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Plenty of Americans deal with occasional dandruff, dryness and itchiness on their scalps. But if you’re suffering from the following symptoms, then you may be dealing with a more serious condition called scalp psoriasis, which affects as much as 2% of the population of North America.
- Patches of raised scaly skin
- Silver-like plaque
- Hair loss
- Persistent and/or worsening redness and itching
- Bleeding or hair loss caused by itching
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, these are all common symptoms of scalp psoriasis, which is often treated with medicated psoriasis shampoo. When dealing with any potential medical condition, we always recommend consulting your primary care physician, or in this case, a dermatologist, who may then recommend the best psoriasis shampoos for your scalp problems.
Thankfully, psoriasis shampoo is an over-the-counter treatment that may be able to help minimize the negative effects. Before we get deeper into the best psoriasis shampoos and how to treat scalp psoriasis, let’s get some of the basics out of the way.
To help us fill in the blanks, we reached out to Dr. Michele Green, a New York City-based cosmetic dermatologist.
What Is Scalp Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an auto-immune condition that “makes raised, reddish, often scaly patches,” Green said. So scalp psoriasis is simply the recurring appearance of red, itchy, scaly skin on the scalp.
How Do I Know If I Have Scalp Psoriasis?
Alas, this is the tricky part because “several conditions, such as dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, contact dermatitis and fungus, have similar symptoms [that] can be mistaken for scalp psoriasis,” Green said. The only surefire way to get an accurate diagnosis is to speak with a board-certified dermatologist who can examine your scalp.
Even if you’re unsure, many of the treatments that work for conditions like dandruff also work for scalp psoriasis and vice versa.
The Best Psoriasis Shampoos
“Shampoos formulated with pyrithione zinc, coal tar, selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, salicylic acid and sulfur all work well on scalp psoriasis,” Green told SPY. She also recommended a few specific options, which we’ve collected below.
When putting together our list of the best psoriasis shampoo, we looked for formulas with these ingredients, as well as positive customer reviews, a reasonable price tag, and expert recommendations. With the basics out of the way, check out some of the best psoriasis shampoos below. All of these medicated shampoos are available over-the-counter without a prescription. As always, check with your doctor if you have any concerns before using any of them.
1. Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo
You’ve likely heard of Neutrogena, but did you know that in addition to skincare products, the brand makes one of the best psoriasis shampoo treatments? The Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo has plenty of support from Amazon reviewers and dermatologists alike, including Green. It’s also recognized by the National Psoriasis Foundation as being effective at relieving the inflammation and thick, crusted plaque buildup associated with the condition.
2. Nizoral Scalp Psoriasis Shampoo & Conditioner
We’ve known all about Nizoral’s products for a while now due to their dandruff-fighting, scalp-restoring abilities. Green also mentioned Nizoral Scalp Psoriasis Shampoo & Conditioner as a potential treatment option, which only confirmed it’s place on our list of the best psoriasis shampoo. Salicylic acid puts in the work here to break down scaly, irritated skin and promote the growth of healthier skin while still leaving your hair feeling fresh, clean and conditioned.
3. Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength Dandruff Defense
The Head & Shoulders Classic Clean 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner with pyrithione zinc is a classic anti-dandruff shampoo, but Green recommended going for the Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength Dandruff Defense Intensive Itch Relief Shampoo, with selenium sulfide, for a psoriasis shampoo treatment. This shampoo promises to fight dandruff and dermatitis (another scaly skin condition) and just might help break down your scalp psoriasis too. Plus the cooling menthol is bound to soothe inflamed scalps too, regardless of the cause of inflammation.
Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength Dandruff Defense Intensive Itch Relief Shampoo
4. DHS Tar Shampoo
BEST COAL TAR SHAMPOO
When SPY previously talked to Green about the best dandruff shampoos, she recommended the DHS Tar Shampoo. The shampoo relies on coal tar, which is anti-itch, antifungal and anti-inflammatory, perfect for dandruff or scalp psoriasis. This shampoo is also unscented, so there’s one less thing that could potentially irritate your scalp further.
5. Rugby Sebex Shampoo
BEST SULFUR SHAMPOO
You might not have heard of the Rugby Sebex Shampoo, but it’s designed to fight scalp psoriasis, dandruff and dermatitis. A combination of salicylic acid and colloidal sulfur work to exfoliate and break down scaly skin.
6. Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
BEST KETOCONAZOLE SHAMPOO
If the first Nizoral shampoo isn’t getting through your scalp psoriasis, you might pivot to the Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo. Instead of relying on salicylic acid, this shampoo uses ketoconazole, an antifungal, which can help restore scalp skin.
7. Head & Shoulders Classic Clean 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner
BEST PYRITHIONE ZINC SHAMPOO
We mentioned it above, we’ve used it on and off for years and there’s simply no denying its effectiveness and staying power for all kinds of scalp conditions: the Head & Shoulders Classic Clean 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner. It’s not a bird, it’s not a plane, but this shampoo is the closest thing to Superman you can get if you know you’ve got scalp problems, need relief and don’t know the cause. Powered by pyrithione zinc, this two-in-one shampoo is all but guaranteed to minimize some, if not all, of your scalp psoriasis symptoms.
Head & Shoulders Classic Clean 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner
What Else Can I Do To Manage Scalp Psoriasis?
There are actually a lot of ways to begin mitigating your psoriasis symptoms. First up is something simple you might not consider: avoiding stress. Green said, “Avoid stress as much as possible… Stress can trigger [an] auto-immune response, which can cause psoriatic flare-ups.”
Of course, avoiding stress is easier said than done, and Green had a few other recommendations. For persistent or extreme scalp psoriasis, there are medical procedures such as Hydrafacial Keravive and Platelet Rich Plasma treatments, but most people will probably see results by using over-the-counter psoriasis shampoo treatment.
For more moderate to severe cases of scalp psoriasis, prescription treatments such as Dovonex Cream, Clobetasol propionate topical solution and biologics like Humira can sometimes do the trick, Green said.