Hair products for psoriasis that won’t strip your hair colour

I’ve had psoriasis since I was about nine years old.

(Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that shows itself as an overproduction of skin cells that appear as lumpy, itchy scaly clumps. It’s not curable, just controlable)

My dad has had it pretty much forever.

Mine arrived post parentals’ divorce. I was a kid who internalised everything so, given its heredity tendencies, I guess it was bound to manifest its ugly scaly self on me at some time.

When it first appeared, it took up residence in the usual suspect places – elbows, knees and scalp.

I can’t remember when it kindly upped camp and shifted off my elbows and knees but I was grateful it did. Kids tease and this just gave them another thing to have a go at me about.

The scalp stuff? Yep, that’s been my lifelong “frenemy” which I haven’t wanted to keep close but it’s stuck around anyway.

As a kid I was dragged around every skin specialist in Brisbane’s Wickham Terrace. The only upshot of this was that I got a day off school every six months. It didn’t improve my psoriasis but it did improve my resolve to mostly just let it be (I do have steriod lotion and cream that I have on hand if it gets out of control but not for use as a regular treatment).

See, the idea of applying a sticky cream to my scalp through my thick head of hair was just not appealing. I still have nightmares about my well-meaning Nan taking to my scalp as a child with baby oil and a fine-toothed comb to try and remove it.

Mostly no-one knows I have it now – except my hairdresser – and anyone who sees me wearing a black top or dress. Even then they probably just think I have dandruff.  Alas no, what you may see is just lovely little bits of my scalp. Icky.

I’m also a somewhat vain person. That’s no secret.

I’m a six-weekly hair salon cut and colour girl because I want my hair to look ok. That’s some annual investment in my natural blonde locks I can tell you.

So, when it comes to scalp vs hair colour, I’m going to opt for colour protection every time (I have INOA hair colour applied which irritates my scalp way less than traditional hair colouring methods).

Thankfully, I’ve found three hair products for psoriasis that won’t strip your hair colour but will keep your scalp on the happy side of a potential flare up.

One of these I’ve been using for a couple of years now; one I tried and was surprised with the result; the other I was using but had to stop as there wasn’t a conditioner to go with.

None take the psoriasis away completely but all work to generally keep things calm and in check in the scalp department. They may help you if you too have a dodgy scalp like mine.

Hair products for psoriasis

1. Pantene Nature Fusion Shampoo and Conditioner ($7.99 each):  I haven’t used these for a while but remember being taken by surprise that the formula DIDN’T react with my scalp. So, if budget’s a consideration for you, this might be a good starting point. Available at Priceline, supermarkets and pharmacies.

2. O&M Original Detox Shampoo and Conditioner ($29.95 each): I could have kissed the lovely people at O&M when these products came on my radar. The shampoo is so incredibly soothing and minty fresh (also great for people who swim a lot in chlorine and need to regularly treat their hair) and the conditioner leaves your hair beautifully healthy. Love that you can get a travel size in the shampoo. Pretty please if you’re reading this O&M, could you do a travel size in the conditioner too? Available at Adore Beauty and salons.

3. Kerastase Sensidote Dermo-Calm Shampoo ($38, not pictured), masque* ($60) and serum* ($44.50):  I’ve been using the Kerastase shampoo on and off for years but most recently more off than on because it didn’t have a complementary conditioner. The result being that any good that the shampoo did to my scalp was rendered useless by the conditioner. Now, that’s all changed and these three products are my scalp’s new friends. I start with two washes using the shampoo, then apply the masque, which acts as the conditioner, towel dry my hair and then add droplets of the serum to the scalp. It’s a triple-whammy of scalp calming and it’s resulted in my scalp being the best it’s been in a very long time. Available at salons.

Many people over the years have suggested opting for “natural” or chemical-free hair products as a solution to my scalp issues. This may work for you but I can tell you it’s not made one bit of difference to me. If anything, the result has been the opposite with some major flare ups occurring after even one use.

I have an unproven, non-scientific theory about this. If you indulge the psoriasis and improve the quality of its natural habitat, spoil it if you like, then it creates an even more ideal breeding and multiplying ground for those dastardly skin cells.

Do you have a sensitive scalp? Or psoriasis? What works for you?

PS. It’s National Good Hair Day tomorrow. If you’re thinking of upgrading your hair styling appliance, you can trade your old styler and get $40 off selected ghd stylers at a ghd approved salon (call 1300 880 209 or visit www.ghdhair.com/auand if you’re needing to stock up on haircare product, why not shop at ry.com.au? Ten percent of haircare sales will be donated to the Look Good … Feel Better Program for cancer patients.

PPS. The Queen of National Good Hair Day (well, she’s not officially but in my eyes she is!) – Christina Butcher from Hair Romance – has a paperback book coming out in November: Braids, Buns and Twists (featuring 80 style tutorials). You can pre-order it here.

* Marked products were sent to me for editorial consideration

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  • Gabrielle

    Hi Nikki. Thought you might like to know that you can purchase the Kerastase range online from HQ Hair – almost half the price and free (fast) shipping!

  • Jess

    Hi this has been very helpful, thanks for the tips…I’ve had psoriasis since before I started highschool, I think i would of been 11, and its a terrible cycle to go through…you scratch and it gets sore and bleeds and then gets oily!! im over it and I have been thinking of finally going to see a doctor about it. I am 27 this year so i think it would be a good idea.. I will try one of those recommended products…I just dont want to use coal tar shampoo as I get my hair coloured dark..just recently had the ombre look done so its nice and dark at the top! also getting greys now! so I will try anything that will help the scalp and not fade the colour. Once the psoriasis gets under control would the hair grow back thicker again? mine has thinned out a bit.

  • http://www.stargels.com/ mikal

    This is best hair care product’s.

  • Anna

    I have my hair color treated for the past 9 years and I my scalp is usually full of psoriasis patches. Thankfully I never had a reaction with the dye or the shampoo I’m using, but it is sho damn persistent that it doesn’t go away. What works for me is a coal tar shampoo. Coal tar reaaaaally helped me elinimate most of my psoriasis. Once a week I apply a prepared cream on my scalp (prescribed by my dermatologist) which consists of Eucerine, water, Urea and a steroid cream. I leave it on for 6-8 hours and then I use a dense toothed comb to get off as much “scales” as possible and then wash my hair with the coal tar shampoo. I’ve seen improvement with that method. One thing I notice though is that I lose lot’s of hair and since I don’t have iron deficiency my dermatologist noted that it might be the psoriaris.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Coal tar shampoo for me is not good for my “natural” blonde – so I stopped using it ages ago. I get severe hair loss about once a year but I have another auto-immune condition, Hashimotos, and I’ve usually put it down to that.

  • Pingback: It's World Psoriasis Day. Don't hide | Styling You()

  • Adele

    I’ve had scalp psoriasis for at least 15 years. Currently I’m using Sukin’s shampoo and conditioner and that seems good. I had been using T-Gel prior to that but it was stripping my colour. What seems to cause a flare up for me is any type of hair mousse so I avoid all styling products unless I’m really wanting to get dressed up and then I’m careful to try to avoid getting the mousse directly on my scalp. The other thing I notice is that if I leave it a bit long between colours and my regrowth is bad, it seems to cause it to flare. Something I have on hand to use topically is Miracell (as I react to coconut oil).

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks for your tips Adele … I agree re leaving it too long between colours and the styling products. I never put them near my scalp unless absolutely necessary for a fancy ‘do (vanity always wins!)

  • Helena

    would love to hear what you and your readers use for psoriasis on your skin, not necessarily scalp – a post on that would be most welcome! :)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Hi Helena
      I don’t have much on my skin and just treat the small bits with steroid cream, so I’m not much help there sorry.

  • Cheekie

    Thank you everyone for links, ideas, products etc… off finally after noting all your sugg to Priceline to get some relief for this itchy scalp, thought it was this crazy windy, hayfever weather in Melbs, the scalp has never been so bad.

  • Lislewendy

    Nikki, your story is the same as mine exactly! I use Neutrogena T-Gel Shampoo, and it works really well, however I don’t colour my hair. It is about $10 from chemists and supermarkets. Wendy

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks Wendy – yes, I’ve used in the past but not good for my “blonde”!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks Wendy – yes, I’ve used in the past but not good for my “blonde”!

  • http://www.redlandcityliving.com/ Janet from Redland City Living

    I’ve actually done a post for National Good Hair Day too! #nghd http://redlandcityliving.com/i-dont-use-conditioner-any-more/

  • Claire

    Thanks for this! I’ve been using pro naturals argan oil shampoo which is sulfate, alcohol and parabens free so no irritation for me.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I’m glad that works for you … unfortunately for me being free of all those things is no guarantee it won’t cause a flare up. Mostly they do.

  • Laura B

    Where can I buy Kerastase please? I have been using Dermaveen shampoo and conditioner from the chemist but my hair is dull and frizzy, would love a product that is kind to my scabby scalp and awesome to my hair!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Hi Laura, sorry forgot to include the salon locator above … here’s a link to it to find a salon near you. http://hair-salons.kerastase.com/

      • Laura B

        Oh I didn’t realise it was salon only. Not so helpful for country dwellers! Might have to try one of the others then.

  • Julie

    I use and recommend Activance products for scalp and hair problems – it’s safe for everyone to use, even children. It contains Rhodanide, a substance produced by the body but lost through stress, hormonal, environmental factors, hair colours etc. I also used it on my daughter when her hair was very unhealthy due to chlorine – her hair is now shiny and healthy :)

    http://cmbaustralia.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/the-power-of-rhodanide/

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks for sharing! Will definitely look up and give a try.

  • Cherie

    I don’t have psoriasis, I like your theory on not encouraging the natural habitat though – whatever works! I do have a problem with chemical dermatitis though, for years my head itched like crazy, I would break out in a rash after swimming in pools and I had fine red bumps on the back of my upper arms. I eventually pieced those three things together as the same thing. Changing to a sulfate free shampoo really helped, not only did my itchy head relax but the lumps on my arms also disappeared! I think I have tried every brand going but the best so far has been the Loreal Everstrong range at the supermarket (better than the more expensive Loreal Kerastase sulfate free product even). Anyway, might not help your psoriasis sorry but may help others with undiagnosed itchy scalp!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Ah, those fine red bumps have a name which escapes me now but I get them from time to time too … also a stress thing apparently (went down the skin specialist route with that one too!). I’ve tried the L’Oreal range you mentioned – again with high hopes – but no good for me. Might work for others though!

      • http://www.redlandcityliving.com/ Janet from Redland City Living

        Eczema? They look like little balls of sago under your skin? I get that too!

        • Cherie

          Janet I used to think it was eczema but it’s actually keratosis pilaris (I googled it Nikki). Its not always itchy, just bumpy (can be a bit like sago I guess if it’s more severe)? Removing sulfates from ALL shampoos, face wash, body wash will improve it along with regular exfoliation. If you google it you will find lots of info :)

          • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

            Thanks Cherie!

  • Nic

    I’ve had psoriasis too since I was 18. I think for me it’s really related to stress. I’ve done tar ointments, steriod creams, UVA treatments but now I prefer to try to manage it myself. The only thing that made a significant difference was when I first met my husband, and when I was pregnant twice – all three occasions my psoriasis disappeared. I have a fairly stressful job (and I’m a bit of an internalised stresser anyway) and now that I’m separated and divorcing and my ex is being a dick it’s back with a vengeance! It used to be found all over my body but not to a crippling degree, and now it’s really mainly on my scalp. So yes, I look terrible in black, but I do wear it anyway and just continue to brush off! No over the counter products have really worked on a long-term basis, however T-gel from Nutrogena was okay initially. I think the best solution for me would be to win lotto, and go and live on an island in the sun somewhere… sunshine definitely helps! Good luck with it Nikki, and everyone else who has to deal with it. And thanks for talking about it because the more people who know, the less stigma it carries. Nicoll x

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      You could probably buy that island with the $ spent of products and treatments over the years Nicoll! Yes, definitely stress related – it’s an autoimmune condition. I too cleared up during pregnancy – and during a detox I do a couple of times a year called HCG protocol – all hormone related. I’m sorry you’re going through a shit time right now xx

  • Sharon

    I’ve use DeLorenzo Tricho cleanser for oily scalp for a few years and find it really helps relieve the itching…I tend to react to products more than anything, and with lots of fine, dry curls, need a lot of product…its a vicious cycle.
    http://www.delorenzo.com.au/online/range/scalp-concerns/control.html

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Hi Sharon, now years ago (12 I think) I did use a the DeLorenzo system … there was a scalp spray that was SO soothing. Thanks for the reminder. http://www.delorenzo.com.au/online/range/scalp-concerns/treatment-packs.html

    • Ellie

      These DeLorenzo products are the only ones that work for me!

      • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

        Have you tried any of the others I’ve mentioned at all? It’s such a trial and error thing and what works for one person won’t work for another.

  • Britt

    I’ve basically tried everything and some work, a lot don’t but I find that my hair will then get used to the one’s that work pretty quickly and then I’m back at square one again. I think I also need to learn how to chill out a bit too lol I did, however, go to a hairdresser in Adelaide who used the new range of Dermo-Calm on my scalp and OMG my scalp felt amazing for days afterwards. As she was washing my hair my scalp didn’t even itch (that’s how bad it can get, I can even tell a shampoo is not going to be good even while washing my hair). I, like you Nikki, have used the Kerastase but had the same problem with there being no conditioner. I think I am now going to just bite the bullet and buy the set!!!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Oh Britt … .YES! I get the irritation from even an application. And I totally agree that your scalp does get used to a certain formula. Now I’ve got two to swap between, it will be a good thing!

  • Cait

    So i have had psoriasis for well over 10 years ( i was diagnosed when I was 10 years old), and have tried every salon brand claiming to be scalp friendly over the years. Even the super-expensive-breaks-the-budget kind. Lots kind of helped, but none were really worth repurchasing.
    Then a few years ago I stumbled across Moogoo shampoo and conditioner, and I have become addicted. Its not as expensive as salon ones, its australian made (I love me an aussie brand), and it has been a godsend for my scalp. It hasnt cured my psoriasis. But I only have outbreaks every so often now (ie when its humid, or i have eaten lots of junk etc).
    Also because I dont want to be seen as ‘plugging’ a brand, on the days my psoriasis has been bad, i do a quick scalp rinse with apple cider vinegar before i wash it, and it soothes the heat and itch (i get a quick sting, then its perfect). Different things work for different people though :)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Hi Cait, this is why it’s such an individual trial and error thing. Moogoo was like fertiliser for my psoriasis … causing it to flare up even worse than it was before. This is by no means a reflection on Moogoo – it’s a great product – just my reaching.

      And I’ll be trying the apple cider vinegar thing – I take it every morning in water so like the coconut oil, of course it’s worth a try topically!

    • Emilia Rossi

      Cait I have to agree with you on that one, the Moogoo shampoo smells and feels incredible and it leaves your hair feeling smooth and silky while conditioning the scalp. A really good product to use. I use it on my scalp after washing it with a harsh veru smelly coal tar shampoo.

      • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

        That’s why I’ve said it’s important to do your own trials – this one of the natural products that really sent my scalp backwards. I had such high hopes. I know it’s not the product – just the way it reacts with my condition.

  • http://www.lovemeagainboutique.com.au/ Bev – Love Me Again Boutique

    I am lucky that my psoriasis hides in my hair 80% of the time – the other 20% it likes to torment me by creating a ‘dot-to-dot’ pattern from behind my ears to my chin. Like you, I have had this since I was a child – so I guess I’m stuck with it now!
    I’m done with the smelly shampoos and lotions that ruin the condition of my hair and do sod all for my itchy scaly scalp anyway. These days, I tend to use coconut oil {which feels lovely on my sensitive scalp} when I have a bad outbreak. Love O&M products too. I also appreciate how fantastic the Kerastase products are – I just wish they would drop the price a little.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I’m so doing the coconut oil thing Bev … and yes from time to time I’ve had behind my ears too. When I had my fringe it would creep on to my forehead too!

  • Lisa Mckenzie

    I don’t have psoriasis luckily but I do get the odd flare up of excema on my scalp,and i find it really doesn’t matter if it it is a natural product or not either I tend to stick with what works for me and I switch it up now and again ,i use shampoo and conditioners that are not heavy,as I have very fine hair and I do like the Edward Beale range and the Grown shampoos and conditioners and I also like the new Redken hair colours with no ammonia that my hairdresser has changed to,very gentle and don’t sting and I use the Kerastase Masque as well once a week ,I feel for anyone with skin conditions as it is trial and error to find out what works for you.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      It’s so a trial and error thing and quite individual Lisa … so much out there so don’t persist with something that doesn’t work.

  • Kelly

    Thanks Johanne for that tip re the Aesop. I am very lucky but the sound of it too not to have psoriasis but am definitely keen to protect my colour! Thought to make you all feel better in the last few days out of the blue (and for no reason I can work out) the skin on lower half of my face has turned to scale. Maybe I am turning into a reptile!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Oh dear Kelly – have you been using a new product? Otherwise get along to a GP as it could be an infection that needs help to clear.

  • Johanne Taylor

    Fortunately I don’t have psoriasis on my scalp, but I do have my hair coloured as regularly as you, Nikki. I have recently changed to the Aesop Colour Protection range and love the difference to the feel, smell and colour of my hair.The colour is lasting longer and fading into much nicer tones. For anyone who’s trialing different options this may also be worth a try

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks for that colour care tip Johanne – I think it always pays to play around with different products and protecting our ‘investment’ is so worth it.

  • Joanne Rimes

    Same here, Megan and Nikki, still on the trial an error boat here with reacts to hair care . I don’t tell people because they always recommend I go natural, other than coconut oil, nothing helps. Cade oil makes it worse. New products to try, thanks for that. I find its best when I’m swimming in the ocean everyday. But is that because I’m less stresed because I’m
    Normally on holiday if swimming very day? Who knows. Thanks for ideas.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Oh hooray – and yes I’ve tried all sorts of recommended organic and chemical free products that were like fertiliser for my psoriasis. Same with me and the beach – it’s better with a daily dose of salt water.

  • Megan Blandford

    I suffer the same – and after specialists and dozens of horrible creams and ointments, and disgusting shampoos, my hair was stringy and falling out – and the psoriasis worse than ever. In the end I decided I might as well get my hair looking better, so I’d at least feel a bit better about myself.

    These days I have it under control with coconut oil, which I apply overnight once a week or so. At least it’s natural (although I’m with you – other natural things didn’t work) and smells nice, and is good for my hair too. I don’t think there’s any one answer, just trial and error to manage it as best you can. Sigh.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Oh I’m so glad it’s not just me – and that you’ve found the same with ‘natural’ hair products. I’m so going to try the coconut oil – is there nothing that coconuts can’t do for our health?!

  • http://www.hairromance.com Christina @ Hair Romance

    Great post Nikki! and thanks for the lovely mention too xxx

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      You’re very welcome Christina – cannot wait to see your book!