Psoriasis rashes are difficult to treat, especially when they develop on your head. According to the Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance, at least half of all people with psoriasis experience symptoms on the scalp.
Given how quickly psoriasis develops 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.
Scalp psoriasis is often misdiagnosed as seborrheic 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.
How is scalp psoriasis treated?
Psoriasis scalp outbreaks are usually treated with:
- shampoos with salicylic acid
- topical steroids
- topical retinoids (vitamin A)
- ultraviolet light, for shaved heads
The duration and effectiveness of these treatments vary. Psoriasis flare-ups can last for weeks, and even months.
Some people use a combination of therapies in order to manage their psoriasis. This combination may include an alternative treatment such as coconut oil.
Coconut oil is derived from cold-pressed coconut kernels. It contains lauric acid, a type of fatty acid that has been shown to reduce:
- 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. It can be used as a topical treatment for psoriasis as well.
The biggest benefit of the oil is its ability to moisturize the scalp. 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 people experiencing dry scales that itch relentlessly.
Coconut oil alone may not be a sufficient treatment for psoriasis, but adding such a thick cream to the scalp can potentially help in the removal of scales.
It’s best to apply the oil after showering. This is when your skin is most capable of trapping in moisture. Leave the oil on for about a half an hour.
To increase the benefits, wrap a warm towel around your head. You can warm up towels several different ways:
- run a washcloth under hot water in your sink
- put a damp towel on a plate and microwave for 30 seconds
- heat water in a tea kettle and pour the water on a towel in a bowl (be careful, this makes the towel very hot)
When you rinse the coconut oil of off your scalp and out of your hair, massage your scalp with your hands. It’s important to do this gently. Ripping off scales can cause skin irritation and lead to infections.
After you’ve finished rinsing, run a comb through your hair. This will help remove any scales caught in your hair.
This method can give you temporary relief from excessive dandruff. Without other forms of treatment, the scales will likely come back.
Coconut oil is unlikely to make psoriasis worse, but it may not be effective for everyone. Some people have an allergic reaction to coconut oil. Stop using coconut oil if your skin seems to become worse when you use it.
You remain at risk of a psoriasis outbreak even when you’re using a moisturizing agent like coconut oil. This is because it can help remove current scales, but it doesn’t prevent new ones from developing.
Coconut oil may also interfere with other topical treatments that you’re using, so be sure to ask your doctor before trying it out.