Scalp Psoriasis and Natural Hair: What Worked For Me and What Didn’t

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.

    Share Button
    Christina Patrice

    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 Or, if you like pictures follow Christina on Instagram @maneobjective.

    • Pingback: Natural Hair, Scalp Psoriasis, and Hair Loss….Oh My! | Musings by Melanie Dawnn()

    • Darian

      The henna that you used says hair coloring. So is it a dye? If i use it will my hair be red?

      • Aarti

        As long as it is pure, henna will not “dye” your hair in the traditional sense. If your hair is light colored, it will color your hair. If it is dark, it will not turn your hair red with a few uses. I have black hair and have used henna my whole life. After 2-3 uses you will see some reddish highlights in the sun. The number of highlights increase as you increase use. If you don’t like it, you can buy pure indigo and apply that after your henna. It will turn it your hair jet black and is inexpensive (should be less than $5). Just follow the directions on the package (I think you apply it as a paste after you wash out the henna).

      • Edith Thurman

        Henna is made up of dirt, clays and sometimes ground berries which give it the color affect. I love using it for color I just find one that matches my natural color, they do have non color ones also, plus henna wash and conditioners, but I have never used those! I’m going to check out the henna she talked about, because the only ones I have ever used I got at Sally’s beauty supply, they are still 100% natural, but I like trying new stuff as well! I’m really hoping this works, because I am so tired of buying tons of products that don’t do anything but make it worse! Even the prescription I have just dries my scalp out so bad and it just comes right back!

    • Erica Reese

      What was your ratio of henna to water to coconut oil?

    • http://Pinterest Stassi

      There is something called DermaSmooth scalp oil. Its a mild steroid (Fluocinolone) blended with refined peanut oil (that means if you are allergic to peanuts it is safe. I use it on my son who is deathly allergic to peanuts and its fine). You apply to a lightly damp scalp, comb it through, cover with shower cap or cling wrap (this is important because the inclusion is what helps lift the scales) then leave it in for 8 hrs or even better overnight. Wash it all out. You will have to use it probably every 2-3 days at first to get it under control. This stuff is great. It doesn’t dry your hair out, doesn’t stink, and its not a strong harmful steroid. You need to get the brand name however because the generic is full of alcohol and it usualy makes things worse. Ask your dermatologist about it.

    • I have scalp psoriasis

      Wow, I recently discovered that I have a psoriasis in my scalp and I really don’t know how I got it but now, it is clear to me, it is from a henna dye that I put on during my vacation in a famous beach in Asia.

      • Edith Thurman

        Henna is all natural, its basically mud and clays like the Natives used to color their hair, so unless it had a bacteria in it there is no way the henna alone could give you psoriasis.

        • Alleecmo

          I’m sorry, but your statement “Henna is made up of dirt, clays and sometimes ground berries which give it the color affect” is **grossly** mistaken.
          Henna (real, true henna) is powdered *leaves* of the Lawsonia inermis (aka, henna) **plant**. Henna truly is wonderful! If you want more complete information on henna, visit the site
          Yes, they sell things, henna, other herbs for truly natural hair care, but they lady who founded the site did her thesis on henna and provides **massive** amounts of in-depth information about all things henna.

          I have recently developed seborrheic dermatitis on my scalp and have tried tea tree oil with and without coconut oil (and even oregano oil out of desperation – Eww!) with no real success. I refuse to even try steroids because of their horrible side effects. I’ve just hennaed my hair for the first time in a few years (I’m 50 and wanted to see just how grey I am. Not enough to rock that glorious Heloise look — yet.) Lo and Behold! My scalp is nearly clear!

          In researching natural remedies for the Malassezia furfur fungus believed to cause SD, I’ve read of fantastic results by combining henna with Cassia oblovata (aka, senna). When I redo the henna next month, I will be adding Cassia to my mix. I’ve also read that ACV (apple cider vinegar) used as a final rinse (1 T : 2 cups water) helps keep the fungus at bay. I truly hope this might be helpful to others suffering with scalp conditions. It’s awful what they can do to your self-esteem.

          I appreciate the tips here about coconut water. I love it as a summer refreshment but never thought of it as a health supplement. I’ll start drinking it All. The. Time. now!

          • Edith Thurman

            Yep I messed up a bunch! I’ve been doing a lot of research the last couple days, and yes it is very red in color. I got a lot of info from naturallycurly and curlynikki, I’ve also been looking all over for this article and could not find it! I’m so glad you comment now I can save it! Wow I just now saw the rest of your post. thank you for all the info and the site!!!

          • Edith Thurman

            Well I replied to this but it did not show up :( Yes I was very wrong!!! Thank You for all the info and recipes, I’ve been doing a lot of research the last couple of days and I did not really know anything about henna! I always bought the boxes from Sally’s that came in different colors :O Yep Ive been reading all the stuff you talked about, but I’ve also been looking high and low for this post and could not find it. I am so glad you commented! Thank You!!!

          • Edith Thurman

            I also use some of this in my henna I have in right now, its supposed to be great for all kinds of scalp and hair problems! Bhringraj powder, I’m doing mine now because of scalp psoriasis and hair loss from it. I am really hopping it works! My hair turns red very easily I was born a red head, but now its just brown. So I might look like a florescent carrot when I’m done, but if it help I don’t care! HEHEHE OXOXOX

    • Carol

      My dermatologist prescribed a liquid called P&S for scalp psoriasis that smells awesome and really works!

    • Dominique

      I looked through the comments but could not find a mix ratio of the henna to coconut oil. I bought a tub of henna and a middle eastern market so I don’t even have the convenience of a prepackaged portion. Any information on how much henna to coconut oil and water would be great.

    • Janice

      Dominique, there is no recipe. You just add just enough water to turn the henna powder into paste than add enough coconut oil to make it the consistency of thick pudding. The amount of henna powder you need depends on the length and thickness of your hair. You just gotta eye ball it.

      Here is some info on henna gloss

      Also if I’m not mistaken you have to stir the mixture with a non-metal instrument.

    • http://SEWWILLTRAVEL/mittsforfitts Lorijean Raissis

      I have a daughter who just got and do not know what to do cause she is 9 years old. Do not want to use any unnatural product or dyes? Anyone know what to do for a little girl.

      • Edith Thurman

        The Henna is natural, I’ve used hennas for year on my hair, but have not done one in a long time due to 3 neck surgeries, but after reading her post I may just have to start again!!

    • free

      Cassia obovata
      Cassia alata
      Qing dai

    • Isabelle

      I had been dealing with psoriasis for months and nothing helped. I was at my lowest and struggling with self-image issues due to psoriasis. I’m at the age where I want to show off my body, but I couldn’t because of psoriasis. It made me insanely jealous to see other girls flaunting their skin that they took for granted. I was so insecure. Then one day I stumbled upon this natural remedy, after 2 weeks of following it to a tee, I finally feel pretty again, the skin on my legs is no longer scaly and I can show them off again with skirts.

    • July

      I have had scalp psoriasis for 7 years and have tried everything!
      i changed so much and nothing but the coconut water helped!
      I admit my journey with psoriasis helped me to become super healthy but it also took a toll on my hair and wallet. I started working out 4 days a week. I quit drinking milk and eating sugar.
      I started drinking lots of water and eating fish. I quit eating fast food entirely. I dropped 3 pant sizes but the psoriasis stayed. Thinking maybe the psoriasis was my body lacking some vitamin I began researching every vitamin and started taking all kinds of vitamin and mineral supplements. I also took probiatics. I started going outside for 30-1hr a day to get enough Vitamin D- sun.
      We even built a water filtration system that filters the floured and checimals out of your water. Then i started washing my hair with health store shampoos that did more harm then anything. I went on the NO POO trend for 6 months that did nothing but make my hair super greasy with clumps of psoraiasis flakes. I got water filters for shower and tub. Finally my hair just started falling out all day long. If i ran my hand gently through my hair it would fall out and all day i would have hair falling out on my shoulders and on furniture and the floor. Thankfully i have super thick hair and the loss of hair just made my once beautiful, thick, long hair thin and limp. I finally gave up and shaved my head. I am a young adult female by the way so it was hard on my self esteem. I have never been vain or way into my looks but people do treat you different when you look different. When i heard about the miracle of coconut oil i started using it for almost everything and then i researched about coconut water and i found this sight and it changed my life. I made sure to get good coconut water not the cola brands so i went with Sprouts health food store C20 100% coconut water from young coconuts. No added sugar and low calorie. After drinking 1-2 cans a day for 1 month my hair came back to life with full force and the psoriasis was completely gone! I now wash my hair with $1 suave and it’s thick, healthy and just like i never had psoriasis! Thank you so much! Please people spread the word! Thankfully i knew better to go to the prescription writers aka Doctors and get told there is no cure or worse get prescribed something to make more problems.

      • Edith Thurman

        I’ve been drinking coconut water every day for about 3 years now it has helped moisturize my skin, but I still have psoriasis! So I don’t know if that was your cure or not.

    • Jan Watson

      I used to suffer from psoriasis for about 15 years so I have tried every single cream & ointment there is. Unfortunately almost every cream had little effect at all but thankfully I was actually able to completely cure my psoriasis after my cousin told me how she cured hers. I only had to do 2 things:

      1. Use a humidifier in your house. This will add moisture to the air and to your skin without you knowing.

      2. Follow every step in the free video & guide seen at

      Try those two steps and hopefully you will get as much luck with getting rid of psoriasis as i did. Just remember psoriasis does not have to be a permanent problem, creams may slightly ease symptoms occasionally (as does fish oil capsules) but you really need to tackle the root cause.

      • Edith Thurman

        Thats a load of crap and you should not be posting a sales add! If I could I would report you!!!

    • Jan Watson

      P.S. I also vouch for tea tree oil!

    • Amber

      What store can I find that African black soap shampoo at? I need it quicker than Amazon can ship it to me, also does it matter if it’s not organic? I found one that says all the same things except it’s a dark color instead of the light one you posted and it doesn’t say organic.

      • foxydiva

        Try Walgreen’s or CVS… At times they have that whole line buy one get one free…

    • TM

      T-Gel doesn’t work for me. In fact it makes it worse. I normally use MG217. Have you tried it?
      You can read about how I cope with P on my website