I should start this story by relaying that I’m a woman. It’s fairly common for men to shave their heads, but women tend to be more attached to their locks (and I know a few who would never consider it). However, back in 2012 while traveling through Nepal, I cut off all my hair (we’re talking Mr. Clean bald, folks). If you’re like me and suffer from awful scalp psoriasis, the thought may have crossed your mind once or twice to do the same. So did it help? Read on! (Before and After pictures provided)
My history with scalp psoriasis
I had my first outbreak of guttate psoriasis when I was in elementary school. During gym class I would wear knee high socks to cover the spots on my legs (regardless of the season), but my scalp still drove me bonkers. It was common practice for volunteer Moms at the school to perform head lice checks every month, and as sure as the sky is blue, I was always flagged for a double check. It didn’t matter how many times I told the Moms that it was just “dandruff,” I was always pulled aside to have the resident expert (our school Principal) do an extra sweep. Okay, so one time I actually DID have lice, but every other time it was just my pesky scalp psoriasis. Even through high school when my legs and arms were fairly clear, I had to regularly apply my coal tarshampoo to keep my scalp under control. Suffice it to say that from elementary school through to 2012 I had never experienced remission of my scalp psoriasis.
The big shave
After I finished my M.Sc. degree, I took off traveling for 6 months starting in Europe and eventually
winding up in Nepal, where I volunteered in local orphanages. Lice checks were a pretty regular thing at the orphanages, and the other volunteers and I often joked about what we would do if we ended up with lice. I bragged that I would be totally cool with shaving my head, if it ever came down to it. I mean, there aren’t many options… you shave your head, or you take your chances with whatever local pesticide is available and convince someone to pick all the nits out of your hair. No brainer, right?
About 4 months into my trip, during a 10-day silent meditation retreat no less, I noticed that my scalp was incredibly itchy. I took a bathroom break to check, and sure enough, I had lice. It only took a few minutes for me to resolve that I would shave my head. When I got back to Kathmandu, I tracked down a hair salon and somehow conveyed in broken Nepalese that I wanted it shaved. “All shaved?” “Yes, all shaved.” And so, I left the salon 10 minutes later as bald as a cue ball, and would spend the next few weeks fielding the question: “Vicki, did you become a nun?” The timing was rather suspicious, I suppose.
What did it look like?
I thought that my scalp psoriasis would be incredibly noticeable, but to my surprise, it really wasn’t. It was clear that some of the areas on my scalp were pinker than others (and it was still itchy), but it didn’t look anything like the psoriasis on my arms and legs.
And then what happened?
Well, within about 7 days of doing touristy stuff out in the sun, my scalp psoriasis totally disappeared. There were no pink spots, no itching, and no flaking. I even discarded my coal tar shampoo and hair brush to free up much needed room in my backpack. I can’t say that this would be everyone’s experience, but my psoriasis has always responded really well to the sun, and my scalp was no different.
How long did it last?
It lasted until the end of my trip when I came down with a stomach bug and needed antibiotics (which always send me into a flare!). By that point my hair was about a quarter of an inch long. I will say though that my scalp wasn’t as bad as it normally was during a flare, and it made applying the coal tar shampoo so much easier and more effective (be honest, 75% of our medicated shampoos end up in our long hair, no matter how hard we try!). Even 6 months to a year after I’d shaved my head, applying the coal tar was so much less of a hassle.
Final thoughts (and those pictures I promised you)
Shaving my head is something I would absolutely do again. If it’s something that you’ve been considering, just go for it. After all, it’s just hair, and it will grow back if you want it to! I promise you’ll look like dynamite.