Environmentally Triggered Scalp Psoriasis
Last updated: December 2019
I recently had a new outbreak of scalp psoriasis. It used to rule my life, with half of my year spent with my scalp coated in cocois (coconut oil) and clingfilm. Since identifying the critical trigger for my scalp psoriasis, an ingredient in shampoo called sodium laureth sulfate (SLS), I have used cocois a handful of times.
Until now - because it's back. Not scaling so much, but itching. I feel like I have nits or lice.
Environmental triggers can come from anywhere
I am pregnant, and for some people, that's enough to bring on a flare of psoriasis. For me, it's the lifestyle changes that come with it. Being severely nauseous for four months, I let aspects of my life slide - like self-care.
I ran out of my shampoo, so I used the kids. I thought this would be fine as it didn't contain SLS either, but it turns out I was wrong because it includes other irritants I try to avoid putting on my psoriasis, like parfum.
Parfum is a term that covers some undisclosed chemicals, which makes it a terrifying ingredient. As parfum is considered a trade secret, companies do not have to disclose which chemicals have been used to give the scent of their products. I find this terrifying. It's hidden in so many products too - have a look at your body wash and moisturizers!
Approaching scalp psoriasis
My scalp is itchy and that's annoying. I'm self-conscious and hyper-aware. See, my daughter just started a new preschool, and I'm sure some of the moms think I must have lice. I know that my scratching will make my psoriasis worse and increase inflammation. If I scratch too much, I could break the skin and enhance the risk of infection.
So what do we do? My approach is different, depending on the trigger. When my psoriasis is a whole body and scalp flare, my first point of action is to call the doctor.
As this flare of scalp psoriasis was environmentally triggered, I decided to see a hairdresser. While I understand that going to the hair salon can be pretty terrifying, I have never had a hairdresser refuse to see me. I find it helps to tell the salon that I have psoriasis upon booking. This helps reduce anxiety on the day. It's easy to forget that roughly 1 in 50 people have psoriasis, so hairdressers see this all of the time. If you're lucky, you will get a hairdresser who has psoriasis, it has happened to me twice!
I have curly hair and while you don't need to cut your hair short to treat it, my self-neglect meant I was feeling sad about my appearance. Visiting my hairdresser for a shorter style helped improve my feelings of self-confidence which motivated me to take better care of my scalp.
I ordered my special shampoo. Plus extras. I bought the extras because I deserve them. Flaring isn't a time for self-loathing, its a time to prioritize self-care. I discovered an app called Think Dirty. It made me realize that a number of my 'natural' and 'organic' products contained hidden nasties, so I'm now informed and can try something else.
Other potential scalp psoriasis triggers
It's also worth noting that dying the hair can help if flaking is a big problem. Having highlights can be beneficial. Having lighter hair at the roots makes flaking less obvious and the color can be applied only to the hair itself. If you have scalp psoriasis, I don't recommend applying any color to the scalp.
A word of warning though: watch out if you use coal tar-based treatments. Coal treatments can discolor bleached hair. I was put into detention once at school for having orange-tinted hair as a result of therapy-induced discoloration. It can be noticeable.
Recovery from a scalp flare takes time
It has been two weeks since I swapped back to shampoo with no SLS and no parfum. The itching is almost gone. I think it's important to remember that the skin takes time to heal. In my experience, you need to give products at least three weeks to see if they work.
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