Psoriasis is a common autoimmune skin condition that doctors believe is caused by skin cells reproducing too quickly, therefore the defense system turns on the body and attacks the person's skin. It then creates thick, crimson colored patches or plaques overlying white, silvery scales. These can cause discomfort; mostly itchiness and soreness. These patches can be small, but in more severe cases can be quite large. Most commonly these patches appear on the knees, elbows and scalp, though they can affect any part of the skin.
Psoriasis affects around 2-4% of people worldwide, and can occur at any age, although it is more likely to occur in people aged between 15 and 35 years and those aged between 50 and 60 years. Around 80% of those who are affected by psoriasis are likely to be affected by scalp psoriasis.
Scalp psoriasis can affect parts of and/or the entire scalp, but can also spread to the hairline, forehead, back of the neck and around the ears. It may look like fine scaling that resembles dandruff or may appear as much thicker plaques which cover large areas of the scalp.
Moderate or severe scalp psoriasis symptoms include:
• Raised, discolored skin (can be red, brown, gray or even purple in color)
• Raised plaques on a lot of—or even your entire—scalp
• Irritation along your hairline, forehead, your neck or on the delicate skin around the backs of your ears
• Increased skin dryness
• Flaky skin or increased dandruff
• An itching sensation
• Cracks or fissures in the skin's surface
• Bleeding when scratched or distressed
• Irritation or pain
Psoriasis sometimes results from genetics, but other factors to do with the immune system, hormones, or even the environment around us can also contribute. Some of these other factors include:
• Bacterial infections
• Hormonal changes in the body
• Sunlight or ultraviolet contact (can help, but in some cases can exacerbate psoriasis)
• The use of harsh chemicals or certain soaps
• Poor nutrition or food allergies
• Previous trauma or injury to the skin
• Alcohol intake
• Certain types of medication may induce or inflame psoriasis
Whatever the cause, psoriasis can be an upsetting experience. While it isn’t contagious, there is not a cure for it. So if you do develop unmanageable symptoms, we suggest seeking medical advice from your doctor or a dermatologist to see what treatment options there are for you to help manage this irritating and sometimes painful condition.
The good news is that there are plenty of options out there available over the counter, and one of the most instantaneous things you can do if you suffer from scalp psoriasis is use a good, corrective shampoo that has been specifically formulated for psoriasis relief. Today we’re going to provide you with the top 15 best shampoos for psoriasis in 2023.
Our first product—and a 99% natural one to kick it all off! This is your everyday shampoo for those experiencing less severe psoriasis who do not need or want active ingredients, but instead require a gentle, nourishing product that keeps their scalp healthy.
Blu Atlas is taking the men's skincare world by storm with its high quality ingredients and the care they put into their products while providing the most desirable results. This is a well-thought-out and designed product carrying natural goodness which makes you feel fresh and removes those annoyances your scalps have been carrying for too long! Aloe vera, jojoba oil and saw palmetto are just a few of the ingredients in this shampoo that will help to reduce any flare-ups and ongoing inflammation.
Not only will you see and feel the change to your scalp, this clean and classic shampoo will leave your hair feeling nourished like never before. Scent options of classic or coconut apricot are offered to suit people's needs, and with many saying the smell is of high quality, bringing a refreshing scent compared to other products on the market, it's difficult to resist. Even Men's Journal are going as far as saying Blu Atlas is the number one best men's skincare brand this year, and we couldn’t agree more.
Pros: A natural product made with care by a brand that is on the rise in the men's skincare world. An incredibly pleasant smelling product, with two different fruit-based flavors to quench your thirsty scalp.
Cons: Not as easy to get in store so purchasing online is probably the more reliable option to access.
2. MG217 Psoriasis Medicated Conditioning 3% Coal Tar Shampoo
Scalp psoriasis doesn’t stand a chance with this medicated conditioning shampoo. Containing 3% coal tar, this treatment is effective in slowing down the growth of skin cells and controlling any buildup, thus reducing inflammation, itching or scaling. Say no more to suffering by applying this to your irritatingly itchy scalp—feel how soft and clean your hair will be and see the change in your life.
Pros: Contains 3% coal tar to provide the attack you may need for more serious psoriasis. Many reviewers have highly rated this product and it has been recognized by the National Psoriasis Foundation.
Cons: Coal tar can make you sensitive to the sun even after 24 hours since the last use. Make sure to take note or remember to cover up when going outside to be extra safe. And due to the coal tar it may not be very pleasant smelling, so watch out for that!
3. Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo
The tried and true Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo is highly recommended by dermatologists as its effective response to maintaining a healthy scalp is used all around the world! You’ll see a big change within the first week of using this product, as it gives fast relief from the flaking and itching that’s been a daily occurrence. It contains 1% coal tar, the active ingredient needed to alleviate skin symptoms and make your hair more manageable. It’s no surprise over 15,000 people gave this product a 5-star rating on Amazon!
Pros: A safe product to use on a daily basis, however experts suggest using just twice a week for effective relief.
Cons: Many users of the product have noted the smell isn’t great and quite strong. It may also not be ideal for curly hair so be cautious.
4. Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength
You know what you’re getting when you use this brand—a quality, well-known product you feel safe using, that is also one of America’s highest rated dermatologist-recommended brands. After 10 years of clinical trials, in 1961 Head & Shoulders was born and has been a leader in providing world-class scalp treatment products ever since.
This clinical-strength product has 35% more fighting power than regular shampooing treatments and offers up to 100% guaranteed results, so you can go flake-free! It is created with 1% selenium sulfide, so controlling skin flaking isn’t an issue, as its anti-fungal and oil-controlling properties take over. What's more, it's infused with the medicinal super food Manuka honey, which provides relief from that awful dryness so your hair will be feeling as good as new.
Pros: The smell of the product is much nicer than others and Head & Shoulders have lots of other products you can use along with this one.
Cons: Be careful to read the directions on the back if you have curly or colored/bleached hair as some users have noted it has affected them.
5. Vanicream Dandruff Shampoo
A gentle yet effective product, Vanicream Dandruff Shampoo (formerly known as Free & Clear Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo) brings SERIOUS relief to an itchy and flaky scalp. The key ingredient, zinc pyrithione, helps combat the redness and scaling associated with psoriasis. It’s also free from artificial dyes, fragrances, sulfates, parabens, essential oils, protein and gluten, so the focus is wholly on treating your symptoms and making your hair feel great. .
Pros: A gentle hair treatment, free from harsh chemicals and ingredients, to give your scalp the soothing support it needs..
Cons: Reviewers have noted it’s not the greatest for fine hair, so perhaps avoid it if your natural hair texture lacks density.
6. Dove Dermacare Scalp Dryness & Itch Relief Anti Dandruff Shampoo
Another product from a well-known brand, the Dove Dermacare scalp shampoo is a much gentler option than those containing coal tar, so this may be the one on our list of the 15 best shampoos for psoriasis to start off with. That is, if you haven’t got time to order in the Blu Atlas and need a quick supermarket staple.
This formula contains zinc pyrithione which cleanses, nourishes and provides relief from irritation, itchiness and flakes. Lightly scented and easy to lather, you’ll not only feel the change, you’ll see it too, all while maintaining a clean and fresh look.
Pros: A light and lovely smelling product. Not as harsh as other formulas so allows for daily use if needed to stay on top of things and keep your hair fresh.
Cons: Depending on the severity of your psoriasis, a stronger product may be required. If so, we suggest trying one of the coal tar products or seeking advice from a dermatologist or your GP.
7. Barkers P&S Shampoo
Barkers P&S Shampoo contains salicylic acid, which is common in a lot of scalp psoriasis products. This ingredient is great for lifting off scales and softening plaques, and helps to reduce further itching and flaking. It is gentle enough to be used daily and dermatologists recommend leaving it on the scalp for over 5 minutes to allow it to work its magic. And voila … scalps be soothed!
Pros: Dermatologist approved and recommended by many. A well-received and reviewed product.
Cons: Contains a mixture of different fragrance ingredients which may be irritating to some sensitive scalp types. Take note and check with your doctor whether these could affect you.
8. Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Clinically proven Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is a fantastic option for all hair types, even those with color-treated hair—so no need to worry about those brand new blond highlights! Containing 1% ketoconazole, which is a common ingredient for combatting psoriasis, this is an antifungal medication that helps soothe psoriasis symptoms such as itching, flaking, scaling and inflammation of the scalp.
Reviews suggest it starts to work after just one use, but you can use it for up to 8 weeks or as recommended by your doctor. One dermatologist recommended using it more as a scalp treatment, applying and moisturizing it into the scalp then letting it settle for a few minutes to let it do its thing. See what works best for you!
Pros: Fast-acting relief from symptoms and aluminum-free, which may be a bonus for some. Clean and gentle on your hair.
Cons: A higher price than other products so alternatives might be more within your budget.
9. Dermarest Psoriasis Medicated Shampoo + Conditioner
Recognised by the Psoriasis Foundation, the Dermatest Psoriasis medicated Shampoo + Conditioner is powered by 3% salicylic acid and a zinc complex to effectively treat your symptoms. This clinically tested formula attacks all the usual symptoms you get, bringing massive relief from the red-hot irritations of psoriasis. It also contains green tea extract, kukui nut oil, and safflower extract for further soothing, and is fragrance-free to avoid irritation to your scalp.
Pros: Dermatologist and Psoriasis Foundation approved for a decent price. If you have thin hair this could be more suitable for you.
Cons: Some reviews on Amazon note that it didn’t work well for curly hair.
10. Selsun Blue Medicated Max Strength Dandruff Shampoo
Recommended for all hair types, the popular Selsun Blue Medicated Max Strength Dandruff Shampoo promises to get rid of any itchiness and flakes from your scalp. Containing 1% selenium sulfide, this is a medication which attacks any itching and dryness of the scalp and removes scaling. It also has menthol and aloe, which bring the nourishment to your hair it badly needs!
Pros: Suitable for all hair types, spreads over the scalp well and contains all the ingredients needed to combat itching and flaking. A decently sized 325ml bottle at a friendly price.
Cons: Reviewers have mentioned the smell is a tad off-putting—if you’re not a fan of coconut, you may not like this. Contains sulfate which, if used too much, may cause dryness to the scalp, so it might be good to alternate this with a hydrating shampoo.
11. DHS Sal Shampoo
This fast-reacting psoriasis shampoo has all the goods to banish that irritation to the past. DHS Sal Shampoo has 3% salicylic acid to break down flake buildup and provide relief from that irritating itch you’ve been so desperately trying to get rid of. Not only that, it’s also fragrance-free and dye-free. This well-known brand has been around since 1941, proving their expertise at giving you the relief you’re after!
Pros: Fast relief and fragrance-free. A dermatologist-approved product.
Cons: This comes in a smaller bottle, but that makes it great for travel. Plus we all know good things come in small packages!
12. Psoriatrax 5% Coal Tar Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
This 5% coal tar anti-dandruff shampoo gives you the rapid response you need in clearing away the plaque that’s giving you such discomfort. Produced steroid-free, not only will you be saying so long to itching and flaking, you’ll be saying goodbye to any steroid dependency your scalp may have gotten used to. When it says on the bottle “Fast & Effective,” they aren’t lying!
Pros: Quick relief for hurting heads; steroid-free and proven to prevent any potential flare-ups.
Cons: Contains a strong coal tar fragrance which you might find off-putting.
13. Kenkoderm Psoriasis Therapeutic Shampoo
Developed and formulated by a dermatologist, Kenkoderm’s Psoriasis Therapeutic Shampoo is an ideal formula to treat the scalp and get rid of those crusty flakes that bring so much suffering. Produced with 3% salicylic acid, it’s going to work overtime to relieve any irritation even after you’ve washed it off. And as it includes no synthetic fragrances or colors, this will lessen the chance of any further irritation, making it a pleasure to lather through your hair.
Pros: A gentle formula with no fragrances and colors.
Cons: Reviews have said not to use with bleached hair.
14. Wild Natural Eczema & Psoriasis Shampoo
Another natural product on the list, this botanically sourced shampoo carries all the ingredients you need to relieve the pain you’ve endured through living with psoriasis. Made all the way in New Zealand, it contains aloe vera to hydrate the skin and accelerate skin growth, manuka honey which moisturizes the skin and is rich in vitamins, plus minerals and amino acids to repair and condition. Coconut oil helps with the lather factor and Cehami flower extract reduces itchiness and redness!
All of it helps to soothe and combat the irritating symptoms that may be blooming on your scalp. So, take your scalp by storm with this non-medicated, perfectly pH-balanced, zero-chemical product. If you want natural health and beauty, then look no further.
Pros: Naturally made and contains everything you need to tackle psoriasis symptoms.
Cons: A bit more expensive than other options on the list, which may be better if you’re on a budget.
15. SACHAJUAN Scalp Shampoo
Our last product in list of the 15 best shampoos for psoriasis is SACHAJUAN Scalp Shampoo, hailing all the way from Sweden. It contains that magic ingredient again—salicylic acid—to help shed flaky skin and make way for newer, healthier cells.
Also in attendance here is ginger, which soothes the condition of the scalp and gives it the moisture it needs. Rosemary oil combats the irritations of the scalp, acting as an exfoliator and protecting you from any itchiness and flakiness. SACHAJUAN know what they’re doing here!
Pros: Contains salicylic acid to combat the itching and flaking.
Cons: Not the biggest bottle compared to others, and can be expensive.
Now for some questions you may have...
What should I be looking for (or avoid) in my scalp psoriasis shampoo?
Which one is going to sort this out once and for all, and stop me from experiencing the discomfort and embarrassment of living with scalp psoriasis? Everyone is different, so some shampoos will work better for your needs than others. However, a good tip is to look at the ingredients in the psoriasis treatments you use for other parts of your body, and determine what has worked best for you in the past. Are there any recurring ingredients your skin responds well to? Start there.
If you’re still not sure though, the following ingredients have been proven to be effective in combating symptoms of psoriasis, so look out for these when you’re shopping for shampoos.
A key ingredient here which has come up in a lot of the treatments mentioned in our list above. It helps break down the skin and clears away flaking and plaques. Look for products that carry 2-5% of salicylic acid so you can be sure you’re getting a decent amount of active ingredient. Start on the lower end and work your way up, being careful not to jump in with a concentration that’s too high and could cause a flare-up. If you’re unsure, check with your doctor.
Coal tar has been used for over 100 years and although it is slowly on the decline due to other effective ingredients becoming available, it is still used in many products, as shown above. Coal tar is a thick, dark liquid used to reduce the itching and flaking associated with psoriasis. It’s a powerful medicine that quickly clears irritation. It has advantages and disadvantages—again, consider what's best for you and your needs, and seek a dermatologist’s or doctor’s advice if needed.
Anything carrying natural ingredients has got to be good, right? Aloe vera, manuka honey and coconut oil, amongst others, will give you the goodness and hydration your scalp needs without flaring up chemically induced psoriasis.
Shampoo containing a steroid
Using a shampoo with a steroid generally depends on the severity of your condition. This isn’t something you can get over the counter so your doctor will have to prescribe it. If your psoriasis is bad, do see them and ask what the best application is.
The use of selenium sulfide helps to treat any flaking and irritation by reducing the amount of shedding of the scalp’s dead skin cells.
Sulfates come in two main forms–sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate–and are primarily used as effective cleansers and lathering agents. However, overuse of these chemicals can be damaging to certain hair types, particularly hair that is fine or dry, as well as hair that has been colored or chemically styled. Sulfates can also increase dryness in the scalp and hair, so they are probably best avoided for those suffering from psoriasis.
What is the best way to apply shampoo for scalp psoriasis?
As there will be instructions on the bottle, please read carefully for best use and apply as and when required. This is especially important if prescribed something by your doctor, since medicated treatments can be harsher with the possibility of side effects if not applied properly.
A good rule of thumb is to gently apply the shampoo to the scalp then leave on for at least 5 minutes to ensure the shampoo does its job. Once the 5 minutes is up, rinse thoroughly.
You can leave products containing coal tar on the scalp for up to 10 minutes, for maximum effect. However, these products can be strong, so take care when using them. Stay out of the sun for at least 24 hours unless covered up, and be cautious with color-treated or bleached hair. Keep products containing coal tar away from clothes too.
If using a steroid shampoo provided by your doctor, these are often only applied to dry hair and you must be careful to wash your hands after. Leave for 15 minutes then rinse. Only use as advised by your doctor.
Take care to keep these products away from your ears and face, as the thinner skin on these areas mean they are more prone to damage.