By Christi­na of The Mane Objec­tive

Scalp chal­lenges go far beyond dan­druff and excess oil. There are some scalp con­di­tions that require med­ical atten­tion and reg­u­lar treat­ments and if left uncar­ed for, can result in hair loss and dam­age. Not to men­tion, they can be unsight­ly, embar­rass­ing, and car­ry self-esteem crush­ing social stig­mas. Three of the most com­mon scalp con­di­tions are pso­ri­a­sis, eczema, and seb­or­rhe­ic der­mati­tis. I suf­fer from pso­ri­a­sis.

Pso­ri­a­sis is a non-con­ta­gious, auto-immune con­di­tion char­ac­ter­ized by skin red­ness and irri­ta­tion .With pso­ri­a­sis, the skin growth/regeneration process is accel­er­at­ed, caus­ing sca­ly plaques of skin to sur­face rapid­ly. Pso­ri­a­sis can be aggra­vat­ed by stress, fra­grant lotions/sprays/body wash­es, alco­hol con­sump­tion, dry skin, and injuries to the skin. There is no cure for pso­ri­a­sis, only var­i­ous med­ica­tions and treat­ments to help those with it cope.

Dur­ing my 10th grade year in high school, my der­ma­tol­o­gist diag­nosed me with pso­ri­a­sis. I remem­ber being frus­trat­ed, con­fused, sad, and ashamed, among oth­er things. Being in high school was hard enough —  but now I’ve got to walk around with red flaky scales all over my body, and in my hair, like some kind of con­ta­gious freak. Even as an adult, deal­ing with flaky scalp (Black shirt? No thank you!) and skin scales has been dif­fi­cult and at times, embar­rass­ing. But as time ticked along, I began to accept my pso­ri­a­sis and learned how to effec­tive­ly cope with it on my skin. Wear­ing long sleeved shirts and long pants was incon­ve­nient, but sim­ple. The chal­lenge? Try­ing to cam­ou­flage scalp scales, or even bet­ter — get them to go away.

Over the past twelve years that I’ve dealt with pso­ri­a­sis, I have tried a num­ber of reme­dies that didn’t work at all, worked but wrecked my hair, or worked well but required reg­u­lar upkeep. Hav­ing pso­ri­a­sis presents a par­tic­u­lar set of chal­lenges to suf­fer­ers:

  • Fre­quent flak­ing makes wear­ing scalp-show­ing styles embar­rass­ing (no corn­rows or braids).
  • Scales sur­face quick­ly (every 3–4 days), requir­ing fre­quent washing/lifting from scalp, which leads to high manip­u­la­tion, and dry­ing of hair.
  • Scales are itchy, and fre­quent scratch­ing lends itself to dam­ag­ing skin, mak­ing suf­fer­ers more prone to infec­tions (and hair loss at site of infec­tion).
  • Fre­quent scale removal increas­es hair loss (because strands of hair become caught in the flak­ing skin).
  • Straight­ened styles (i.e. flat iron or blowout) last no more than a week, because of flak­ing.
  • Pso­ri­a­sis adapts to treat­ments quick­ly, which requires a rota­tion of prod­ucts to main­tain effec­tive­ness.
  •  
    There are a lot of prod­ucts out there that claim to provide relief from pso­ri­a­sis. Let’s explore them — break­ing down the good, the bad, and the over­all effec­tive­ness.

    Solution 1: Coal Tar & Salicylic Acid Shampoos

    Need­less to say, Head & Shoul­ders isn’t going to do the trick. Coal tar and sal­i­cylic acid are two addi­tives to sham­poos like Neu­tro­ge­na T-Gel and T-Sal that are believed to help pso­ri­a­sis suf­fer­ers. Coal tar extract is dark brown in col­or, and is a bypro­duct of the coal car­boniza­tion process. Coal tar works top­i­cal­ly, slow­ing the growth of skin cells and help­ing to reduce inflam­ma­tion. Sal­i­cylic acid (yes, the same pro­duct in acne/blackhead face wash­es) also works top­i­cal­ly, help­ing to remove the thick lay­ers of dead skin from pso­ri­at­ic plaques, which allows oth­er med­ica­tions and treat­ments to pen­e­trate the skin more effec­tive­ly. Both coal tar and sal­i­cylic acid are effec­tive, but have long-term impli­ca­tions. Fre­quent use ren­ders them less effec­tive. In fact, it is rec­om­mend­ed that pso­ri­a­sis suf­fer­ers alter­nate between the two sham­poos. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, all coal tar and sal­i­cylic acid sham­poos con­tain sul­fates, which are dry­ing to the hair and can lead to break­age. Also, fre­quent wash­ing (which is nec­es­sary for suf­fer­ers) leads to increased (and some­times pre­ma­ture) hair loss.

    Solution 2: Clobetasol Propionate Foam (Clobex, Rx Only)

    Clo­be­ta­sol Pro­pi­onate is a cor­ti­cos­teroid avail­able in an array of forms (oint­ment, gel, etc.) but for the scalp, most doc­tors pre­scribe it in foam form. It is a very strong steroid, and is not rec­om­mend­ed for use beyond two weeks. It is effec­tive in reduc­ing plaques and inflam­ma­tion, but has a laun­dry list of poten­tial side effects. Not only is the foam solu­tion in alco­hol (yes, the dry­ing kind that we run away from), but it can cause aller­gic con­tact der­mati­tis, burn­ing, crack­ing, dry­ness, fol­li­culi­tis, hair loss, hyper­pig­men­ta­tion, itch­ing, fin­ger numb­ness, skin atro­phy, and more. I would stay away from this, unless you are des­per­ate for relief and are all out of options. My der­ma­tol­o­gist pre­scribed this to me at the begin­ning of the year, and I have yet to touch the stuff.

    Solution 3: Tea Tree Oil

    Tea Tree Oil is an anti-bac­te­ri­al, anti-fun­gal nat­u­ral oil believed to help pso­ri­a­sis suf­fer­ers. In truth, it is excel­lent for keep­ing the scalp clear and pre­vent­ing infec­tion (from fre­quent scratching/itching), but does noth­ing to relieve the pso­ri­a­sis itself. Sham­poos con­tain­ing tea tree oil are often inef­fec­tive, have nom­i­nal amounts of tea tree oil (they mis­lead you by adding pep­per­mint oil or men­thol for scent/that tingly feel­ing), and can con­tain sul­fates. Tea tree oil is most effec­tive pur­chased in pure 100% con­cen­tra­tion, and a few drops can go a long way. It is best used in a mix­ture with coconut oil, and applied direct­ly to the scalp.

    Solution 4: Shea Moisture African Black Soap Shampoo

    This sham­poo has been a god­send. It is all nat­u­ral and sul­fate free. The black soap and plan­tain enzymes def­i­nite­ly provide relief in terms of reduc­ing itch­ing and inflam­ma­tion, much like coal tar. The wil­low bark extract has the same exfo­li­at­ing effect as sal­i­cylic acid, and the tea tree oil pro­vides that nec­es­sary anti-bacterial/anti-fungal lay­er of pro­tec­tion. It is an excel­lent all-nat­u­ral alter­na­tive to the sul­fat­ed sham­poos. It does not dry out or irri­tate the scalp, but does have a clar­i­fy­ing effect on the hair. It per­forms best in con­junc­tion with the accom­pa­ny­ing African Black Soap Puri­fy­ing Masque. How­ev­er, much like any pso­ri­a­sis treat­ment, it requires reg­u­lar use and rota­tion. It will not make pso­ri­a­sis dis­ap­pear, but will provide notice­able relief.

    Solution 5: Henna

    Oh law­so­nia iner­mis, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways… Back in Jan­u­ary, I began a quest to strength­en and thick­en my hair and dis­cov­ered hen­na. My hair was thin­ner than nor­mal, and weak/brittle from fre­quent manip­u­la­tion due to pso­ri­a­sis. At the time, I wasn’t think­ing about relief from pso­ri­a­sis – but rather a solu­tion to make my hair more resilient. I saun­tered down to Whole Foods and pur­chased my first of many box­es of Light Moun­tain Red Hen­na (I know it’s not the fan­cy online herbal mys­tic brand, but it IS 100% law­so­nia iner­mis and that is good enough for me).  I did a four hour treat­ment of hen­na, water, and coconut oil, and was in for the sur­prise of my life. After wash­ing out the hen­na with the Shea Mois­ture African Black Soap Sham­poo, I dis­cov­ered my scalp was com­plete­ly clear. Like, I could part my hair clear. I fig­ured it was an anom­aly, and that the sham­poo was just work­ing real­ly well that day. Weeks lat­er, my scalp was still clear. After about a mon­th, I expe­ri­enced some slight itch­ing towards the nape, and felt a few small flakes. So I henna’d again, and it went away. Twice is nice, but the 3rd time is the charm. After my March hen­na treat­ment, I real­ized that this plant was pro­vid­ing some­thing I hadn’t had in YEARS – a clean scalp. There isn’t a lot of research on hen­na, nor a solid expla­na­tion for why (beyond it car­ry­ing anti-bacterial/anti-fungal prop­er­ties, and that is irrel­e­vant for pso­ri­a­sis) – but for me, the proof is in the pud­ding. Hen­na smells awful (although cre­at­ing a hen­na mix with a yum­my smelling con­di­tion­er does help), and is incred­i­bly messy, but I am com­mit­ted to month­ly treat­ments at the begin­ning of every mon­th. I am on mon­th 7 of hen­na treat­ments, and I will con­tin­ue them until it becomes inef­fec­tive.

    Hope­ful­ly, this helps provide some relief and sheds some light on alter­na­tive treat­ments for pso­ri­a­sis. It is dif­fi­cult to deal with, and a def­i­nite hur­dle in the race for healthy hair. Over 6 mil­lion peo­ple in the US suf­fer with it, and every lit­tle bit of infor­ma­tion helps. Pass this on to some­one you know.

    Christina Patrice

    Born, raised, and liv­ing in Los Ange­les, Christi­na is BGLH’s res­i­dent tran­si­tion­ing expert and pro­duct junkie. In addi­tion to lov­ing all things hair, she is a fit­ness novice and advo­cate of wear­ing san­dals year-round. For more infor­ma­tion on tran­si­tion­ing, nat­u­ral hair, and her own hair jour­ney, vis­it maneobjective.com. Or, if you like pic­tures fol­low Christi­na on Insta­gram @maneobjective.

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    196 Comments on "Scalp Psoriasis and Natural Hair: What Worked For Me and What Didn’t"

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    Madison Nicholas

    My
    name is Louise and over the past 5 years I was suf­fered by pso­ri­a­sis and i
    tried many prod­ucts but that all was use­less. After that i go for this pow­er­ful
    sys­tem. Now I am get­ting heal­ing from pso­ri­a­sis. It is 100% guar­an­teed,
    clin­i­cal­ly researched sys­tem. Elim­i­nate pso­ri­a­sis in as lit­tle as 7 days and
    achieve com­plete free­dom from inflamed itchy skin, sil­very scales, burn­ing or
    bleed­ing. This is a very rare, unique and pow­er­ful Pso­ri­a­sis heal­ing sys­tem
    that very few peo­ple even know exists…

    http://www.afirstlaugh.esy.es/psoriasis-heal

    .

    Xavier

    ACV! It has been a god­send and I’ve had it in my pantry my entire life. Soak your scalp with 1 part ACV and 3 parts water and let it sit for 30 min. Then fol­low up with your nor­mal hair rou­tine. No vine­gary smells and I can now got the allot­ted 2 weeks between hair wash­ings

    VeronicaBonaccorso

    i have bough Der­malMD Pso­ri­a­sis Treat­ment serum for my aun­ty, whom is a long time suf­fer­er of a very bad and sev­ere pso­ri­a­sis, i can say that this is the best pro­duct she has ever used and thanx to god she is very hap­py now and results are amaz­ing with­in just 2 months of use.

    E

    Iv had scalp issues for 20 years until I did hen­na reg­u­lar­ly. Ill nev­er e with­out my hen­na again. I also used light moun­tain but most hen­nas worked the same.

    Nat

    I high­ly rec­om­mend Der­ma E’s Scalp Relief Sham­poo and the con­di­tion­er. Before I was my hair, I apply Mint Almond Oil to my scalp. You can make your own (pep­per­mint oil and sweet Almond Oil) or get the one that Mielle Organ­ics makes and then I apply olive oil to my strands. The Sham­poo is tar-free and nat­u­ral, and is made with tea tree oil, neem, bur­dock, bear­ber­ry, and sal­i­cylic acid.

    Yahaira Lidia Reyes Jimenez
    Yahaira Lidia Reyes Jimenez
    Hiya, I just found this great arti­cle since Im expe­ri­enc­ing a hor­rid itchy scalp since I dyed my hair about 6 months ago. I have suf­fered from Eczema in the past and I have had prob­lems in my scalp when I was using a relax­er. After I went Nat­u­ral, it stop until I was stu­pid enough to use the dye with­out doing a test first. When you say “I did a four hour treat­ment of hen­na, water, and coconut oil” could you expand on that? do you mean you mixed water, hen­na, and coconut oil and left the mix in… Read more »
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