A woman disheartened, scratches at irritated plaques on her scalp

My Top 3 Scalp Psoriasis Triggers (& Helpful Tips)

Last updated: January 2023

Scalp psoriasis - what a lovely affliction! There are many different types of psoriasis and scalp psoriasis is the one I'm most impacted by. I also experience the occasional patch on my shins and eyelids throughout the year.

My immune system is a bag of tricks, and my main issue is ankylosing spondylitis (AS), which can coincide with psoriasis. After all, psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is one of the spondyloarthropathies, and part of me wonders if I actually have PsA on top of AS, or if I have plaque psoriasis on top of AS. It's certainly a lot to sort through.

Here are my scalp psoriasis triggers and what I do about them

I've been learning to get my inflammation under control through movement, nutrition, stress management, and, of course, medication. But my scalp psoriasis? Seems to pretty much be a constant, even if it's mild. It's known to crop up due to very specific triggers.

Certain chemicals mess with my scalp

I notice more of an itch when I use sulfate shampoos or conditioners, like sodium laureth sulfates. One time, I found myself extremely nostalgic in the body care aisle of Target. The "Herbal Essences" shampoos caught my eye—and with them, their heavy floral scent.

I started using it but realized that my scalp was unbearably itchy and tight, and my legs were also covered in small red patches. That's when it clicked. Certain chemicals don't work for me.

Let's talk about sweat baby

I pay the price if I don't wash the sweat off my scalp. I work out pretty much daily to keep my spine mobile with AS, but excess sweat or sweat; I don't wash off right away leads to problems. That goes for my hair.

If I have a particularly tough workout and my scalp, hair, and neck are sweaty, it will cause me to have a minor flare-up. Sometimes, I have to go into the bathroom at night and clean my scalp because I'm up with an itchy one. It's the worst.

Find helpful ways to take care of your scalp

I've noticed that scrubbing my scalp is bad news. I have to strike a balance between fully cleansing my scalp and gently making sure to get it clean. I used to scratch and rub—all fingernails and force—but this irritates me more than anything.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, "Rubbing a shampoo into the scalp may seem best, but it’s not. Rubbing, scrubbing, and scratching your scalp tend to make scalp psoriasis worse."

Some things help me, too, although I wouldn't recommend you try them unless you talk to your healthcare provider first. Everyone has different levels of severity, and I wouldn't want to make things worse for you.

Seriously, being a devotee to stress management can also help. Obviously, this is super tough. Here's what helps me: journaling intrusive thoughts before bed, getting into nature a few times a week, being intentional about my phone usage, and escaping for deep breaths a few times throughout the day.

Good luck on your scalp psoriasis journey. Be kind to yourself and be patient with your treatment journey.

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