Does Coconut Oil Work for Scalp Psoriasis?
Does Coconut Oil Work for Scalp Psoriasis?
Psoriasis rashes are difficult to treat and can be embarrassing too, especially when they develop on your head. According to the Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance, at least half of all psoriasis patients experience symptoms on the scalp. Given the rapidity of psoriasis development and the difficulty of treating scalp psoriasis in particular, you may be considering alternative methods to alleviate the itch and pain. Coconut oil may offer a shred of hope for scalp psoriasis, but it shouldn’t replace the treatment plan outlined by your doctor.
A Look at Scalp Psoriasis
Scalp psoriasis is often misdiagnosed as sebborheic dermatitis. Unlike the latter condition, psoriasis is characterized by red, silvery scales that result from increased skin cell turnover. These scales may itch like dermatitis, but they can also burn. Scalp psoriasis may start at one side of the scalp and quickly spread around your whole head. Patches and scales are often most prevalent behind the ears and at the edge of the hairline. This can make camouflaging the condition difficult.
Psoriasis scalp outbreaks are conventionally treated with:
- shampoos with salicylic acid
- topical steroids
- topical retinoids (vitamin A)
- ultraviolet light (for shaved heads)
The duration and potency of these treatments vary. Some patients may have scalp psoriasis for weeks, and even months. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends using more than one treatment measure at a time. This approach seems more effective than any single treatment. Combination therapy may even include using an alternative treatment such as coconut oil.
What Is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is derived from cold-pressed coconut kernels. It contains lauric acid, a type of fatty acid that may have the ability to reduce inflammation, fungus, viruses, and harmful microbes. Coconut oil is most prominently known as a cooking aid for people looking for a healthier alternative to vegetable oil. In solid form, coconut oil is also used as a skin moisturizer. One use is the topical treatment of psoriasis.
Moisturizing the Scalp
The most likely benefit of the oil is its ability to moisturize the scalp. Coconut oil is sometimes used as a hydration balancing agent. In fact, it’s sometimes used as a conditioner to hydrate dry scalp and skin, while getting rid of excess sebum (oil). This possibility brings hope to patients suffering from dry scales that relentlessly itch. Always apply the oil after showering, which is when your skin is most capable of trapping in moisture. If the product makes your hair too oily, consider using it overnight and rinsing your locks out in the morning.
Coconut oil alone may not be a sufficient treatment for psoriasis, but adding such a thick cream to the scalp can potentially aid the removal of scales. To increase this benefit, wrap a warm towel around your head. Remove scales with a soft bristle toothbrush or a wide tooth comb. Keep in mind that the scale removal process adds temporary relief from excessive dandruff. Without other forms of treatment, the scales will likely come back.
Complications During Use
Hair is a common barrier to the efficacy of coconut oil. If you have a difficult time applying medicated ointments to the scalp because your hair is in the way, chances are you’ll have similar issues when trying to use coconut oil. Allow yourself enough time to apply coconut oil so your scalp can absorb it as effectively as possible. Also, while this product is unlikely to worsen scalp psoriasis, its efficacy remains in question.
Coconut oil may help with scalp psoriasis, but there isn’t enough evidence to recommend it as an effective treatment. You remain at risk of an outbreak, even when you’re using a moisturizing agent like coconut oil. It may interfere with other topical treatments that you’re using, so be sure to ask your doctor before trying it out.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) topicals. (n.d.). National Psoriasis Foundation. Retrieved August 31, 2013, from http://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/treatments/topicals/over-the-counter
- Psoriasis. (2013, June 26). University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved August 31, 2013, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/psoriasis
- Scalp Psoriasis. (n.d.). Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance. Retrieved August 31, 2013, from http://papaa.org/further-information/scalp-psoriasis