If you have psoriasis on your scalp or near your hairline, your symptoms and treatment may affect how you style your hair. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, between 45 percent and 56 percent of people living with psoriasis have scalp psoriasis. This type of psoriasis can cause symptoms like dryness, plaques, and irritation and itching on the scalp itself, as well as on the hairline, forehead, back of the neck, and skin around the ears.
The following suggestions are some dermatologist-recommended tips for hairstyling with psoriasis to avoid flares, help make the most of treatment, and disguise plaques or hair loss.
Watch as MyPsoriasisTeam member Katya Meltaus discusses how she manages psoriasis plaques on her scalp.
Be as gentle as possible when combing or brushing your hair. Injuring the skin by scratching or scraping can sometimes cause scalp psoriasis to flare. In fact, in a response known as the Koebner phenomenon, skin injury can cause new psoriasis plaques to develop on previously clear areas of skin.
Harsh brushing or combing can sometimes have another frustrating impact: temporary hair loss. Whether a person with psoriasis accidentally scratches their dry scalp or forcibly removes itchy plaques, they may lose hair in the affected areas. The hair usually will grow back unless the hair follicles are damaged.
Pulling too tightly on the hair may cause scalp irritation, potentially leading to a psoriasis flare-up. Constant tension from tightly pulled hairstyles may also cause hair strands or hair follicles to break or fall out, leading to a form of scarring, irreversible hair loss known as traction alopecia.
To prevent irritating the scalp and losing hair, avoid styles that constantly pull on the hair, including:
Some styling tools, like rollers, straightening irons, and curling irons, use high heat to achieve a long-lasting style. The heat from these tools may burn or irritate the scalp, potentially leading to a psoriasis flare. Limit how often you use these tools, and when you do use them, take extra care to prevent them from touching your scalp.
Coloring your hair with dye or relaxing your hair with chemical treatments can cause scalp irritation and psoriasis flares. Some people may also have an allergic reaction to hair dye known as contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis can cause the skin to be red, dry, and irritated on top of existing psoriasis symptoms. Like scalp psoriasis, contact dermatitis is initially treated with topical steroids.
The Cleveland Clinic notes that plant-based dyes and other all-natural hair colorants are a good option if you want to avoid exposing your skin to the chemicals found in most artificial hair dyes. One MyPsoriasisTeam member offered an alternative to chemical-based hair dyes: henna dye. Henna dye is a plant-based dye made from the leaves of the henna tree (Lawsonia inermis). As this member wrote, “I stopped using chemical hair dye years ago because I found henna dye. It is all natural and does not burn, even when the scales are horrible.”
Before trying any new hair dyes, treatments, or styling products, perform an allergy test known as a patch test. A patch test involves dabbing a small amount of the product on discrete areas of skin, such as behind the ear or on the inner elbow, and allowing it to dry. If you experience any irritation after applying the product, do not use it further.
Although a patch test may help gauge your short-term response to a hair product, research has shown that people with psoriasis may have delayed reactions to irritating substances. One 2014 study found that it took seven days for reactions to reach maximum intensity in people with psoriasis, versus just three to five days in people without psoriasis. Be careful even after doing a patch test.
Let your stylist know about your psoriasis before sitting down in the salon chair. Having psoriasis can influence the haircut or hairstyle a person decides to wear. There’s a good chance your stylist has worked with clients who have psoriasis in the past. If they haven’t, let them know that psoriasis is not contagious and is not an infection. As some MyPsoriasisTeam members have noted, you may also want to let your stylist know that harsh combing, brushing, or heat styling could aggravate your psoriasis.
“I went to the hairdresser’s today,” wrote one member, “and it’s aggravated my psoriasis on my scalp! I have a lovely hairstyle that’s now ruined by my itching.”
Topical treatments are currently used as first-line treatment in many people with scalp psoriasis. However, hair can complicate treatment for scalp psoriasis. As one research team described in a report for the journal Psoriasis, hair not only affects the application and penetration of medications to affected areas but also how likely a person is to stick to their treatment plan. Topical treatments may make your hair greasy or be difficult to remove from the hair. Some MyPsoriasisTeam members have shared that keeping their hair short is helpful for treatment. Ask your doctor about topical solutions and foams that will not get caught as easily in your hair.
Psoriasis treatment isn’t the only consideration taken into account when deciding on a haircut. Some MyPsoriasisTeam members have shared that psoriasis-related hair loss has also made them consider changing their hairstyles.
“I’ve been thinking about my hairstyle here lately,” wrote one member. “My entire life, I’ve always had long, pretty hair. Now that I’m practically bald, I’m wondering if I should let my hair grow back out or look for a cute, short hairstyle. I’m wondering if I should get a short hairstyle to help keep the psoriasis maintained, as well.”
Some MyPsoriasisTeam members have shared that they prefer having a hairstyle that can cover their psoriasis. Some share frustration with feeling that they need to keep long hair to cover their plaques. As one member with psoriasis on their neck and behind their ears wrote, “Sometimes, I feel like chopping my hair. I do not wear short hair due to my psoriasis.”
Another shared that their hairstyle is dependent on their psoriasis symptoms: “I cover mine up as much as possible with my hair. I also have [psoriasis] on my forehead, as well as on my scalp and behind my ears. So, my hairstyle is always chosen by how I cover it all up.”
Other members have gotten creative with their haircuts to help hide psoriasis lesions. “I cut my hair at a small salon,” one member wrote, “so, now I have a bang. It helps me to cover my scalp psoriasis that is now below my hairline. Sometimes, it is red, thick, and flaky, and no amount of makeup can hide it.”
MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, members ask questions, offer advice and support, and share their experiences living with psoriasis. Hairstyling for psoriasis is one of the most frequently discussed topics.
How do you style your hair with psoriasis? Share your tips with members in the comments below or by making a post on MyPsoriasisTeam.
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