Going to The Salon When You Have Psoriasis

Having a salon treatment is something you should be able to look forward to — a little pampering here, a little relaxation there. But when you have psoriasis, the experience can be anything but fun, even when all you want is a haircut.

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that manifests in a variety of outward symptoms such as weeping lesions and scaling of the skin. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, it affects more than two percent of the population, or 7.5 million Americans — at least half of whom have psoriasis of the scalp, which causes itching, flaking, and redness. Scalp psoriasis can make going to a hair salon very challenging, in part because products or services can aggravate symptoms, but also because there’s a psoriasis stigma among people who aren’t familiar with the condition.

“Besides the physical disabilities associated with psoriasis, the disease carries with it significant psychosocial issues,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the dermatology department at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “Scaling in the scalp can be embarrassing and prevent you from feeling comfortable going to the salon. Plus, stylists may assume patients are infectious and not want to treat you, when in fact the condition results from inflammation in the skin and is not at all contagious.”

Getting Past the Stigma of Salon Visits

Try these health and beauty tips to eliminate any awkwardness and get the salon services you want:

Remember that communication is key. Call the salon in advance to ask whether any stylists have experience treating clients with scalp psoriasis. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go there if they don’t; you just may need to clue in the stylist.

Bring your own hair products. Depending on the severity of your scalp psoriasis, you might benefit from having the staff use your own tar- or salicylic-acid- based treatment shampoo. Let the stylist know that the shampoo is designed more for the skin of the head than your hair and should be massaged into the scalp for at least 30 seconds before rinsing. The salon’s oil-based products also can be useful for moisturizing the scalp and helping to soften and remove excess scales.

Caution the stylist about technique. Tell your hairdresser how important it is to avoid anything that might irritate your scalp. Ask him or her to use lukewarm (not hot) water and to avoid overbrushing, especially with hard-bristled brushes, as this can affect sensitive skin. Also try to limit the amount of chemicals used — hair dyes and relaxers may aggravate scalp psoriasis, so avoid these treatments if possible.

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