More than 3 percent of adults in the United States live with psoriasis – an inflammatory disease that can cause scales or plaques on different parts of the skin, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation.
Psoriasis plaques can develop in any part of the body – but for about half of those affected, they appear on the scalp, causing flakes and itching (symptoms often mistaken for dandruff). If left untreated, the disease can cause thinning and hair loss.
“The scalp may be the first area where people notice psoriasis,” explains Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical Center and a dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York City, who explains that symptoms can also appear on the skin around the ears and back of the neck, forehead and hairline.
Even if your symptoms are managed well with treatment – usually over-the-counter and prescription shampoos containing coal tar or salicylic acid; lotions; topical treatments such as steroids; biological drugs; and light therapy – it can be difficult to brush and style your hair without making the skin on your scalp worse, says Dr. Garshick.
This is why many people use a hairdresser. But that solution gives rise to another potential problem: namely that a trip to the barbershop – with a stylist who may not know much about the condition – can be anxiety-provoking.
“Hairdressers who are not familiar with scalp psoriasis and similar scalp conditions may stigmatize it and offend the client by giving bad advice,” says Monica Davis, hairdresser in Dallas and editor-in-chief of My straightener.
For example, a common mistake is that a stylist thinks he needs to rub your scalp to “get rid” of psoriasis flakes. “If your stylist looks at your scalp and says something like, ‘We’re going to have nice, clean hair,’ take that as a red alert,” says Ghanima Abdullah, hairdressing expert and cosmetologist at therighthairstyles.com. “[That person] is probably about to shampoo your hair and rub your scalp for all it’s worth … It’s a ticket to major irritation.
Still, it’s possible to have a good salon visit with scalp psoriasis – and a flattering haircut, too. Consider these tips before your next date.
Tips for an efficient visit to a hairdressing salon
Ideally, you would work with a stylist who is familiar with scalp psoriasis. But if that’s not an option, there are other strategies you can try before your date.
- Get a referral from someone who also has scalp psoriasis. Other people in your area can be a valuable resource in finding a good local barber. If you don’t know other people with scalp psoriasis nearby, visit National Psoriasis Foundation and contact your regional community development manager.
- Call the salon in advance. “I would recommend that people with scalp psoriasis take the initiative to call the salon before coming,” says Davis. “It is the customer’s responsibility to determine whether a salon is right for them or not. »Check to see if the salon has stylists who know the style of clients with scalp psoriasis and let them know that you need a stylist who can help you cover your patches and any hair loss you may have. . “Make sure they know they can use all of the [hair salon] instruments that they would use on someone else, “Garshick notes,” but also make sure they’re comfortable with the idea of not trying to remove one of those scales and not try to exfoliate physically or manually.
- Talk to your dermatologist about how to avoid a flare-up. Ask your doctor for advice on keeping your scalp clean and calm before your hair appointment. In addition to using your treatments, “you really want to avoid inducing some sort of trauma to the scalp,” Garshick explains. This can include avoiding tight hairstyles (like tight ponytails), as well as hot hairdryers and hard brushing. When you walk in, tell your hairdresser to be gentle with your scalp as well.
- Wash your hair the day before your visit. Use all shampoos and other treatments prescribed the night before your appointment to reduce the number of visible patches and flakes on your scalp. “This is useful because the less plaque there is, the less likely the skin is to be as responsive,” says Garshick.
- Check out a salon’s products or bring your own. While using salon shampoo and conditioner probably won’t derail your scalp psoriasis treatment too much, it’s also good to know that salon products tend to be a bit more potent. than those available in the market, according to Abdullah. “Don’t assume the salon uses the same type of products,” she says. “Progressive salons will likely have the products you request or allow you to bring in your own products,” Davis adds.
- Be careful with the coloring. If you are happy with your natural hair color, it may be best not to experiment with hair coloring as the dyes can irritate the scalp. But if you want your hair to be colored, “don’t forget the scalp is more sensitive,” says Garshick. “Also, be aware that some of the shampoos used for scalp psoriasis can make hair color disappear more quickly. So have an open line of communication to help your hairstylist make the best decisions for you.
- Work with your stylist. Your hairdresser wants you to have a flattering hairstyle. As you walk in, tell them about the areas of your scalp that you tend to get patches of and how you would like your hair to look. Make sure the stylist is careful to shave over the patches, which can make the scalp worse
With the proper care and attention, your hairdresser can help you feel better with scalp psoriasis.