Psoriasis shampoo: how to choose yours

Psoriasis is a skin condition that occurs when skin cells are reproduced too quickly in the body, rising to the surface within a week instead of over the course of a month. This rapid process causes red, crusty patches of skin to appear, which are often itchy and scaly. One part of the body frequently affected by psoriasis is the scalp.

If you have scalp psoriasis, there are shampoos available which may help relieve some of the symptoms such as the flaking, redness and itching. Many of them you can buy over the counter, but other ones (such as those containing steroids) will need a prescription from a doctor. Selecting and using the most effective scalp psoriasis shampoo for you often forms a key part of the treatment plan for the condition.


Choosing the right psoriasis shampoo

Shampoos for scalp psoriasis all contain ingredients that may help reduce the symptoms the condition causes, with each of the ingredients working to target different scalp psoriasis symptoms. For example, some work better to reduce flaking, while others help to soothe itching. Some shampoos contain just one main active ingredient, while there are others that contain several.

Your choice of psoriasis shampoo may be based on what ingredients it has in it and how it works. Here are some active ingredients to consider and what each of them is primarily used for.

Coal tar shampoos

Coal tar is an effective scalp psoriasis shampoo ingredient because it can help to reduce the itchiness that often accompanies the condition. The ingredient has been used to treat psoriasis for over 100 years and can be found in creams and lotions as well as shampoo.

Shampoo containing coal tar, such as Polytar, may specifically be recommended if your scalp itches. Using Polytar as little as once a week, for a four week period, can result in an improvement of the condition. These types of shampoo can also work to slow down the production of skin cells on your scalp, which may help with the thickening and hardening of skin, and the appearance of scaly patches.



Although ketoconazole is commonly found in shampoos designed to treat dandruff, it can also be effective in treating scalp psoriasis, reducing the inflammation associated with the condition.


Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid can soften hard scales on the skin so that moisture can penetrate the affected areas. It’s sometimes found in other psoriasis medications.


Zinc pyrithione

This active ingredient is effective at moisturising the scalp and can often be found in dandruff shampoos. It works to regulate the way skin cells grow and work, which can make it useful for preventing or slowing the build up of psoriasis scales.


If you suspect you may have a condition such as psoriasis affecting your scalp, a dermatologist will be able to confirm and help you choose a shampoo to help with the symptoms. Speak to a healthcare professional for more advice.