In people with scalp psoriasis, dyeing the hair can cause problems. However, taking a few key steps before, during, and after applying hair dye can prevent complications.

At least half of the people with psoriasis get it on their scalps. When symptoms flare up, the scalp often becomes very sensitive.

However, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) in the United States, having scalp psoriasis may not rule out changing hair color. As is often the case with psoriasis, it can help to keep a few facts in mind and plan ahead.

In this article, learn how to dye the hair without worsening scalp psoriasis. We also describe hair care tips developed to prevent flare-ups.

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Yes, but there are a few things to consider beforehand.

Hair dyes do not necessarily damage the scalp or exacerbate symptoms. Psoriasis affects the scalp, rather than the hair. With a little preparation, a person can typically keep styling their hair as usual after developing psoriasis.

However, the chemicals in some dyes can irritate the scalp.

Hair dyes can contain different chemicals in various combinations, and every case of psoriasis is different. For these reasons, a person’s reaction can be difficult to predict.

Having an active flare-up of psoriasis can increase the chance of a negative reaction to the dye. If possible, wait for the flare-up to pass before dyeing the hair.

A psoriasis flare-up causes the scalp to become inflamed and extra sensitive. The chemicals in hair dyes can aggravate the condition and worsen symptoms, such as lesions.

In some cases, a rash can break out on top of psoriasis. Hair dyes can also leave color on the plaques that build up on the scalp.

Also, symptoms of a flare-up can cause the hair to clump together, which interferes with the dyeing process.

However, it is often possible to dye the hair safely despite psoriasis, either at the salon or at home.

The NPF recommend taking the following steps to protect the scalp during and after dyeing the hair:

1. Talk to the stylist

Many stylists are familiar with psoriasis, but explain the condition if necessary. It can help to do this before the appointment. Explain any sensitivity to specific products and discuss the options.

Some people may feel embarrassed, but most stylists work with a wide range of hair and scalp types every day. If a stylist is not empathetic, it may be a good idea to find a new one.

2. Test a spot first

Check whether the product irritates a small area of the scalp or neck. Wait for the recommended period, and rinse as instructed. When possible, give the dye 24 hours to have an effect.

3. Use medicated treatments beforehand

Apply prescribed psoriasis treatments 1–2 days before dyeing the hair.

4. Use petroleum jelly to protect the skin

Apply petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, to the forehead, ears, neck, and other areas that may accidentally be exposed to dye. This can prevent the chemicals from irritating the more sensitive areas around the scalp.

5. Bring products from home

A salon may not have the products that are best for each person. Many allow customers to bring their own products, including medicated shampoo. Ask before booking the appointment.

6. Request gentle treatment

Ask the stylist to be gentle. This could involve not using firm brushes, which can scrape the scalp, and minimizing friction and heat. Also, warm or cool water is less likely to irritate the scalp than water at more extreme temperatures.

7. Take a trial-and-error approach

Sometimes the only way to know whether a product will trigger a flare-up is to try it.

If a person experiences irritation or a burning sensation, they should alert the stylist and make a note of the problematic product.

Any product may irritate the scalp. However, natural dyes can be safer and gentler than traditional products.

It may take some trial and error, but most do-it-yourself choices are inexpensive to prepare and are relatively unlikely to cause flare-ups.

Research each product before trying it. It is also a good idea to speak with a doctor before using any new product in an area affected by a skin condition.

Proponents of natural hair dyes have recommended many on the internet and given instructions for use. Among the most popular are:

  • Henna: This well-known dye usually leaves a reddish tone in the hair. A person may wish to avoid or exercise extra precaution with black or dark brown henna. These dyes typically contain paraphenylenediamine (PPD), an irritant.
  • Baking soda: This can be used to lighten the hair color.
  • Coffee or black tea: These can be used to dye hair brown.
  • Lemon juice: A person can mix lemon juice in equal parts with distilled water to lighten brown or dark blonde hair.
  • Peroxide: While many would not consider this a natural product, it is a slightly gentler alternative to bleach.
  • Over-the-counter dyes: Many natural or organic preparations are available in stores. It is always important to check the ingredients lists for potential irritants.

It is not possible to prevent every psoriasis flare-up, but a person can minimize the risk.

When it comes to hair care, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends:

  1. Brushing gently: Brushing, combing, or shampooing forcefully can irritate the scalp and cause flare-ups.
  2. Avoiding rollers and curling irons: These can tug on the hair or burn the scalp.
  3. Favoring loose hairstyles: Pulling the hair into a tight style can irritate the scalp and trigger psoriasis symptoms.
  4. Refrain from too much styling: Try not to dye, perm, or relax the hair more than necessary.
  5. Avoiding PPD: Many hair dyes contain this chemical, which is known to irritate the skin. People with psoriasis can be especially sensitive to PPD.

A person can style and color their hair without worsening or triggering a flare-up of psoriasis. However, it is always a good idea to use caution and take certain steps beforehand.

Some trial and error may be necessary, and a person may have to consult with their stylist or doctor about product options. Use psoriasis treatments before and after dyeing the hair to prevent flare-ups.