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How Scalp Psoriasis Shampoo Treatments Can Stop the Itching

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Jason Inocencio · Updated Jul 02, 2023

    How Scalp Psoriasis Shampoo Treatments Can Stop the Itching

    Scalp psoriasis is a relatively common disorder that can cause a buildup of extra cells on the skin’s surface. This may result in swollen, reddish-silver patches on the scalp, face, and neck, and these skin patches are often dry, itchy, and painful. This skin disease happens when the immune system sends faulty signals and skin cells grow too quickly. One way to help improve the appearance of scalp psoriasis is to use topical medications. However, a specialized scalp psoriasis shampoo is also a good option for minimizing symptoms.

    Scalp Psoriasis Shampoo and Conditioner Ingredients  

    With varieties of scalp psoriasis shampoo now available over the counter, it is definitely treatable. In severe cases, a stronger, prescription-strength shampoo can be prescribed by a dermatologist. All of these shampoos contain special ingredients that work quickly to reduce the itching, scaling, swelling, and redness that scalp psoriasis causes.

    While some scalp psoriasis shampoo treatments contain one main ingredient, others may include several. Each main ingredient can help reduce specific scalp psoriasis symptoms.

    For example, coconut oil and coal tar are good at moisturizing and reducing itchiness. Salicylic acid can soften hard scales, while clobetasol propionate is good for severe scalp psoriasis. These are some ingredients that can help reduce scalp psoriasis:

    Coal Tar

    Coal tar is a dark, thick liquid that can reduce the itchiness of scalp psoriasis. It may help to use coal tar shampoo as often as once a day and as little as once a week. The frequency depends on the severity of the psoriasis as well as the strength of the scalp psoriasis shampoo.

    Since coal tar is powerful, it is not recommended for use on infants. Avoid direct sunlight after applying coal tar as well as using a sunlamp for 72 hours to prevent possible skin damage. Do not apply coal tar shampoo to parts of the skin that appear infected, blistered, raw, or oozing. Keep coal tar shampoo away from the eyes.

    Crude coal tar is the most effective tar available for the treatment of psoriasis. An important feature of coal tar is its potent efficacy against pruritus. At the scalp, the application of crude coal tar directly can be difficult, thus coal tar solution is the most frequently applied tar preparation in scalp psoriasis.

    Salicylic Acid

    Sometimes the scaly buildup of scalp psoriasis can become quite thick. This can make it hard for the scalp psoriasis treatment to be absorbed into the skin and reduces its effectiveness.

    Salicylic acid can soften thick patches of skin, making treatment easier. It’s best to remember that medicated shampoos with salicylic acid or coal tar are for the scalp and not the hair. Thus, the shampoo must be massaged directly onto the scalp.

    Coconut Oil

    Although not proven in treatment of scalp psoriasis, coconut oil can help reduce the symptoms of itchiness, dryness, and inflammation caused by this condition. Coconut oil contains healthy fats that can restore moisture to skin and improve its appearance. Olive oil can also be used but these oils can leave the hair greasy, so it is advisable to use these products at night before washing the hair the following morning.


    Some salicylic acid shampoos have sulfur which can stop fungus. Sulfur is an ingredient that can slough off the scales associated with scalp psoriasis. This can make it easier for other chemicals and moisture to access the skin and helps reduce symptoms.

    Clobetasol Propionate

    Clobetasol propionate can be found in prescription-strength scalp psoriasis shampoo. This ingredient is a topical steroid that can reduce all the symptoms of scalp psoriasis, including redness, dryness, and swelling. It can also help to remove more easily some of the scaling from the scalp, face, or neck.

    A study by CalePso examined the safety profile of otherwise established Clobetasol propionate shampoo 0.05%, and reported that clobetasol propionate shampoo is safe and efficacious in the long-term management of scalp psoriasis.

    Proper Usage of  Scalp Psoriasis Shampoo  

    To use scalp psoriasis shampoo, squeeze out a quarter-sized amount. Gently rub it into the wet scalp, and then leave it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing it out. It is important not to scrub, scratch, or scrape the scalp during application of the shampoo or rinsing.

    While these are good general directions for using scalp psoriasis shampoo, always be sure to follow the use specific directions on the bottle or your doctor’s prescription. Most scalp psoriasis shampoos are safe for everyday use; however, daily use may irritate the skin and make it more sensitive to sunlight, increasing the risk of sunburn. If scalp irritation occurs, reduce the use of these shampoos to two days a week.

    Some people find that coal tar shampoo leaves the hair and scalp with an unpleasant odor. If the smell proves undesirable, use regular shampoo after applying the coal tar, then use a conditioner.

    Even as scalp psoriasis can leave skin patches that are dry, itchy, and painful, it is helpful to know that there are several shampoos that can treat it. Whether over-the-counter or prescribed by a doctor, these shampoos have ingredients that can soothe the symptoms of scalp psoriasis and reduce the general unpleasantness that it brings.

     Learn more about Psoriasis here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Jason Inocencio · Updated Jul 02, 2023

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