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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Treating Scalp Psoriasis

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Mild Treatments

Your doctor may recommend these:

  • Coal tar products are available OTC as shampoos, creams, gels, ointments, and soaps. They can help slow skin growth and reduce inflammation, itching, and scaling.  To apply a coal tar shampoo, massage it into the scalp and leave on 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing out. You can leave other tar products on overnight. Staining and odor are the main drawbacks. A non-medicated conditioner after shampooing can help against the odor of tar shampoo.
  • Salicylic acid is apeeling agent available in OTC and prescription shampoos and soaps. It can soften scales, making them easier to remove.
  • Medicated shampoos are available in coal tar and non-coal tar varieties. You can use these daily for scalp plaques, but follow the directions.
  • Intralesional steroid injections can reduce inflammation. A doctor uses a small needle to inject medication into scalp plaques. You can have this procedure at the doctor’s office.

To ease itchiness:

  • Use a conditioner after shampooing.
  • Limit hot tools for hair styling.
  • Use wet towels, cold packs, or cold water on itchy spots.
  • Try OTC tar shampoos or ones with menthol or phenol creams. You can also check with your doctor about taking OTC antihistamine pills.

Moderate to Severe Psoriasis Treatments

Your doctor may prescribe steroids, lotions, solutions, sprays, or foams to treat moderate to severe scalp psoriasis. Some topical treatments are applied directly to the skin, then shampooed and rinsed out, including:

  • Anthralin (Psoriatec). Apply this cream once a day for 10 to 30 minutes.
  • Calcipotriene (Dovonex). This is a prescription form of vitamin D. Apply it at night and cover your scalp with a shower cap. Leave it on overnight. Don't get it in your eyes.
  • Calcipotriene and betamethasone dipropionate (Taclonex Scalp). This is a combination of a type of vitamin D and a strong steroid in a suspension or ointment. You use it once a day. Don't get it in your eyes.
  • Tazarotene (Tazorac). This vitamin A treatment comes in a cream or gel form. If using it at night, put it on clean, dry skin, and let the medication dry before you go to sleep. Applying a moisturizer after the medication may help prevent drying.

Follow your doctor's directions for all medications. Don't use stronger steroids for more than a 2-week cycle without your doctor giving you the OK.

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