new skin cells which pushes other ones to the surface.

The process of renewing skin typically takes about 4 weeks from when new cells are made in the lower epidermis layer to when they become the surface layer. However, for people with psoriasis, this process is substantially faster. In this case, it only takes a few days for skin cells to renew compared to the usual 4 weeks.

Skin cell accumulation

Psoriasis is a condition that causes a build-up of raised ‘plaques’ on the skin’s surface. The rapid cell production causes an accumulation of skin cells that result in these raised areas forming because the skin is being produced at a faster rate than it sheds.

What causes psoriasis on the scalp?

Scalp psoriasis is caused by an overproduction of skin cells where the person’s immune system targets the scalp. Other forms of this skin condition can occur on other parts of the body alongside scalp psoriasis.

Scalp psoriasis causes dandruff-like flakes across the scalp hence it’s often confused with dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. These flakes can occur along the hairline, on the forehead, around the neck, behind the ears or anywhere across the scalp. When symptoms occur, it’s initially unclear whether the flaky skin is caused by dandruff or this medical condition.

The main way to tell the difference is that psoriasis is long-lasting whereas dandruff comes and goes. Also, dandruff usually isn’t as severe and persistent as this skin disease.

A close up of different types of psoriasis

What are the symptoms?

Recognising early signs of scalp psoriasis is important for effective treatment. The most noticeable symptom is the different sized scaly red patches which will develop on the scalp.

There may be either red or silvery white scales on light skin tones, whereas plaque psoriasis can look darker, raised and flaky on dark skin tones. In more severe cases, additional symptoms also develop. These include:

  • Burning or itchy sensation on the scalp
  • The patches become raised and form bumps
  • The bumps will be flaky
  • Dryness of the scalp and a tight feeling

As the skin sheds, or when you scratch your scalp, you will notice dead skin on your clothing (especially on your shoulders). This is common with dandruff, however, with scalp psoriasis, it’s much more severe. Also, patients tend to shed larger flakes than people with dandruff.

Some people find that the symptoms spread to other areas of the head. The scalp psoriasis symptoms may also start to affect the forehead, neck, and ears.

Does scalp psoriasis cause hair loss?

Hair loss can be another indication of this condition as a result of itching and inflammation. In most cases, it is only temporary hair loss, and you will be able to reverse it if appropriate treatment is initiated.

Patients with severe cases sometimes experience hair thinning. With scalp psoriasis, thinning hair is usually temporary as a result of dead skin cells building up which affects the hair follicles.

Excessive scratching also causes hair to fall out. Therefore, when combing or brushing hair it’s always important to be gentle in order to avoid scratching the scalp.

Which over the counter treatment is the best for psoriasis?

Unfortunately, psoriasis isn’t curable but there are numerous ways to treat it and manage flare ups. Like many other skin concerns, the method of treatment is very individual.

Topical treatments for scalp psoriasis include creams, oils, gels and ointments. We also recommend shampoo products designed to combat flaky skin treat this skin disease. In more difficult to treat cases you may receive topical steroids from your doctor

What can I wash my hair with if I have psoriasis?

If you are suffering from scalp psoriasis, anti-dandruff shampoos can be highly beneficial. The purpose of anti-dandruff shampoo is primarily to treat the scalp and then clean the hair. These medicated shampoos contain either:

  • Salicylic acid: a chemical exfoliant that helps remove the scale and dead skin cells from the surface of the skin.
  • Coal tar or selenium sulphide: helps to slow down the rate that skin cells grow.

There are daily scalp shampoos and lotions that can be used by patients with scalp psoriasis such as Neutrogena T/Gel (shampoo with 4% coal tar solution), Capasal (shampoo with 1% coal tar, 1% coconut oil, 0.5% salicylic acid), and Psoriderm lotion (scalp lotion with 2.5% coal tar).

How do you get rid of psoriasis on the scalp naturally?

Aloe vera gel used to moisturise the scalp in patients with scalp psoriasis

Mild scalp psoriasis can be treated with natural solutions as well as over the counter products containing active ingredients.

As advised by the Psoriasis Association, patients with psoriasis should start with topical products, including moisturisers and emollients with active ingredients.

  • Coconut oil or tea tree oil

Both coconut oil and tea tree oil have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. This means they can greatly relieve itching and rashes as well as moisturising the skin.

  • Aloe vera gel

Aloe vera is one of the best moisturisers for the scalp. Not only is it rich in moisture, but it also soothes irritation and burning sensations of the skin. Keeping the scalp lubricated is ideal for psoriasis as it helps to improve the symptoms and reduces flaking. Our 98% aloe vera gel for enhanced moisture provides great relief from psoriasis with its cooling effect.

  • Salicylic acid

This plant hormone is typically derived from willow bark where it enhances the plant’s defence system against harmful pathogens. Due to its ability to exfoliate the skin, salicylic acid, the active component of aspirin, can be a useful remedy not only for pain but also for scalp psoriasis. Hence, it’s often found in anti-dandruff shampoo.


Scalp psoriasis is a common and uncomfortable skin disorder which affects the skin on an individual’s scalp, leading to raised, scaly patches. The disease can affect the entire scalp, which causes significant irritation and even hair loss. There are effective ways to treat scalp psoriasis which reduce the appearance of the condition as well as irritation.

Elithair has a range of products which can help to relieve these symptoms while promoting stronger hair growth and health. Have any concerns about hair loss? Contact one of our experienced consultants today to get comprehensive advice on the best way to get thick, full hair again.

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