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

What to watch out for

  • Use shampoos without dyes, synthetic fragrances or sulfates because “they can burn or itch your scalp,” says Miami dermatologist Annie Gonzalez, MD. The same goes for products that contain alcohol.
  • Heat is not your friend if you have psoriasis. Then:
    • Wash and rinse your hair with warm, not hot, water.
    • Keep hot rollers and curling irons away from the scalp. Better yet, get rid of them completely.
    • Avoid blowouts, at least during a psoriasis flare-up.

Try a new hairstyle if you normally wear your hair in a ponytail, weave, or other tight styles. “It is less likely to irritate the scalp and hair follicles,” says González.

What you can try

Lean on your natural hair texture and work with it. Also, look for a shampoo that contains coal tar, González suggests. “Coal tar is an ingredient that increases remissions on the scalp and clears psoriasis,” he says. Bonus: it will continue to work even after you rinse out the shampoo.

Be careful with medicated shampoos, which can be drying. Try alternating them with mild non-medicinal shampoos. Look for natural products with essential oils, natural extracts, and plant-based ingredients.

Apply the medicated shampoo directly to the scalp and hair. Massage gently with your fingertips, not your nails.

How to have your best hair

People with psoriasis hear a lot of “no’s” when it comes to combing their hair. It is important to clear up any embarrassment about your condition with your stylist. “You should always be open and honest and not be afraid to speak freely,” says celebrity stylist Vickie Vidov of New York City. “We have seen it all and we are always happy to be a source of comfort to our clients.”

Fortunately, you can try a few solutions, as long as you’re not in the middle of an outbreak. For instance:

  • 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.
  • Do a patch test on any hair color 2-3 days before getting a full color, says Vidov, to check if your psoriasis is inflaming. The barrier cream around the hairline and the entire scalp can help protect them from the dye.
  • Try relaxed styles with curls or waves that start in the middle of your locks rather than at the crown.

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