This type of hair loss is temporary + treatable.
Scalp psoriasis—a type of psoriasis that causes thick, scaly plaques on the scalp, hairline, or neck—can certainly take a toll on self-esteem. One 2017 study found that people with psoriasis tend to have lower self-esteem, quality of life, and body image than the general population, especially if they have moderate or severe symptoms.
One byproduct of scalp psoriasis that may affect self-esteem is hair loss. Thinning or breakage of hair does not seem to be caused by scalp psoriasis itself, but due to excess rubbing and itching of the scalp, which breaks or damages the hair follicles. Certain ingredients in scalp psoriasis treatments may also cause this damage.
Either way, the good news is that this hair loss is temporary, and hair should grow back when the offending habit or treatment ceases.
Since hair loss from scalp psoriasis is primarily caused by rubbing and other irritations, the key to reducing hair loss is actually just good psoriasis management. That’s because having your scalp psoriasis under control results in fewer plaques and less itching, which allows the hair to grow normally.
To control psoriasis symptoms, reduce itch, and improve hair growth, try these psoriasis management tips:
1. Stick to your prescribed treatments
Of course, the most important thing you can do is follow your dermatologist’s recommendations. They may prescribe things like medicated shampoos, topical steroid creams, scale-softening products containing salicylic acid (which helps break down plaques), or even more systemic treatments like oral medications or biologics. Learn more about treating scalp psoriasis here.
Sticking to medications or using them as directed can help reduce plaques and itch on the scalp. If something is not working with your treatment, talk to your dermatologist before making any adjustments.
2. Manage your stress
It’s easier said than done sometimes, but stress management plays a big role in psoriasis treatment. Stress is a major trigger for psoriasis flares—partially because prolonged elevated levels of stress hormones worsen inflammation in the body.
Using stress-relieving strategies is linked to a reduction in psoriasis symptoms. In general, being under stress also makes it harder to keep up healthy lifestyle habits, like eating nutritious meals, getting enough sleep, and sticking to your gym routine. Try meditation or exercise to keep stress levels manageable.
3. Try cold packs and cool lotion
When your scalp is itchy, a cool sensation may feel soothing on the skin. Cold packs can of course provide the chill, but another option is storing your moisturizer in the fridge so it’s cool when you apply it. (Cool showers are also an option, if you can handle ‘em.)
4. Brush + shampoo gently
Too much force or irritation can result in broken hair follicles and hair loss. This goes for everyone, not just people with scalp psoriasis.
5. Use conditioner
Dry hair can break more easily, so it is more likely to result in hair loss from basic brushing. Use a regular (non-medicated) conditioner after each time you shampoo to increase moisture and strength in the hair.
Still struggling with hair loss or other symptoms of scalp psoriasis? Consult a dermatologist for help getting the healthy scalp you deserve.
Managing itch. Portland, OR: National Psoriasis Foundation. (Accessed on March 26, 2020 at https://www.psoriasis.org/life-with-psoriasis/managing-itch.)
Nazik H, Nazik S, Gul FC. Body image, self-esteem, and quality of life in patients with psoriasis. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2017 Sep-Oct;8(5):343-6.
Over-the-counter (OTC) topicals. Portland, OR: National Psoriasis Foundation. (Accessed on March 26, 2020 at https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/psoriasis/treatment/genitals/scalp-hair-loss.)
Scalp psoriasis. Portland, OR: National Psoriasis Foundation. (Accessed on March 26, 2020 at https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/specific-locations/scalp.)
Scalp psoriasis: 10 ways to reduce hair loss. Schaumburg, IL: American Academy of Dermatology. (Accessed on March 26, 2020 at https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/psoriasis/treatment/genitals/scalp-hair-loss.)
Scalp psoriasis: shampoos, scale softeners, and other treatments. Schaumburg, IL: American Academy of Dermatology. (Accessed on March 26, 2020 at https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/psoriasis/treatment/genitals/scalp-shampoo.)