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Scalp Psoriasis and Hair Dye — Tips for Less Discomfort

Posted on February 23, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D.
Article written by
Sarah Winfrey

Scalp psoriasis refers to psoriasis that affects the scalp, forehead, back of the neck, hairline, or the skin around a person’s ears. Many people with scalp psoriasis wonder whether chemical processes like dyeing their hair will aggravate their symptoms. Though there is a risk that hair dye can irritate a dry, flaking, or itchy scalp, not everyone with psoriasis experiences adverse effects after dyeing their hair.

In some cases, the thought of being unable to dye your hair ever again may be as frustrating as the psoriasis itself. Ultimately, it is your decision whether to color your hair. While some doctors advise holding off on dye while experiencing a flare-up, this advice does not necessarily mean you can never safely color your hair.

Here, we will take a look at what doctors say about the potential risks of hair dye for people with scalp psoriasis, as well as how to dye your hair with as little discomfort as possible. Be sure to talk to your dermatologist before applying new chemicals or products to an area affected by psoriasis.

Is Hair Dye Safe for People With Scalp Psoriasis?

There are several points of view on the safety of hair dye for people with scalp psoriasis.

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Some researchers say there is no evidence that hair color or other chemicals will cause psoriasis flares or make the condition worse. Others note that certain ingredients in hair dyes and other hair products can irritate the scalp, causing flares or allergic contact dermatitis in people with psoriasis.

In the end, it’s important to consult with a dermatologist or other health care provider to determine what processes and hairstyles are safe for you based on your psoriasis symptoms.

MyPsoriasisTeam Members on Dyeing Hair and Scalp Psoriasis

MyPsoriasisTeam members have had a variety of experiences with hair dye and scalp psoriasis. One member wrote, “Yes, you can dye your hair … it will burn your scalp if your psoriasis is cracked, though.” Another agreed, adding, “You can dye your hair. However, yes, it’s going to burn.” Why does it burn? Psoriasis causes tiny cracks in the skin. When you use hair dye, some of the ingredients in it may penetrate the skin through these cracks and cause irritation.

Others found that dyeing their hair actually seemed to help their scalp psoriasis go away. One member noted, “Me and my mum have both found that every time we dye our hair, our scalps seem to improve … especially if the product has peroxide in it. Although it seems to sting at first, it clears our scalp almost immediately.” Another agreed, with a caveat: “Hair dye works for me, too, but after a while, it begins to itch again!”

Minimizing the Risk of Scalp Psoriasis Flares When Dyeing Hair

While there’s no way to guarantee that dyeing your hair will not trigger your scalp psoriasis, there are a few things you can do to minimize the chances of causing a flare-up.

Talk To Your Hairdresser

Find a hairdresser who has experience dealing with scalp psoriasis. You can often find someone by asking around or by looking online. These professionals will have an understanding of how to care for your hair and scalp in a way that is less likely to cause problems.

Once you find someone you trust, talk to them about your scalp psoriasis. They may ask you questions about what has triggered your skin condition in the past and help you find gentle products that won’t aggravate your symptoms.

Hold Off on Dye During Flares

It may be best to wait on hair treatments like hair dye, bleaching, or chemical relaxers until after flare-ups have subsided. The chemicals used in these treatments may worsen psoriasis and irritate existing lesions.

If you are experiencing a scalp psoriasis flare-up, it may be wise to cancel your hair appointment and wait until things clear up. Treat your psoriasis first, then dye your hair with confidence.

If you’re dealing with a scalp psoriasis flare, talk to your dermatologist about prescription medicines that can help clear your scalp. Topical, oral, and injectable medications may be good options for you.

Use Hair Products Designed for Scalp Psoriasis

There are all sorts of hair care products designed for people who are dealing with scalp psoriasis or scalp sensitivities. These products include over-the-counter and medicated shampoos and conditioners, as well as other moisturizing products, ointments, and topical products to help you handle an itchy scalp. Shampoos with coal tar or salicylic acid may help reduce scaling and inflammation. Using these products can help manage your symptoms and leave you with as healthy a scalp as possible before getting your hair colored.

If your hairdresser or stylist is open to it, you may want to bring your own products to the salon. The hairdresser can use your products as much as possible to avoid introducing chemicals that might cause a psoriasis flare.

Perform a Patch Test

Most hair dye instructions recommend doing a patch test before use. A patch test involves dyeing a small section of your hair, then waiting to see if it triggers your psoriasis. While this test takes extra time, it can help you avoid a lot of unnecessary itching and pain down the road. Talk to your dermatologist as well; they may also perform a patch test with other chemicals found in hair dyes so you can find one that is safe for your scalp.

Protect the Skin Near Your Scalp

In many cases, hair dye will inevitably touch the scalp — especially if you are getting all-over color, such as full-head highlights or dye.

There are steps you can take to protect your scalp before getting color. Whether you are getting your hair professionally dyed or doing it at home, put conditioner or petroleum jelly over your ears, hairline, and neck so that hair dye does not come into direct contact with that skin. This protection can limit the size of a potential flare and minimize the flare’s visibility if it does happen.

Find Natural Hair Dyes

Some people recommend natural hair dyes formulated for people with sensitivities. Several members have advocated for natural dye. As one member explained to another, “My advice to you is try to find a hair dye that is as natural as possible. That will help.”

Another member found that henna worked for them. “I stopped using chemical hair dye years ago because I found henna dye,” they wrote. “It is all natural and does not burn, even when the scales are horrible.”

Natural hair dyes may not work for everyone, but they may be worth trying if you have experienced flares after dyeing your hair with other products.

Try Different Styles of Dyeing

Even people without scalp psoriasis can find harsh processes like bleaching to be uncomfortable or irritating to the scalp. If you experience discomfort or flares after having a full head of color or bleach, you may want to talk to your stylist about trying different approaches to coloring your hair. Techniques such as balayage, which start from the crown of the head or mid-shaft, can give you great results while minimizing the risk of irritating your scalp.

Talk To Your Dermatologist

Before you dye your hair, talk with your dermatologist for medical advice about how to color your hair as safely as possible. They may be able to recommend products that have worked for others, help you find a hairdresser with experience dealing with scalp psoriasis, or provide psoriasis treatments to help get your symptoms under control before an appointment with your stylist.

Find Your Team

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and their loved ones. More than 103,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their experiences with others who understand life with psoriasis.

Do you have scalp psoriasis and dye your hair? Share your experience, tips, and thoughts in the comments below or by posting on MyPsoriasisTeam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D. is a dermatologist at the Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Sarah Winfrey is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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