Scalp psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes flaky, itchy, scaly skin on the scalp. Although there’s no cure for scalp psoriasis, specially formulated shampoos may bring some relief.

While many of these products are only available by prescription, there are also some that you can buy over the counter (OTC).

We did the research to find seven great options that may help break down scales and reduce itching and flaking.

Since you’re reading this article, chances are you already know what scalp psoriasis is, but here’s a quick overview just in case.

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that can happen anywhere on the body. It sometimes crops up in areas that are hard to treat, such as the nails and scalp.

Psoriasis can also appear on other parts of the body, including:

  • knees
  • elbows
  • back
  • back of the ears
  • neck

Like other types of psoriasis, scalp psoriasis causes skin to build up and form scaly patches called plaques.

Mild cases have fine scales, while moderate cases will have thicker scales and more irritation. Severe cases result in large, thick plaques with overlying thick scales.

To create this list, we looked mainly for products that contain salicylic acid and coal tar to target scalp psoriasis. These are two ingredients recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD).

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that’s often used as an exfoliant. It helps soften and break down plaques and scales for easier removal. Removing the plaques should help ease symptoms, like itching, burning, and irritation.

Coal tar is derived from black coal, and, according to the AAD, has been used to treat psoriasis for over 100 years. It helps pump the brakes to make sure the skin cells on your scalp aren’t growing too fast and building up. Still, coal tar can be drying and can stain.

We also included shampoos with other research-backed ingredients, like selenium sulfide.

Finally, we looked at reviews from customers with scalp psoriasis to determine the effectiveness of each one.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $10
  • $$ = $10-$15
  • $$$ = over $15

Best recognized scalp psoriasis shampoo

MG217 Medicated Conditioning Shampoo

  • Price: $$
  • Best for: all hair types
  • Key ingredients: coal tar

This shampoo, recognized by the National Psoriasis Foundation, uses 3 percent coal tar as the active ingredient. It claims to fight irritation, itchiness, redness, and scaling. It leaves behind a fresh herbal scent — a rare feature, since many coal tar shampoos have a strong smell.

One reviewer says the shampoo is “effective, conditioning, and smells better than the other tar shampoos.”

One important thing to note: Coal tar makes your skin sensitive to sunlight and may increase your chances of sunburn for up to 24 hours after use. Be sure to stay out of the sun, or wear a hat or other sun protection if you do go out.

Pros

  • pleasant scent
  • highly rated by reviewers
  • recognized by the National Psoriasis Foundation

Cons

  • may increase your chance of sunburn

Best gentle shampoo for scalp psoriasis

Vanicream Dandruff Shampoo

  • Price: $$
  • Best for: many hair types, excluding fine
  • Key ingredients: pyrithione zinc

This medicated shampoo is a gentle yet mighty cleanser used to fight dandruff without chemical irritants.

It contains 2 percent pyrithione zinc, which has antifungal, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties. That means it can help banish fungus, bacteria, and microorganisms that may contribute to an itchy, flaky scalp.

Reviewers say the product is great for dandruff control, and it relieves itching, irritation, redness, flaking, and scaling — all common symptoms of scalp psoriasis.

The shampoo is reported to be very thick, making it hard to spread. Some reviewers report that it can leave hair looking greasy, so it might not be the best choice for fine hair.

Pros

  • gentle formula
  • fragrance-free
  • free from sulfates, dyes, and parabens

Cons

  • not ideal for fine hair
  • may be tough to spread

Best shampoo for scalp psoriasis with intense cooling

Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength Shampoo

  • Price: $$$
  • Best for: all hair types
  • Key ingredients: selenium sulfide, menthol

Head & Shoulders has a variety of dermatologist-tested clinical shampoos and conditioners to help with dandruff and itchiness.

The collection includes this shampoo, which contains 1 percent selenium sulfide. Thanks to its antimicrobial properties, selenium sulfide reduces Malassezia yeast growth (one of the culprits behind dandruff) and helps slow cell turnover.

It’s worth mentioning that the original version of this shampoo had higher praises from reviewers — many wish the original version was still available. This new formula is considered extra strength and now includes menthol for “intense” cooling.

Note: If you have bleached, tinted, gray, or permed hair, Head & Shoulders recommends rinsing for 5 minutes after shampooing, likely because these hair types are prone to weakening.

Pros

  • brand has a line of shampoos for itchiness and dandruff
  • formula contains selenium sulfide, which has antimicrobial properties

Cons

  • most reviewers prefer the original formula
  • some may not prefer cooling menthol
  • some hair types need to rinse for 5 minutes to avoid weakening

Best daily shampoo for scalp psoriasis

Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo Extra Strength

  • Price: $
  • Best for: many hair types, except curly and dry
  • Key ingredients: coal tar

Neutrogena Therapeutic T/Gel Shampoo contains 1 percent coal tar. It’s designed to be gentle on the scalp. Neutrogena claims the shampoo starts working immediately and continues to be effective after it’s rinsed. It also claims that this shampoo can be used daily.

Reviewers rave about this shampoo. They say it’s great for targeting a dry, itchy, and flaky scalp, and it seems like a good choice for most hair types. The only reported downside is the smell, a common issue among coal tar shampoos.

Keep in mind that this product contains sodium laureth sulfate, which can be drying. It also contains fragrance.

Pros

  • budget-friendly
  • highly rated by reviewers
  • can be used daily

Cons

  • not for curly and dry hair types
  • contains fragrance
  • contains sulfate, which can be drying
  • reviewers note a strong scent

Best moisturizing shampoo for scalp psoriasis

Dermarest Psoriasis Medicated Shampoo Plus Conditioner

  • Price: $
  • Best for: dry, thin hair
  • Key ingredients: salicylic acid and zinc complex

This fragrance-free pick is both a shampoo and conditioner that targets itching and flaking from psoriasis. It contains salicylic acid and zinc complex for soothing irritating symptoms.

It also adds in some extras — green tea extract, Kukui nut oil, and safflower extract — for a boost of moisture.

Most reviewers mention how well this product works for their psoriasis and confirm that it’s actually fragrance-free.

This pick is also recognized by the National Psoriasis Foundation.

Pros

  • budget-friendly
  • Recognized by the National Psoriasis Foundation
  • creates rich lather

Cons

  • contains nuts (an allergen for some)

Best value shampoo for scalp psoriasis

Selsun Blue Medicated Max Strength Dandruff Shampoo

  • Price: $
  • Best for: all hair types
  • Key Ingredients: selenium sulfide, menthol

Selsun Blue is a well-known shampoo brand for managing dandruff. This medicated shampoo promises to help ease and even prevent itch and flakes.

It contains 1 percent selenium sulfide for reducing yeast growth, and menthol is added for a soothing, cooling sensation. Reviewers rave about how effective it is for dry, itchy scalps.

Pros

  • large bottle
  • budget-friendly
  • quick lather

Cons

  • contains sulfates

Best strengthening shampoo for scalp psoriasis

Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

  • Price: $$
  • Best for: all hair types
  • Key ingredients: ketoconazole

It contains 1 percent ketoconazole, which is a popular treatment for psoriasis. One small, older study also suggests that this ingredient may help with hair regrowth.

The brand says this shampoo starts working after just one use and that it creates a thick lather. You can use it for up to 8 weeks, unless instructed otherwise by your doctor.

The brand also claims that this shampoo is safe for color-treated and gray hair. Amazon reviewers are floored by how well it works and confirm that it has a clean, fresh scent.

Pros

  • lightweight
  • aluminum-free, paraben-free
  • fast-acting

Cons

  • higher price point

NamePriceBest forKey ingredients
MG217 Medicated Conditioning Shampoo$$all hair typescoal tar
Vanicream Dandruff Shampoo$$many hair types, except finepyrithione zinc
Head & Shoulders Clinical Strength Shampoo$$$all hair typesselenium sulfide, menthol
Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo Extra Strength$many hair types, except curly and drycoal tar
Dermarest Psoriasis Medicated Shampoo Plus Conditioner$dry, thin hairsalicylic acid and zinc complex
Selsun Blue Medicated Max Strength Dandruff Shampoo$all hair types selenium sulfide, menthol
Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo$$all hair types
ketoconazole

In addition to finding a specially formulated shampoo, here are a few other things you can do to keep scalp psoriasis symptoms in check:

  • Shampoo your hair as often as you can. This will help alleviate buildup and itchiness. However, keep in mind that shampooing every day isn’t suitable for all hair types.
  • Limit stress, alcohol, and smoking. Along with irritants in your hair products, scalp psoriasis flare-ups can also be triggered by stress, alcohol consumption, and smoking. Limiting stress and intake of these substances may help keep things under control.
  • Try aloe vera. Aloe vera gel has anti-inflammatory properties and may be soothing. You can try applying it to your scalp, or look for it as an ingredient in your shampoo.
  • Use baking soda. Baking soda is great for an itchy scalp. One tablespoon of baking soda mixed with a cup of water should do the trick. Apply the mixture to your scalp to relieve itching and irritation.
  • Apply natural oils. These will help keep your scalp moisturized and are filled with fats to keep the scalp healthy. Coconut oil is a great oil to start with.

Still unsure how to pick the right shampoo for your hair and scalp? Here’s what to consider:

  • Severity of your symptoms. If you’re experiencing a mild to medium case of scalp psoriasis, start with an OTC shampoo. If you have a severe case, or if OTC products don’t seem to help, you may need to see your doctor for a prescription shampoo.
  • Consider your hair type. Check the ingredients list before you make a purchase, especially if you have dry, curly, color-treated, or fine hair. Some shampoos may contain drying ingredients, like sulfates, while others may be too heavy for fine hair.
  • Do your research. If you didn’t see a shampoo on this list you want to try, no worries! There are many shampoos out there that will work great for you. Just look for key ingredients, like salicylic acid or coal tar, and check reviews to see what others with scalp psoriasis have to say about it.

It’s a good idea to visit your dermatologist if you have scalp psoriasis. If you notice that your symptoms aren’t improving with specially formulated shampoos, or if your symptoms are worsening, see your doctor. This is especially important if your symptoms are painful or interfere with your daily life.

Keep in mind that these products won’t cure scalp psoriasis, but they may help manage flare-ups.

If your condition worsens, check in with your doctor. Some cases of scalp psoriasis are more severe and may require prescription shampoos.

As with any new product, be sure to do a patch test before using a scalp psoriasis shampoo over your whole head. To do a patch test, put some product on the inside of your wrist and wait 24 hours, watching for signs of irritation.

Coal tar might not be safe to use during pregnancy or on infants, so talk with your doctor first.

Using some of these shampoos alone can be drying to your hair because coal tar and salicylic acid strip away oils. Find a good conditioner and make sure that you’re keeping your hair and scalp moisturized. Some brands — such as Head & Shoulders and Vanicream — have conditioners that pair with their respective shampoos. As for other shampoos, you can pair them with moisturizing or intensive care conditioners.

Can shampoo get rid of psoriasis?

Most specifically formulated shampoos can help ease symptoms of scalp psoriasis. Some, including MG217 Medicated Conditioning Shampoo, Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo, and Dermarest Psoriasis Medicated Shampoo Plus Conditioner, are even considered effective treatments by the National Psoriasis Foundation.

What helps with scalp psoriasis fast?

Some of the best shampoos for scalp psoriasis claim you’ll see results after just one use. If you’re not sure which product is right for you, talk with your doctor about your options.

Should you wash your hair every day with scalp psoriasis?

Washing your hair with a medicated shampoo that targets scalp psoriasis will help treat and prevent symptoms, but many aren’t designed for daily use. Most brands suggest using their shampoo twice weekly unless your doctor suggests otherwise.

There are a variety of products that can help you manage scalp psoriasis flare-ups. Any products that contain salicylic acid and coal tar are great options.

Talk with a doctor or dermatologist if your scalp psoriasis persists or worsens while using these shampoos, or if at-home treatments don’t work.


Breanna Mona is an empathetic writer committed to helping people live their most authentic lives. Her work focuses on general health, wellness, beauty, sexual health, and mental health. Breanna is also a pop culture enthusiast, covering high-profile entertainment stories. She holds a master’s degree in media and journalism from Kent State University.


Morgan Armstead is a senior at Johnson C. Smith University and an intern with Healthline, writing beauty and wellness material.