Scalp psoriasis is a common condition that causes red, itchy, and scaly patches on the scalp. Understanding how to manage and treat this condition can significantly improve your quality of life.

Understanding Scalp Psoriasis

Scalp psoriasis is a form of psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune condition that accelerates the growth cycle of skin cells. This leads to the buildup of thick, silvery scales and itchy, dry patches on the scalp. It can extend beyond the hairline to the forehead, back of the neck, and around the ears. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, about 45-56% of people with psoriasis will experience a flare-up on their scalp.


The symptoms of scalp psoriasis can vary in severity and may include:

  • Red patches of skin covered with thick, silvery-white scales
  • Itching and soreness
  • Dry scalp
  • Bleeding or temporary hair loss due to scratching
  • Burning or discomfort

Medical Treatments for Scalp Psoriasis

  1. Topical Treatments: The first line of defense often involves topical treatments. These can include corticosteroids, vitamin D analogues, salicylic acid, and coal tar. Topical corticosteroids are particularly effective at reducing inflammation and itching.
  2. Medicated Shampoos: Shampoos containing coal tar or salicylic acid can help reduce scaling and itching. These shampoos should be used according to the instructions to avoid overuse, which can cause irritation.
  3. Topical Steroids: Prescription-strength topical steroids are often recommended for more severe cases. These treatments help reduce inflammation and slow the growth of skin cells.
  4. Calcineurin Inhibitors: Tacrolimus and pimecrolimus are used off-label for scalp psoriasis. These medications reduce inflammation and are often used for sensitive areas where steroids might be too harsh.


Phototherapy, or light therapy, involves exposing the scalp to ultraviolet (UV) light under medical supervision. Narrowband UVB light is often used to treat scalp psoriasis. This treatment helps to slow the growth of affected skin cells. While effective, it requires regular sessions at a medical facility.

Systemic Treatments

For severe scalp psoriasis that doesn’t respond to topical treatments, systemic medications may be prescribed. These include:

  1. Oral Medications: Drugs like methotrexate, cyclosporine, and acitretin are used to treat severe cases by targeting the immune system.
  2. Biologics: Biologics are a newer class of drugs that target specific parts of the immune system. These include medications like adalimumab, etanercept, and infliximab. They are usually administered via injection or infusion and are effective for moderate to severe psoriasis.

Natural and Home Remedies

While medical treatments are essential, some natural and home remedies can help manage symptoms:

  1. Aloe Vera: Applying aloe vera gel can soothe inflamed skin and reduce redness and scaling.
  2. Coconut Oil: Coconut oil can moisturize the scalp and help loosen scales. Apply it to the scalp and leave it on for several hours or overnight before washing it out.
  3. Apple Cider Vinegar: Diluted apple cider vinegar can reduce itching and flaking. Apply it to the scalp and rinse after 10-15 minutes.
  4. Tea Tree Oil: Known for its antiseptic properties, tea tree oil can help reduce inflammation and itching. Dilute it with a carrier oil before applying to the scalp.

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Scalp Psoriasis

Making certain lifestyle changes can help manage scalp psoriasis and reduce flare-ups:

  1. Stress Management: Stress is a known trigger for psoriasis flare-ups. Practices like yoga, meditation, and deep-breathing exercises can help manage stress levels.
  2. Dietary Adjustments: Some people find that certain foods can trigger their psoriasis. Keeping a food diary can help identify triggers. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can support overall health and potentially reduce symptoms.
  3. Avoiding Triggers: Identifying and avoiding personal triggers such as smoking, alcohol, and certain medications can help manage the condition.

Daily Care and Maintenance

Regular scalp care can prevent flare-ups and manage symptoms:

  1. Gentle Hair Care: Use gentle, fragrance-free shampoos and conditioners. Avoid harsh hair treatments like perms, dyes, and excessive heat styling.
  2. Regular Moisturizing: Keep the scalp moisturized to prevent dryness and scaling. Oils and scalp moisturizers can be applied regularly.
  3. Scalp Massage: Gently massaging the scalp can improve circulation and help remove scales. Be careful not to scratch or irritate the skin.

When to See a Doctor

Consult a dermatologist if:

  1. Symptoms Worsen: If over-the-counter treatments are not effective or if symptoms worsen, a dermatologist can provide stronger prescription treatments.
  2. Infection Signs: If there are signs of infection like redness, swelling, or pus, seek medical attention immediately.
  3. Quality of Life Impact: If scalp psoriasis significantly affects your quality of life, a dermatologist can recommend comprehensive treatment plans tailored to your needs.

The Importance of Adherence to Treatment

Consistency in treatment is key to managing scalp psoriasis. Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations and keep up with treatments, even if symptoms improve. Regular follow-ups with your dermatologist can ensure the treatment remains effective and adjust it as needed.


Scalp psoriasis can be a challenging condition to manage, but with the right combination of medical treatments, home remedies, and lifestyle adjustments, you can control symptoms and improve your quality of life. Stay informed about your condition, work closely with your healthcare provider, and be proactive in your treatment approach.