Can Psoriasis Cause Hair Loss?

Can Psoriasis Cause Hair Loss?

If you are diagnosed with psoriasis, one thing you may be wondering is if it affects your hair growth. If you develop scaly patches on your scalp because of it, this can be particularly concerning.

Can psoriasis cause you to lose hair? Yes, it can. Psoriasis often causes hair loss, but there are things you can do to minimize this and help your scalp recover so your hair can grow again.

What Is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a skin condition wherein skin cells do not grow properly. Instead of growing at their usual rate, the cells are produced too quickly and build up. This is caused by your immune system sending the wrong signals.

Since it is a chronic condition, it can go dormant at any time and stay dormant for a few weeks or a few years. Psoriasis flares up for a number of reasons and at any point, though it is tied to your immune function.

Psoriasis can cause a lot of problems, which are divided into three main categories. These are plaque psoriasis, scalp psoriasis, and psoriatic arthritis.

Plaque Psoriasis

With plaque psoriasis, the cells build up on top of your skin and eventually create plaques. These are incredibly itchy, with the skin irritated, red, and flaky.

People with this psoriasis often feel their plaques are burning or stinging. This can happen anywhere on your skin, often in uncomfortable places like the inside of your joints. Your knees and elbows are the most common spots.

Can Psoriasis Cause Hair Loss

Scalp Psoriasis

Scalp psoriasis is mostly the same as plaque psoriasis. However, with this condition, the psoriasis plaques only form on your scalp and nowhere else.

It is possible to have psoriasis both on your scalp and elsewhere on your body, but if it is referred to as scalp psoriasis, it is only on the scalp. When someone first develops psoriasis, the head is usually one of the first places it shows up.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, about 50% of people which this disease will have a flare-up of scalp psoriasis at some point.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is where the build-up of cells psoriasis causes affects your joints. The most common joints affected are the ones in your hands.

This causes your joints to become inflamed and stiff. Psoriatic arthritis is considered the most serious type, as its symptoms can reduce your range of motion. It is also more painful than the other types.

How Is Psoriasis Treated?

There are a handful of ways psoriases can be treated. In addition to the treatment, you may also be advised to use some type of scale softener to help remove any build-up your skin makes.

UVB Light

One theory as to why scalp psoriasis is so common is because the scalp itself doesn’t usually get much sunlight with your hair in the way. This seems to make it more susceptible to psoriasis.

This theory is because one of the treatment options for psoriasis is ultraviolet light therapy. You can get a UVB light therapy box to use at home if you don’t want to go to your doctor for each treatment.

Medicated Shampoos

With scalp psoriasis, your doctor will often prescribe a medicated shampoo for you to use. If you have a mild case, there are over-the-counter shampoos you can find that are specifically formulated to treat psoriasis.

If that isn’t enough, your dermatologist can prescribe medicated shampoos that are stronger and might be more effective.

Salicylic acid is the main ingredient in these to treat scalp psoriasis. This is because salicylic acid breaks down the skin cells just a little, making them easier to remove.


Steroids for treating scalp psoriasis can come as either topical steroids or steroid injections. Topical treatments are generally preferred as they are more direct and only affect the areas you apply them.

However, for widespread psoriasis, a topical treatment may not be feasible. This is especially true if you have these red patches in areas where your clothing would rub off treatments applied topically.

Systemic Treatments

Systemic treatments are usually only used for people with plaque psoriasis that is severe. They are made up of antirheumatic drugs that inhibit the immune system to prevent your skin from forming itchy patches of excess cells.

This includes biologics injections and transfusions, though most of the others come as oral medications.

How Does Psoriasis Cause Hair Loss?

There are three different stages of scalp psoriasis and a few ways it causes hair loss based on what stage you are in. Any hair loss caused by psoriasis is called psoriatic alopecia.

The Mild Stage

In the first stage, which is designated as mild, scalp psoriasis looks a lot like dandruff. It causes white flakes, a dry scalp, and little to nothing more.

Here, most damage to your hair follicles will be because you are itching. There is also the chance that your hair strands will dry out if you aren’t keeping your scalp moisturized. This can also make your hair follicles brittle and cause breakage.

There is a slight chance that this stage of scalp psoriasis can still cause hair loss by blocking your follicles, but it isn’t usually worth being concerned about yet.

The Severe Stage

In the severe psoriasis stage, the affected area is often so red and crusty that it is visible through your hair. The plaques are thick and painful and can even spread slightly to your forehead and the back of your neck.

This causes hair loss for many reasons. The skin cells block your follicles from growing, causing temporary hair loss.

This stage also causes inflammation, which can choke your follicles and prevent them from getting the nutrients they need.

The Medications

In addition to psoriasis causing hair loss, there is the possibility that the medication you use to treat psoriasis may cause hair loss as well.

Though the treatment options for scalp psoriasis usually won’t make your hair loss worse, there is still the chance that your hair won’t appreciate the chemicals in it.

The one most associated with hair loss is methotrexate, which is a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug. It reduces the activity of your immune system. Unfortunately, it also has a bit in common with chemotherapy.

The Stress

Having any chronic condition is stressful for your body. Any type of stress often causes telogen effluvium, which is where you experience hair loss in the resting phase of your growth cycle.

If you drink alcohol or have other bad habits, you will be putting even more stress on yourself. This can worsen both your psoriasis and hair loss, which is why your doctor will recommend you at least limit your alcohol intake.

Can Psoriasis Cause Hair Loss

What To Do To Prevent Hair Loss From Psoriasis

If you have psoriasis, it is still possible to avoid hair loss because of it. People lose hair more because of other things than their psoriasis itself.

Avoid Scratching

The main reason scalp psoriasis causes hair loss is because of scratching. Scratching can severely damage the hair follicle. If the damage is enough to cause scarring on it, that follicle might never be able to grow another hair.

You may want to remove scales if you are afraid they will block your follicles, but permanent damage is far worse. Yes, the silver scales need to be removed, but this should be done gently and without picking at them, or you will break hairs when you pull them off.

To help remove temptation, it is advisable to keep your fingernails short. Having your nails short will mean that, even if you do give in to scratching your head without realizing it, your nails won’t be as damaging.

Be Gentle With Your Scalp

Your scalp is very tender and sensitive while it is suffering from psoriasis. Letting your hair air dry is better than overdrying it with a hairdryer or roughly using a towel.

You should also gently comb your hair and avoid brushing against your scalp as much as possible.

Avoid using rollers to curl your hair or wearing tight hairstyles that pull on your scalp. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, these things can irritate the scalp and can make scalp psoriasis worse.

To reduce hair loss, you should also avoid using chemical treatments on your scalp to color, curl, or relax your hair.

Moisturize And Soothe

Lots of hair care products are capable of adding moisture and soothing your scalp. These can help reduce inflammation and make your scalp not feel so itchy.

Some people with plaque psoriasis on their scalp find menthol products to be perfect for both of these things. Also, many patients put an ice pack on their heads to soothe the discomfort and inflammation.

Cut Your Hair

Even though you probably want to keep your hair longer, you may need to consider cutting your hair short, at least as long as your scalp psoriasis is flaring up.

As mentioned, one of the treatments for psoriasis is light. If you cut your hair short, more natural light can get to your scalp.

Getting to your scalp easier means you can apply moisture more easily to the dry skin cells. This would be very hard to do if you have thick afro hair. Picking scales off your scalp is also easier when you have less hair in the way.

Final Thoughts

If left untreated, scalp psoriasis will eventually cause hair loss. So, get an over-the-counter treatment the moment you first notice signs, and immediately set up an appointment with your doctor.

If you’ve had scalp psoriasis, did you think the oral medications or the topical therapy did better? I hope I’ve helped you know how to better treat scalp psoriasis so you can avoid hair loss!

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