Managing Natural Hair with Scalp Psoriasis
Living with scalp psoriasis (suh-rye-ah-sis) can be a massive inconvenience. From the constant need to itch to the embarrassing flaking, dealing with this condition is annoying and can lower self-esteem. The unfortunate thing is scalp psoriasis has no actual cure but there are many ways to manage living with it.
What is scalp psoriasis?
Scalp psoriasis is a disorder that happens when skin cells on the scalp grow too quickly and pile up to form plaques. These plaques can develop anywhere on the scalp and can even extend to the forehead, neck and around the ears. Symptoms of scalp psoriasis include scaly dandruff-like flaking, itchy inflamed scalp and soreness. In other words, scalp psoriasis is like having dandruff, but on steroids! You might have scalp psoriasis and not even know it. For years I thought I was suffering from excessive dandruff, but it turned out to be scalp psoriasis.
What causes scalp psoriasis?
The actual cause of psoriasis is unknown, but it's been said that psoriasis is caused by a defect in the immune system, where skin cells grow too quickly, or by genetics, if the condition runs in the family. Scalp psoriasis can be mild and unnoticeable or severe and visible. Certain factors like stress, smoking, alcohol, weather and allergies can trigger psoriasis and cause a flare up.
How do you treat scalp psoriasis?
Before attempting to treat scalp psoriasis, you should see a certified dermatologist to be properly diagnosed.
The bad news is scalp psoriasis is a life-long condition with no cure, but the good news is there are ways to treat, manage and control flare ups! As someone who's been living with this condition for over 10 years, here are some remedies I recommend :
Identify Your Triggers : as mentioned already many things can trigger a scalp psoriasis episode, so try and maintain a healthy lifestyle and keep stress to the minimum.
Topical Steroids : your dermatologist might prescribe high-potency steroids in form of creams, gels, or solutions. I was prescribed topical corticosteroids, which worked well for me, but I stopped using it because the side effect of it possibly absorbing into my bloodstream was unsettling. So make sure you discuss all potential side effects with your dermatologist before using this treatment.
Coal Tar / Salicylic Acid Shampoos : using shampoos like Neutrogena T/Gel and Neutrogena T/Sal which contain tar and salicylic acid will slow down the growth of skin cells, reduce inflammation, and remove dead skin from psoriatic plaques. Although these chemical shampoos are effective, they might contain sulfates which dry out natural hair. Some sulfate free shampoo alternatives that work equally as good, if not better, are the Shea Moisture African Black Soap Dandruff Control Shampoo or the Shea Moisture African Black Soap Deep Cleansing Shampoo.
Virgin Hair Fertilizer / Sulphur 8 : first of all, these products have an extremely strong smell that may be unbearable for some, but they work very well to reduce dandruff and stimulate hair growth. However, use them in moderation because they contain petroleum and mineral oil, which tend to clog up hair follicles and stop moisture from penetrating into hair shafts.
Tea Tree / Peppermint Oils and Shampoos : these essential oils are anti‐bacterial, anti‐fungal and anti-inflammatory. Adding a few drops to your oil mix and applying directly to the scalp can soothe itchiness. You can also use shampoos that have these oils as their main ingredients. I recommend the Eden Body Works Peppermint Tea Tree Shampoo - it cleans and clarifies hair, while increasing scalp circulation. If you don't want to buy a new shampoo, just put a few drops of tea tree oil or peppermint oil in the shampoo you already have.
Aloe Vera Gel : whether using the gel straight from the plant, or buying it in bottle form, applying pure aloe vera gel on the scalp has a soothing effect that reduces irritation caused by scalp psoriasis. You can even make a soothing hair masque by mixing fresh aloe vera gel with lavender oil, which also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. On wash days, apply this masque, leave for 20-30 mins, then wash it out with a shampoo of your choice.
Apple Cider Vinegar : contains antiseptic and disinfecting properties that help reduce itchiness and soreness caused by psoriasis. It's probably not wise to apply apple cider vinegar directly on your scalp because it might burn, especially if the affected area is already an open wound, so always mix it with some water to cut out the sting. You can also use apple cider vinegar as a rinse after shampooing.
Shea Butter : is rich in vitamins that condition and moisturise the scalp. When used to treat scalp psoriasis, it removes dead skin cells, hydrates the scalp and creates a protective barrier to avoid dryness. You can either massage melted shea butter into your scalp, leave overnight and wash out in the morning, or make a hot oil pre-poo mix by melting shea butter with jojoba and/or grapeseed oil. This will loosen the dead skin plaques and make them easier to come off during cleansing.
managing natural hair with scalp psoriasis can be difficult but if you use any of the remedies discussed you can definitely manage living with it. However, no matter what remedy you decide to use, be ready to switch and rotate it regularly because after a while your scalp psoriasis will adapt to a particular treatment. For a final tip, always fight the urge to itch, when removing flakes do it gently and keep your scalp moisturised at all times!
So how do you manage your scalp psoriasis ? Tell me @LushBraidsByB