The link between scalp psoriasis and hair loss
Does scalp psoriasis cause hair loss? It’s one of the questions asked most frequently about the condition. Psoriasis itself doesn’t directly cause hair loss, by which we mean that just having the condition alone won’t make your hair fall out. There are, however, a number of reasons why people with scalp psoriasis may experience hair loss.
What causes the hair to fall out?
Psoriasis is a condition in which skin cells are made too quickly by the body, resulting in the appearance of red, flaky, crusty areas of skin covered with silvery scales. When these appear across the scalp, or parts of it, the term scalp psoriasis is used. Repeatedly scratching the scalp, worrying about psoriasis and blow drying your hair are among the main reasons some people with the condition experience hair loss.
Itching the scalp
Having an itchy scalp can be one of the most uncomfortable symptoms of psoriasis, triggering a desire to scratch more frequently than you normally would. Scratching the itch feels good, too: your brain even has a built-in mechanism to provide distraction and relief when you do. But scratching too much and too often may cause hair to fall out.
Stress and worry
Stress is a known trigger for psoriasis and, for many chronic sufferers, forms part of a vicious circle where the worrying caused by the condition actually makes its symptoms worse. In some cases this can lead to temporary hair loss.
Blow drying your hair
Blow drying of the hair, as well as using straighteners, styling tools and hair dye, can worsen hair loss for psoriasis sufferers, as it can cause the scalp to become more dry than it already is.
Tips for avoiding hair loss
Hair loss linked to scalp psoriasis can make a distressing condition feel even worse, but there are things you can do that may help minimise the risk of hair falling out. The American Academy of Dermatology has the following advice among its top tips to try.
Be gentle: We’ve heard how frequent scratching and using harsh products can lead to hair loss, so it’s really important to treat your scalp kindly. Be careful to comb gently when removing scaly skin, and resist the temptation to pick at it.
Trim your nails: There are bound to be times when you just cannot help but scratch your scalp, so make sure your fingernails are short and smooth when you do. This reduces the risk of loosening clumps of hair.
Add moisture: Scalp psoriasis causes your scalp to be extremely dry. Using a conditioner and letting your hair air dry as opposed to blow drying it will keep more moisture in the scalp, which may reduce the risk of hair loss.
Test all products: Before using any product for your hair, do a patch test first to gauge whether or not it is going to be gentle enough for your scalp. If irritation persists after a few hours, swap to something gentler.
If you are concerned about hair loss that you think may be linked to scalp psoriasis, a healthcare professional will be able to give you more information, including a specific diagnosis and recommended treatment plan. A medicated shampoo containing coal tar, such as Polytar Scalp Shampoo, can work to alleviate itchiness and may help to reduce the urge to scratch the area. Speak to a dermatologist for more advice.