The Best Shampoo For Psoriasis & Color-Treated Hair

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For those with scalp psoriasis, finding a shampoo that reduces scales and soothes itching without messing with your hair color can seem like an impossible task. But looking for a few key ingredients in a formula that's sulfate-free and/or color-safe is the simplest way to identify the best shampoos for psoriasis and color-treated hair. "Medicated shampoos can help thin out the thickened areas of skin, which we call plaques," dermatologist Lina Kennedy tells Bustle. "For example, salicylic acid can be used to soften and thin out the scaly area," she says, explaining that this ingredient helps improve psoriasis symptoms and allows any prescription medications to better penetrate the skin. "Other ingredients that can help include tea tree oil, ketoconazole, hydrocortisone, and oats," adds Dr. Kennedy. While coal tar is another ingredient Dr. Kennedy recommends for treating scalp psoriasis, it can pose a problem for people with color-treated hair (particularly for blondes), as it can cause discoloration and staining. So, that’s one ingredient you’ll want to steer clear of.

The Expert

Dr. Lina Kennedy, M.D., F.A.A.D., is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in cosmetic and surgical dermatology. She currently practices in Southern California with Stefani Kappel Dermatology.

How To Minimize Psoriasis Irritation

Though you'll want to read through the instructions of the shampoo you choose, Dr. Kennedy says that, generally, medicated shampoos should only be used two to three times each week. "Too much of these helpful ingredients can dry out the scalp or cause irritation," Dr. Kennedy cautions. "Different hair types may be on different hair wash schedules, and it's important to take this into consideration when treating scalp psoriasis," she adds.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that your hair dye could actually be making your psoriasis symptoms worse. "Hair dye should not trigger psoriasis, but it can worsen irritation in affected skin," Dr. Kennedy says. "The affected skin is already compromised," she explains. "Alcohols or other harsh chemicals can cause stinging, burning, and irritation. In addition, some people can be allergic to paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a chemical used in hair dye."

If your over-the-counter attempts to address scalp psoriasis aren't working, don't panic. Instead, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist, who can better determine a treatment plan. "Dermatologists have many prescription options that can greatly help scalp psoriasis," shares Dr. Kennedy. "We are able to prescribe other medicated shampoos and higher potency steroids."

Shop The Best Shampoos For Psoriasis & Color-Treated Hair

In a hurry? Here are the best shampoos for psoriasis and color-treated hair:

1. Best Medicated Drugstore Psoriasis Shampoo: Nizoral Scalp Psoriasis Shampoo & Conditioner

2. Best Soothing Psoriasis Shampoo: Aveeno Oat Milk Blend Shampoo

3. Best Prestige Psoriasis Shampoo: Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

4. Best Tea Tree Oil Shampoo For Psoriasis: DERMA E Scalp Relief Shampoo

5. Best Sensitive Skin-Friendly Psoriasis Shampoo: Vanicream Dandruff Shampoo


Best Medicated Shampoo

For a medicated shampoo specifically formulated to treat scalp psoriasis, there's this two-in-one Nizoral Scalp Psoriasis Shampoo & Conditioner. The formula contains 3% salicylic acid to help soften and lift scalp scales and flakes, as well as anti-inflammatory tea tree oil. While some medicated shampoos can be too aggressive on color-treated hair, Nizoral is free from sulfates and formulated with soothing and moisturizing ingredients like green tea extract, panthenol, and vitamin E. It's also free from dyes, alcohol, and artificial fragrances, for those with skin sensitivities.

Active Ingredients: Salicylic Acid, Tea Tree Oil Size: 11 oz. Cruelty-Free: No

Relevant Review: "I have had psoriasis for years, and it flares up regularly with scaling and itching on my scalp. I have tried so many options that never seem to work. This shampoo felt so good and relieving — I am thrilled to have found it."


Best Soothing Shampoo

If you're looking for a soothing shampoo (or something gentle to alternate your medicated shampoo with), try this Aveeno Oat Milk Blend Shampoo. Oat-derived ingredients are recommended by Dr. Kennedy to soothe itching and irritation, and Aveeno combines colloidal oatmeal extract with hydrolyzed milk protein and sweet almond seed extract to keep both the scalp and hair moisturized. The sulfate-free formula is safe for color-treated hair, and despite the moisturizing ingredients, the shampoo is still lightweight, so it won't weigh down finer hair textures.

Active Ingredient: Colloidal Oatmeal Extract Size: 12 oz. Cruelty-Free: No

Relevant Review: "This product helps with psoriasis. Very gentle on hair, [and] works great for itching and other related psoriasis symptoms."


Best Prestige Shampoo

You don't have to part with your salon-quality shampoo to treat psoriasis, thanks to Oribe. The brand's Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo uses 2% salicylic acid to reduce flaking and scaling in a color-safe formula that protects your hair from the color-depleting effects of exposure to UV rays and pollution. To soothe the scalp, bilberry fruit and sugar maple extracts were included in the formula, as well as moisturizing and strengthening ingredients like panthenol, pea sprout extract, and hydrolyzed quinoa. And as with all Oribe hair products, the shampoo is infused with their signature Côte d'Azur scent, which was developed in collaboration with a perfume house (and became so popular, that the brand now sells it as a perfume).

Active Ingredient: Salicylic Acid Size: 8.5 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes

Relevant Review: "I don't have dandruff, but I do have psoriasis. It's largely controlled with UV therapy and BHAs, but I somehow wind up getting a bit on my scalp, and every week or so I feel the itching starting to come on. This is easily treated with one of the drugstore psoriasis shampoos, but the problem is they are super, super harsh, and make my waist-length hair feel like straw. Not this. […] It's massively effective while still managing to feel indulgent and luxurious. […]"


Best Tea Tree Oil Shampoo

If you don't want to alternate shampoos, try this color-safe formula that relies on plant-based ingredients to reduce scaling and itching. DERMA E’s Scalp Relief Shampoo uses neem, burdock, and bearberry extracts to improve scalp psoriasis, as well as tea tree oil and willow bark extract. While there is some salicylic acid in the formula to help with flaking, there are also plenty of soothing and moisturizing ingredients in here (like aloe vera extract, vitamin E, and panthenol) to prevent your hair and scalp from becoming too dry.

Active Ingredients: Tea Tree Oil, Salicylic Acid Size: 10 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes

Relevant Review: "This product is incredible at relieving dry scalp/flakiness. The smell is pleasant. […] Paired with the conditioner, hair is smooth and manageable. The shampoo does not fade my color-treated hair."


Best Sensitive Skin-Friendly Shampoo

Though most of the shampoos on this list leave out common irritants like sulfates, alcohols, and fragrances, everyone's skin is different. As Dr. Kennedy points out, while ingredients like tea tree oil can be helpful for treating psoriasis, the essential oil can also be irritating to some. For those with super-sensitive, allergy-prone skin, Vanicream’s Dandruff Shampoo is free from botanical extracts, essential oils, fragrance, sulfates, and other common irritants. The formula uses 2% pyrithione zinc to relieve psoriasis symptoms, and is safe for color-treated hair.

Active Ingredient: Pyrithione Zinc Size: 8 oz. Cruelty-Free: No

Relevant Review: "I would definitely recommend trying this if you have extremely sensitive skin, psoriasis, or eczema, or if you're really sensitive to scents. I'm always uncomfortable and itchy on my scalp and all over my body, and this has helped decrease the itchiness so much. It doesn't do anything special to my hair, but [it] leaves it soft and clean, […] and is so great for my scalp and extreme sensitivity to fragrant scents. […]"


You May Also Like: This Pre-Shampoo Treatment

To help combat psoriasis symptoms before you shampoo, Yes To created their Tea Tree Gentle & Soothing Scalp Scrub. Designed to be massaged into the scalp one to two times a week, the scrub contains tea tree oil and witch hazel, which can help with psoriasis symptoms, as well as apple cider vinegar to balance and clarify the scalp. You'll want to completely rinse this out and follow up with a shampoo and conditioner, but it was formulated without silicones and sulfates, so it's safe for color-treated hair.

Active Ingredients: Tea Tree Oil, Apple Cider Vinegar Size: 6 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes

Relevant Review: "My son and I are loving this product. We both suffer from psoriasis, and this gentle scrub is amazing. Not too rough, but still a great, gentle scrub. It rinses very clean as well."


Dr. Lina Kennedy, M.D., F.A.A.D., board-certified dermatologist in Southern California