The Best Psoriasis Shampoo: Conventional vs Natural, Which Works Best?


Psoriasis of the scalp or hair can occur even if you have psoriasis nowhere else on the body.  The skin’s over-keen production of cells can lead to excessive shedding or flakiness of the scalp as well as raised plaques, itching and soreness. As with any psoriasis, it is not curable, but there are ways to reduce outbreaks and other psoriasis symptoms. 

Given it’s the product we use most often on our hair and scalp, shampoos are a logical place to look for help.

But psoriasis shampoo ingredients can and do vary wildly. – Broadly speaking, there are 2 routes to go down; medicated shampoos or natural. Here we have a look at both options to help you choose the best psoriasis shampoo.

Route 1: Medicated Shampoos for Psoriasis

Until about 20 years ago, coal tar-based shampoos were the only treatment for scalp psoriasis. The tar to some extent slows down the turnover of skill cells.  But tar didn’t work that well, doubts arose over safety (tar is under review as a cosmetic ingredient in the EU and Canada), and was unpleasant to use. Nowadays, apart from coal tar, you’re likely to find one or more of these ingredients in over the counter or non-medicated psoriasis shampoos.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is often used in psoriasis shampoo to encourage the penetration of other topical treatments. However, its effects are harsh – particularly on sensitive skin. Because of its high acidity, it has a corrosive effect that peels away the top layers of the skin. Studies have shown that topical application of face cream containing a 1.5% concentration of salicylic acid was irritating to the skin. Many would argue that salicylic acid (along with other synthetic chemicals) is only dangerous in high concentrations, not the concentrations used in body care products. What they aren’t taking into account is that, with the repeated application of a chemical, higher concentrations can accumulate in the body through absorption of the skin, so is best to avoid them altogether.

Clobetasol propionate

Shampoo containing clobetasol propionate is classed as medicated shampoo and should be used with caution for short periods of time only. Clobetasol propionate is a topical steroid used to calm inflamed skin that comes along with conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. Not only can it be absorbed into the body and wreak havoc with your health, it has also been shown to cause hair loss…which isn’t ideal in a shampoo!

Zinc pyrithione

With its antifungal and antibacterial properties, zinc pyrithione is a popular ingredient in psoriasis shampoo, and tends to be a go-to for other skin conditions, such as eczema, too. However, one study found that zinc pyrithione can cause contact dermatitis. In the study, a patient with stable psoriasis used shampoo containing zinc pyrithione and within a week, the patient had a severe psoriasis flare-up. The study concluded, through extensive patch testing, that zinc pyrithione was the culprit.  It is usually shampoos with these ingredients that are talked about on forums asking for the best psoriasis shampoos. But research is showing that more gentle, natural ingredients can actually perform as well as, if not better than harsh chemicals.

Route 2: Natural Approach to Psoriasis in the Hair

It was frustration with coal tar treatment that led a friend of Margaret’s (Odylique’s founder) circa 1986 to ask her to create a pleasant, natural psoriasis shampoo. Many trials and tribulations later… Gentle Herb Shampoo was born. Probably one of Margaret’s most successful formulations, GHS as it is affectionately known, has been very popular with many people prone to psoriasis.  Gentle Herb Shampoo makes use of the following ingredients which research has shown to be particularly helpful for psoriasis: 

aloe-veraAloe Vera

At Odylique, we love aloe vera; its soothing and gentle properties make it a perfect fit for sensitive skin and hair care. Studies have indicated an improvement in psoriasis plaques after applying an aloe vera-based gel, although care is required in the choice of aloe vera extract, as artificial additives (mostly preservatives) in aloe juice can be counterproductive. In the absence of squeezing the gel from a real aloe leaf, we’d always recommend reconstituting aloe juice from a high quality freeze-dried (not heat dried) aloe powder. That way you get the purest quality, unadulterated benefits from the aloe plant without any contaminants. (Dispose of it afterwards as it won’t keep!)

Calendula calendula

Psoriasis can be painful, so you only want the gentlest and kindest ingredients touching your skin. Not only can calendula accelerate healing, it’s often used in extremely gentle baby products, so there is no need to worry when applying to sensitive areas. Calendula may also be a natural alternative to synthetic psoriasis treatments that use vitamin A to clear the skin. Calendula contains large amounts of carotenoids (which the body uses to create vitamin A) – without the side effects of synthetic creams!   

Chamomile chamomile

Chamomile is known for its calming properties, which is why you’ll find people sipping it before they go to sleep. But chamomile isn’t just effective at calming the mind, but the skin too! Angry-looking psoriasis flare-ups can benefit from chamomile’s anti-inflammatory properties, particularly if it’s a concentrated extract.   

Coconut Oil coconut-oil

Superfood coconut oil is a wonderful ingredient to help with scalp psoriasis, with multi-beneficial properties. It can treat dry skin, encourage wound healing, calm inflammation and relieve pain. So it’s worth looking out for these natural ingredients when buying your shampoo. The higher these are up the ingredients list the better as it means there will be more of them in the shampoo. 

So Which is the Best Psoriasis Shampoo?

In sum, medicated shampoos will have some effect, but there are possible side effects to consider. Natural shampoos may reduce the risk of irritation or other health issues, and with the right botanical ingredients also offer some relief. Whichever shampoo you choose, we’d always recommend avoiding the following ingredients…

Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid for Psoriasis Hair

1. Sulphates

Sulphates are strong detergents used not only in shampoos but also more heavy-handed applications such as washing up liquid and engine degreasers. They take numerous guises including sodium coco sulphate, sodium lauryl sulphate, and the ethoxylated forms such as sodium laureth sulphate. The ‘eths’ are slightly milder on the skin, but their manufacturing process pollutes the environment.  The same goes for anyone with scalp sensitivity; it’s well worth choosing sulphate free shampoo

You’ll find lots of reports online from people who have gone sulphate-free and found it benefited their scalp. I have psoriasis and have found dilute shampoo helps. I never did well with sulfates, they make my hair shed and anything with perfume can irritate my scalp.’ – Katrine, Longhaircommunity Many people [told me] they use a natural shampoo that shifts scalp psoriasis so I looked them up and bought a trial shampoo…and in 3 days in my head feels less itchy and the plaques are breaking up!’ – Leah, Psoriasis-Association

2. Artificial fragrance

Frustratingly, when on an ingredients list, ‘fragrance’ is an umbrella term that covers potentially hundreds of (usually) artificial chemicals. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) lists synthetic fragrances as being a toxic, allergenic and an irritant to the skin. Unfortunately, most conventional shampoos contain artificial fragrance – including some brands who suggest their fragrance comes from a natural source!

3. Methylisothiazolinone (MI)

MI is an antibacterial preservative and can be found in cosmetics, skincare and shampoo. Although there is debate around the concentration needed before MI has toxic, skin sensitising effects, those with sensitive skin in particular may want to be wary of ingredients that are more likely to cause a reaction – better safe than sorry!  Some people also find that a change in, or alternating the shampoo you use can calm down scalp psoriasis. 

Which of Odylique’s Shampoos is Best for Psoriasis – Prone Scalp?

shampoo-for-psoriasisAll Odylique shampoos are sulphate-free and gentle on the hair and scalp. Whether you choose our Tea Tree Shampoo or our Gentle Herb Shampoo, you can be assured that we’ve selected the kindest, highest-quality ingredients possible. Both contain potent concentrations of pure organic aloe vera juice, coconut oil and calendula. 

Gentle Herb Shampoo is best to try initially, especially if the main aim is to soothe inflammation because it also contains a very calming extract of chamomile. If though, you suspect you have a yeast infection of the scalp as well, try our Tea Tree Shampoo. One of the many benefits of tea tree oil is its antifungal properties, which will target a yeast infection directly. Although the ingredients in our shampoos are very gentle and nourishing, do not over-wash your hair.

Try washing your hair less than you have previously, for example if you currently wash it every day, try washing it every other day to allow your scalp to balance its oil production naturally.

‘Will definitely buy Gentle Herb Shampoo again, very soothing on a psoriasis patch on my scalp.’
– Beverly, Odylique Customer

Are There Other Products For Psoriasis-Prone Scalps?

repair-lotionA topical treatment – most practically overnight – can also help to soothe and calm psoriasis plaques. Look for similar ingredients such as aloe vera juice and calendula in a psoriasis cream or ointment. 

A weekly overnight treatment mask with Odylique’s  Repair Lotion can help replace the Natural Moisturising Factor (NMF) in the skin that is missing in psoriasis. Liberally apply the lotion, paying particular attention to the scalp. Wash the mask out in the morning, and you should hopefully feel the benefits, particularly if you get an itchy head at night! Repair Lotion is rich in aloe and chamomile as well as chickweed herb which is renowned for its anti-itch properties.  Our Repair Lotion is multi-purpose and can also be used on the skin directly as a moisturiser, to soothe dry, flaky skin.

How To Apply Gentle Herb Shampoo


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More Advice?

If you’d like any more advice on shampoo for psoriasis, please do email us –, add your question as a comment below, or call 01638 491022 – we’re here to help! We also have a complete guide to psoriasis blog, so check it out! 


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