Expert Hairstyling Tips for Psoriasis

If your scalp or hairline is itchy or covered in scaly patches from psoriasis, looking good can be a challenge. A dermatologist and a veteran hairstylist offer their expert tips.

What to Watch For

  • Use shampoos without dyes, synthetic fragrances, or sulfates because they “can burn or sting your scalp,” says Miami dermatologist Annie Gonzalez, MD. Ditto for products that contain alcohol
  • Heat is not your friend if you have psoriasis. So:
    • Wash and rinse your hair with warm, not hot, water.
    • Keep hot rollers and flat or curling irons away from your scalp. Better yet, ditch them altogether.
    • Skip blowouts, at least during a psoriasis flare-up.

Try a new hairdo if you normally wear your hair in a ponytail, a weave, or other tight styles. “You’re less likely to irritate your scalp and hair follicles,” Gonzalez says.

What You Can Try

Lean into your hair’s natural texture and work with it. Also, look for a shampoo that contains coal tar, Gonzalez suggests. “Coal tar is an ingredient that increases remissions on the scalp and clears psoriasis,” she says. Bonus: it will continue to work even after the shampoo has been rinsed off.

Take care with medicated shampoos, which can be drying. Try alternating them with non-medicated gentle shampoos. Look for natural products with essential oils, natural extracts, and plant-based ingredients.

Apply the medicated shampoo directly to your scalp as well as your hair. Massage gently with your fingertips, not your fingernails.

How to Have Your Best Hair

People with psoriasis hear a lot of “nos” when it comes to styling their hair. It’s important to iron out any embarrassment over your condition with your stylist. “You should always be open and honest and unafraid to speak freely,” says New York City celebrity hairstylist Vickie Vidov. “We have seen it all and are always happy to be a source of comfort to our clients.”

Fortunately, you can try some workarounds, as long as you’re not in the middle of a flare-up. For example:

  • Consider switching to a cut that can be easily air-dried.
  • If you like braids, try something looser, like French braids or face-framing braids.
  • Patch-test any hair color 2-3 days before getting a full coloring, Vidov says, to check if it inflames your psoriasis. Barrier cream around the hairline and the entire scalp can help protect them from the dye.
  • Try relaxed styles with curls or waves starting in the middle of your strands instead of at the crown of your head.

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