Scalp Psoriasis Solutions: Natural Remedies for Dry, Itchy Scalps
By Jennifer Boeder
Scalp psoriasis is no fun‚ but if you’ve got it, know you’re not alone: At least 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis, and the American Academy of Dermatology estimates that half of them experience at least one scalp psoriasis flare-up (that’s 3.25 million itchy scalps).
The good news: Recent science studies suggest that many old-school natural remedies—botanical oils, cannabinoids, and other plant compounds—can actually help reduce the inflammation and alleviate the dead skin cell buildup that causes itchy scalps, flaking, and discomfort.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes red, itchy, scaly patches on the skin.
What Causes Scalp Psoriasis?
In healthy skin, cells mature, rise to the skin’s surface, and then slough off to make way for new cells. In people with psoriasis, inflammation causes the skin cells to multiply too rapidly and pile up on the surface of the skin, causing the build-up of scales called plaques.
Scalp psoriasis can be particularly uncomfortable and may require a different treatment approach, because the skin of the scalp is thicker, and hair can make treatment even more complicated.
"Do I have scalp psoriasis—or just plain old dandruff?"
Scalp psoriasis is different from dermatitis (a.k.a. dandruff) or your average dry, itchy scalp. Scalp psoriasis and dermatitis do share some similar symptoms: flaking, itchiness, and redness. But scalp psoriasis can be harder to treat than dermatitis. (If you’re not sure whether you have scalp psoriasis or dermatitis, definitely talk to a dermatologist who can properly diagnose you!)
Natural Remedies for Psoriasis Symptoms
There’s no cure for psoriasis, but there are treatments that can help manage and reduce symptoms and discomfort while also reducing flare-ups.
While there are a range of clinical regimens, topicals, and injections available for psoriasis, some are turning to plant-based remedies for relief as well. In fact, the National Psoriasis Foundation concludes that natural treatment options can be very effective when used in conjunction with traditional treatment options.
Here are a few of our plant medicine favorites for dry, itchy scalps (reminder: before applying, always patch test a new ingredient on your skin first!).
Baobab oil. Baobab has been a traditional African medicinal plant for literally thousands of years. The fruit of the baobab tree is rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Omega 3 fatty acids. It’s a deep hydrator that’s also anti-inflammatory and extremely gentle on sensitive skin. One study found baobab oil more beneficial to dry, irritated skin than liquid paraffin or Vaseline. Baobab oil is a great option to try for soothing dry, itchy scalps.
Castor seed oil. Once a staple of Cleopatra’s beauty regimen, castor oil is rich in ricinoleic acid (RA), which has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects. Applying castor oil to the scalp can hydrate dry, irritated skin and may help reduce flaking. Castor oil also can be used as an antibacterial and antifungal treatment to combat yeast overgrowth and buildup on the scalp.
Tea tree oil. This popular skin care ingredient has documented antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, and is noted on the National Psoriasis Foundation website as beneficial to some scalp psoriasis sufferers.
Peppermint oil. Records from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome show that peppermint has been used medicinally for centuries. That cool sensation you get from peppermint is menthol, which can calm hot, inflamed scalps. Peppermint is commonly used to treat pruritus (chronic itchy skin) and numerous studies have found it to be effective and safe.
Coconut oil. Cold-pressed virgin coconut oil is rich in antioxidants. It contains lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid that’s been shown to have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal properties. Many psoriasis patients find coconut oil can help soften skin plaques and ease the itching caused by scalp psoriasis (although, as the National Eczema Association notes, it might not work for everyone).
Aloe vera. In some studies, aloe vera has been shown to help reduce redness and result in significant clearing of the psoriatic plaques.
Cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabidiol has been shown to act as an anti-inflammatory. Several recent studies have found that cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors play a critical role in regulating the production of skin cells, and may have therapeutic potential in treating psoriasis. Because CBD is also helpful for pain, it’s great to relieve the discomfort of an itchy, tight scalp.
When it comes to itchy, uncomfortable scalps, a wide range of plant remedies have been shown to help soothe the itching, flaking, redness and pain associated with scalp psoriasis. Some scalp psoriasis sufferers find that a combination of plant-based remedies make their prescribed medications more effective; others can’t take certain medications, or find the side effects unpleasant. At Frigg, we’re not anti-Western medicine—we’re plant fans, but we’re also pro-whatever works!
Please drop us a note in the comments and share your experience with any of the natural psoriasis remedies listed above, or other scalp solutions that have helped you.
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