Rachel Jones explores some of the alternatives to treat her frustrating condition.
Oh, scalp psoriasis, let me count the ways I hate thee. Your silent ‘p’, there to make life just that little bit more difficult for us sufferers. The way you are the natural born enemy of what should apparently be the staple of any woman’s wardrobe, the LBD. The fact you, mortifyingly, made a colleague assume I had ‘crumbs’ on my shoulders and brush away your evidence. (True story!) I could go on... but mostly, I hate that it’s a well known fact that there is no cure for your ills.
Despite this I think every psoriasis sufferer, and probably anyone with a skin disorder, longs for the discovery of a magic bullet. If, like me, you’ve had this thing since childhood or teenagehood, you’ve probably grown up trying everything from really stingy (and strangely bright pink) prescription steroid applications, to really stinky (though reassuringly brown) pharmacy-bought coal-tar shampoos which make you smell like a freshly tarmacked drive.
After begrudgingly giving up on discovering any revelations and going down the tarmac route for a few years, I was very keen to try out new products. I wanted to find as natural a solution as possible, even more so on discovering I was pregnant. Now, for some women, pregnancy itself to be something of a magical cure for their skin conditions. Alas, not for me, the psoriasis just appeared in my ears as a bonus to all the usual pregnancy woes…
Before going into each product in more detail, I have to say I was broadly impressed by the way pretty much everything I tried avoided packaging which screamed ‘this person has a medical condition’. True, some do mention it clearly on their bottles, but you’d have to want to look, whereas the aforementioned prescription stuff gave the game away a mile off. I know this shouldn’t be a concern when you have a health problem, but it’s nice to have stuff that blends into the bathroom sometimes!
Salcura Shampoo (£7.99, 200ml), Conditioner (£7.99, 200ml) & DermaSpray Intensive (£9.99, 50ml)
The whole Salcura range is free from artificial chemicals, cortisones, peroxides, parabens and paraffin, and this trio of products are designed to complement each other as part of a programme to manage the condition.
Whilst I liked the shampoo and conditioner, it was the Dermaspray gave that ‘aaaah’ feeling of relief when first applied. You know that cooling sensation just the right side of pain? I’m a sucker for it, and this delivered. This is definitely one I’m going to use again.
Hope's Relief Shampoo and Conditioner (£27 for both, 200ml each)
This stuff contains one of my favourite things: manuka honey. It basically gives it the smell and look of honey, though thankfully not the consistency! Despite the fact these bottles display the words ‘itchy flaky scalp’, I still liked the modern blue and white design. Once I managed to resist the urge to squeeze them on my cereal, I found them quite soothing to use, especially the thick consistency of the conditioner. Would use again. The products are free from SLS, coal tar, artificial colours and perfumes, petrochemicals and mineral oils.
Oregon Scalp and Hair Spray (£7.99, 100ml)
This was to be applied at night, and has a very stylish silver bottle. Unfortunately for me, these were the only plus points. My scalp itched within minutes of putting it on and I got the dreaded flakes on the pillow – definitely not sexy! I may be in the minority here as according to the blurb, 86% of previous testers showed improvement, so maybe it’s just not for me.
It contains oregon grape root extract and natural proteins from sweet almond, wheat and rice, which are said to help condition the scalp and hair, and is free from animal products, SLS, parabens, oil or coal tar.
Little Herbal Themba cream (£14.50, 30ml)
This little pot is just so cute and smells very lush and lavendery. The product is formulated from the fruit of the kigelia africana tree, which has a long traditional use in southern Africa for skin problems. It’s also got aloe and calendula, and is free from steroids, perfume or parabens. Although it was soothing on the scalp, it didn’t quite live up to the hope I had when I read all the good press. However, I love the fact it says it can be used on so many different ailments, including cold sores, cuts, sunburn, insect bites and even verrucas! A very handy pot to carry around, and as it can be used on newborn babies too, I’ll look forward to trying it on Mr Mini-Me without any fears of undesirable chemicals.
Nirvana Nettle and Jasmine Shampoo (£8.99, 250ml)
This one smells divine and is the least ‘medical’ looking of all the shampoos, packaging-wise. It contains tea tree oil, white dead nettle, octiprox and vitamin E, known for their anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antifungal and healing properties. It didn’t do much for my scalp either way, but I think if you didn’t have a problem as severe as psoriasis and just wanted to use a natural product, this would be perfect. It just didn’t have enough ‘oomph’ to combat my condition!
Malki Dead Sea Shampoo (£8.29, 300ml)
I loved how old-fashioned this one looked, and the shape of the bottle. Fickle, I know! It has a very strong medicinal scent, and certainly smelt like it should’ve been potent! It’s a natural product, made according to an old family recipe using olive, palm and coconut oils. It is free from synthetic detergents, colourants or thickening substances. Again, it didn’t do much for me, but my partner who has sensitive skin loves it. I think this is partially because the smell is just about the opposite of some ‘girly’-smelling natural shampoos, whilst completely avoiding the traditional chemically ‘macho’ scent of conventional men's products.
Skin Salveation Shampoo (£9.99, 250ml)
I really wanted to like this as one of the simplest and most ‘home-made’ looking and sounding products – it’s free from fragrance and colourants – as I’m a big fan of no fuss. However, I can’t say it really reduced the itchiness or flakiness, sadly. I think one possibility is I was trying it fairly early in my pregnancy when my scalp was really flaring up, and I entered that annoying cycle of stress-itch-scratch-and back to stress again. It may also be because I found it impossible to follow the rather strict instructions, which include not using ‘any other skin care, bath foam, soap, shampoo, deodorant, perfume, aftershave or washing powder for the duration of the programme’.
Lush 'Snake Oil' Scalp Massage Bar (£4.50, 55g)
I saved this one until last. Why? Frankly, it stinks. I’m talking bog of eternal stench stuff. So in the envelope it stayed until I was brave enough to remove it. And do you know what? Once I did, it wasn’t so bad! My partner generously said it smelt like Lapsang Souchong tea, though after a few more days in the bathroom, he decided it smelled of ‘hot dogs’, and I had gotten used to it, and dare I say it, came to quite like its potency. It has cocoa butter, with cade oil (responsible for the smell, I suspect, and which has antiseptic / antimicrobial qualities), plus tea tree, peppermint and lavendar oils. Possibly the fiddliest product of the bunch, as you have to rub the bar with your fingers, apply it to your scalp and then wait 15 minutes before showering/shampooing. The first time I tried this I got a bit impatient thinking the bar wasn’t getting melty enough and took it in the shower with me to use directly, wetted, on my head. This had the effect of making my hair very greasy. Always follow the instructions, people! Once I tried it the correct way, I have to say this seems to work. In fact, it’s become one of my favourites. It seems to ‘lift’ the flakes like it claims to and when not over-applied, is definitely more moisturising than greasy. Thumbs-up from this tester!
For other products which may be suitable for psoriasis, see our dedicated Products for Psoriasis directory.
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