It can take a lifetime to find just the right shampoo for you, and having psoriasis can make the search even more challenging. The condition can cause red, itchy, scaly skin patches on any part of your body, and it can be particularly inconvenient if it's on your scalp.
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Your dermatologist can prescribe many topical solutions to treat your psoriasis, and oral and injectable therapies are available, too. But if you'd like to try some over-the-counter options first, here are the best psoriasis shampoos that come highly recommended by dermatologists.
The Best Shampoos for Psoriasis
- Best for Color-Treated Hair: Nizoral Scalp Psoriasis Shampoo & Conditioner ($14.99, Amazon)
- Best for Scalp and Body: Mederma Aqua Glycolic Shampoo and Body Cleanser ($20.62, Walmart.com)
- Best for Removing Scales: P&S Liquid ($27, BakerCummins.com)
- Best for Irregular Washers: DHS With Zinc Shampoo ($16.36, Amazon)
- Best With Coal Tar: Neutrogena T-Gel ($6.99, Amazon)
- Best With Salicylic Acid: Hairsanity Shampoo ($30, HairSanity.com)
How We Chose
We asked dermatologists to explain what makes a great psoriasis shampoo and selected the following products based on their criteria, including:
- Anti-inflammatory ingredients
- Anti-dandruff ingredients
1. Best for Color-Treated Hair: Nizoral Scalp Psoriasis Shampoo & Conditioner
"Normal flora (the natural yeast and bacteria that reside on the skin and scalp) are an important trigger for psoriasis," Audrey Kunin, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of DERMAdoctor, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
That's not to say that all flora is bad; indeed, these natural bugs help keep our skin and scalp healthy. Rather, it's when their numbers change and there's an imbalance — one bacteria becomes more or less prominent, for example — that triggers psoriasis.
Dr. Kunin likes this shampoo because it targets this kind of microbial imbalance. It also smoothes away flaking with a moisturizing agent called urea.
Kellie Reed, MD, a dermatologist based in Austin, Texas, also likes this shampoo because it contains tea tree oil (which minimizes inflammation), along with soothing green tea and vitamins E, C and B5. "It also has 3 percent salicylic acid, which helps with scaly skin," she says.
As a bonus, this 2-in-1 formula is gentle enough to be used on color-treated and gray hair.
2. Best for Scalp and Body: Mederma Aqua Glycolic Shampoo and Body Cleanser
"All that scale builds up with nowhere to go (except your shoulders)," Dr. Kunin says. "Aqua Glycolic Shampoo is your glycolic acid alternative for removing scales and crusts."
It contains salicylic (BHA) and glycolic acids (AHA), which break up debris, "leaving your scalp flake-free and your hair luxurious," she says.
Both salicylic and glycolic acid-based shampoos also help remove oil buildup, which is crucial to hair care.
Buy it: Walmart.com; Price: $20.62
3. Best for Removing Scales: P&S Liquid
"A special mention goes to P&S Liquid," Dr. Kunin says. "Think of it as a mask for your scalp. While it doesn't peel off the way a facial mask does, applying P&S Liquid to the scalp at night and washing it out in the morning is a heaven-sent treatment for anyone with severe scaling of the scalp."
She recommends only using it nightly for about three nights, then periodically if you aren't responsive to other treatments, or when flare-ups occur.
Buy it: BakerCummins.com; Price: $27
4. Best for Irregular Washers: DHS With Zinc Shampoo
"This one is my favorite," Dr. Kunin says, noting that this psoriasis shampoo contains 2 percent zinc pyrithione, which is a gentle but effective way to control flaking and itching.
She considers it a great option for anyone who can't wash their hair daily (it's recommended to wash with this shampoo three to four times a week) or is looking for an added, non-steroid treatment.
5. Best With Coal Tar: Neutrogena T-Gel
"Neutrogena T-gel shampoo is a great option for patients with psoriasis because it contains coal tar," Janelle Vega, MD, board-certified dermatologist in Miami, Florida, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "Psoriasis patients have excess skin on the scalp resulting in scaling. Coal tar works by helping the outer layer of skin shed."
It also helps reduce the growth of excess skin, which can minimize flaking, she notes.
Dr. Reed also recommends this shampoo because it is anti-inflammatory and can help with pesky itching.
6. Best With Salicylic Acid: HairSanity Shampoo
"Another great option is the HairSanity system, which contains hydrocortisone to minimize inflammation from psoriasis," Dr. Vega says.
This sulfate-free hair and scalp cleanser gets rid of itch and irritation fast, and it contains salicylic acid, which helps remove flakes.
Buy it: HairSanity.com; Price: $30
What to Look for in a Psoriasis Shampoo
There are two main things a psoriasis shampoo should feature:
- Ingredients that sooth inflammation: "These include anything containing hydrocortisone," Dr. Vega says, as well as coal tar and tea tree oil.
- Ingredients that loosen scales and reduce dandruff: These include salicylic acid, selenium sulfide, coal tar, ketoconazole and pyrithione zinc, Dr. Reed says.
Tips for Using Psoriasis Shampoo
Make the product you choose more effective at controlling psoriasis by following these doctor-approved suggestions:
- Leave it in longer. "The key is to use a shampoo particularly as a scalp treatment, meaning to leave it on the scalp about 5 minutes, then rinse it off," Dr. Reed says.
- Vary it up. "Flaking is the result of several biological missteps, which is why dandruff doesn't respond well to a single therapy," says Dr. Kunin. "If you want flake-free hair, you have to disrupt the dandruff pathway at several points, using products that work synergistically." To that end, Dr. Reed recommends shampooing three or four times a week, alternating between products with different ingredients to get the best results.
- Talk to your doctor. If the above over-the-counter shampoos don't completely control your scalp psoriasis, make an appointment with your dermatologist, who can discuss whether a prescription shampoo or treatment may work better for you.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.