Psoriasis Shampoo Types and Their Pros and Cons

One of the most time-consuming things to ever happen to me was searching for a suitable psoriasis shampoo. And it was one solution I desperately needed to uncover because scalp psoriasis just…sucks.

Of course, having psoriasis anywhere on your body is no walk on the beach but when you’re a short brunette with a head full of conspicuously white, scaly flakes?

Not fun, my friends. Not fun at all.

The silver lining to this super-time-consuming and often futile search is that I learned a lot about psoriasis shampoo.

And I want to share it with you here so you can spend your late-nights doing something more fun than reading up on the likes of selenium sulfide.

So for those of you on the search for the best psoriasis shampoo, this is a quick guide that’ll go over the various types of psoriasis shampoos and their pros and cons and what you’ll want to know about each of them before you lather up.

But before we get to that, I want to share 3 little things I learned about finding that “perfect” shampoo for psoriasis…

1. Psoriasis shampoo is not a cure-all.

I really, really wish this weren’t true. I tried shampoo after shampoo hoping that once I found the “right” one, the scales on my head would stop itching, reddening, and flaking off.

But the truth is that using the “right” shampoo won’t completely heal your scalp because psoriasis is an inside job. The best a psoriasis shampoo can do is soothe and alleviate symptoms without further irritating your scalp.

2. Consider all the ingredients.

The typical bottle of shampoo has loads and loads of ingredients – some helpful and some not.

Take medicated shampoos, for example – the active ingredient may alleviate your scalp psoriasis, but the rest of the formula may contain irritants like sulfates and gluten that can be worse for your scalp in the long run.

3.  Combine wisely.

Truth be told, you’ll probably end up using all the below types of psoriasis shampoos and that’s not a bad thing since each has its place.

For example, while you’d want to shy away from using a medicated shampoo forever, you might want to keep one around for when you have a bad flare up and an important event to attend. e

Okay, let’s get on with the show you came here for: Which is the best type of psoriasis shampoo for you?

Here are your options.

Medicated Psoriasis Shampoo

Examples: Dermarest Shampoo, Head and Shoulders Shampoo

Pretty much everyone with scalp psoriasis has tried some form of medicated shampoo. The active ingredients found in these shampoos are clobetasol propionate, salicylic acid, ketoconazole, selenium sulfide and zinc pyrithione.

Each of these active ingredients work differently – for example, salicylic acid speeds up cell turnover to remove the scaly patches faster while zinc pyrithione actually slows down the production of skin cells to reduce flakiness.

Each active ingredient also differs in terms of potential side effects and how it affects your hair health. You can find out more about each of type of medicated psoriasis shampoo and determine which is the best for you, if you decide to try this form of psoriasis shampoo

Pros: The biggest upside of medicated shampoos is that they work and they work fast. Within a few washes, you’ll notice less redness, flakiness and itchiness.

Cons: The biggest downside of medicated psoriasis shampoos is that the active ingredients may be effective, but also come with undesirable side effects. For example, steroids like clobetasol propionate have the potential to “thin the scalp,” potentially leading to hair loss. On top of that, your body can become addicted to these active ingredients to the point where once you stop, your condition suddenly becomes a lot worse. There’s also a lot of cases where your body simply grows accustomed to the active ingredient and it stops working.

Another glaring downside to medicated psoriasis shampoos is that ‘though they contain ingredients that alleviate the itchy, flaky scalp – they also contains ingredients (i.e. sulfates) that can exacerbate the scalp psoriasis in the long run by drying out and irritating your already sensitive scalp. If you decide to go for a medicated shampoo – opt for one without sulfates and other irritants.

Coal Tar Shampoo

Example: Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo

As you can tell by its name, the active ingredient in this type of psoriasis shampoo is coal tar.

But why would you want to put that on your scalp?

Well, honestly – no one really knows.

Although tars have been used to treat dermatological conditions for over 2,000 years and have been used to specifically treat psoriasis for over 100 years now, the exact reason for how it works still isn’t exactly understood.

It’s speculated that coal tar may possess antimicrobial as well as anti-inflammatory and antipruritic effects (translation to English: relieves itching) and that it may suppress deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) synthesis and inhibit keratinocyte proliferation.

What we do know is that it works.

It pretty much causes the skin to shed dead cells form the top layer while slowing down the growth of skin cells.


  1. Less dryness and flakiness.
  2. It also alleviates itchiness.

Pros: It works and it’s generally lacking in serious side effects.

Cons: The most common complaints are the aesthetics, namely the smell and staining of skin and hair (more of a concern if you’ve got blonde or dyed hair). Apart from that, the biggest thing you should be aware of is that coal tar is a photosensitizer so when you’re using coal tar on your skin and scalp, be more cautious about your exposure to sunlight and other UVB light sources since it can heighten your sensitivity to tanning and burning.

Oh, it should be mentioned that a major concern of using coal tar is cancer, but rest assured – while occupational exposure to coal tar may be responsible for some lung, skin, and scrotal cancers, there’s been no established relationship between even high therapeutic dosages of coal tar for psoriasis and any form of cancer.

Natural Shampoo

Example: Wen Cleansing Conditioner

Not thrilled about putting side-effect-laden ingredients on your scalp? Yea, I feel you. Especially since this is stuff you’re using pretty much every day, it makes a lot of sense to go the all-natural route. After all, the less chemical irritants you use on your scalp, the better for both your scalp and your hair in the long run.

Of course, natural shampoos aren’t going to “work” fast and quick like medicated shampoos. But the lack of sulfates, parabens, fragrances and other irritants combined with soothing, moisturizing, and naturally cleansing ingredients like Manuka honey, aloe vera, coconut oil, and so on help your scalp become healthier over the long run.

Pro: No side effects. Better for your scalp, better for your hair, better for your overall body and health.

Cons: Doesn’t work super fast like medicated shampoos can. Also tends to be quite pricey, especially since you’re using it on a daily basis.

DIY Natural Shampoo

This is my current favorite.

I started with medicated shampoos, quickly learned that they stopped working after awhile and usually made my scalp psoriasis worse when I stopped using it, tried nearly every all-natural shampoo on the market and then ended up making my own shampoo concoctions.

After a lot of experimentation – everything from beer to mud – I found a few all-natural shampoo recipes that soothe my scalp and contribute absolutely no irritation. You can find my recipes here.

Pro: As natural as it gets and super gentle. You obviously get to control every single ingredient that goes into your shampoo, so you can easily remove or replace anything that doesn’t work for you. Also the simplicity of the ingredients means there is less chance of anything irritating your scalp. Extra perk: very cost effective.

Con: Expect to experiment. While my DIY shampoo recipes is great for everyone in my family, it may not work for your hair type. There’s also a sort of detox period your hair may go through. Ours lasted on average about 2 weeks, but it can vary.

Lastly, the biggest drawback to the DIY route is the time it takes to make it. It only takes about 30 minutes but it’s certainly not as easy as simply buying shampoo. The best solution I’ve found to this is having store-bought natural shampoo around for those days I simply don’t have the time to whip up a tub of DIY shampoo.

ArtNaturals Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo - (16 Fl Oz / 473ml) - Moisturizing, Volumizing Sulfate Free Shampoo for Women, Men and Teens - Used for Colored and All Hair Types, Anti-Aging Hair Care

ArtNaturals Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo – (16 Fl Oz / 473ml) – Moisturizing, Volumizing Sulfate Free Shampoo for Women, Men and Teens – Used for Colored and All Hair Types, Anti-Aging Hair Care

Leave a Comment:

1 comment
Howard says September 18, 2017

You wrote: “I found a few all-natural shampoo recipes that soothe my scalp and contribute absolutely no irritation. You can find my recipes here.” There was no link. Do you mind sharing where “here” is, if it still exists? Thank you.

Add Your Reply