Psoriasis occurs when your skin cells grow too quickly. Typically, your skin cells grow and shed about every 27 days. With psoriasis, your skin cells can grow and shed in just a few days. This causes a buildup of these extra skin cells on your skin’s surface.

Scalp psoriasis is a form of psoriasis that causes raised, scaly patches on your scalp. It can also cause itching and flaking. Scalp psoriasis can range from mild to severe. In some cases, it can cause hair loss or even psoriatic arthritis.

How Can Scalp Psoriasis Get Worse?

The severity of a scalp psoriasis flare-up varies from person to person. While flare-ups can occur spontaneously, it is helpful to know the triggers that can cause your scalp psoriasis to worsen. Common triggers include: 


Stress is a common trigger for scalp psoriasis flare-ups. When you’re stressed, your body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone causes inflammation throughout the body, worsening scalp psoriasis symptoms like soreness, bleeding, and itching. 

Stress can also cause you to scratch or pick at your scalp, damaging the skin and leading to additional inflammation. 

Several treatment options are available if you’re struggling with stress, including relaxation techniques and counseling. By reducing your stress levels, you can help ease your scalp psoriasis symptoms.

Cold or Dry Weather

Environmental factors such as cold or dry weather can worsen scalp psoriasis by causing the already irritated skin to crack and bleed. Cold weather can also trigger a flare-up by making the skin dry and itchy, while dry weather can cause the scalp to become irritated and inflamed. 

To help prevent a flare-up, keep your scalp moisturized and free from irritation. People with psoriasis should avoid exposure to cold or dry weather as much as possible. If exposure is unavoidable, it is essential to take steps to protect the skin from the elements. 

Wearing a hat or scarf can help to reduce exposure to cold air, and using a humidifier can help to counteract the drying effects of indoor heating.


Medication can make scalp psoriasis worse by inducing the symptoms. Beta-blockers, lithium, antimalarials, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most common medications that can worsen scalp psoriasis symptoms. 

Beta-blockers and lithium are commonly used to treat high blood pressure and bipolar disorder. Antimalarials are used to prevent malaria. NSAIDs treat pain and inflammation. All these medications can cause the symptoms of scalp psoriasis to worsen. 

In some cases, these medications may even induce the onset of scalp psoriasis. If you are taking any of these medications, talk to your doctor about the potential risks. They may be able to prescribe an alternative medication.


According to a 2019 study obesity can make scalp psoriasis worse for several reasons:

  • Carrying extra weight puts additional stress on the joints and skin, which can trigger or worsen inflammation. 
  • Obesity can cause changes in hormone levels that can also lead to increased inflammation. 
  • Obese individuals tend to have lower vitamin D levels, which regulate skin cell growth. 

Together, these factors can make it more challenging to control scalp psoriasis and may lead to more extensive and severe flare-ups. Treating obesity can help to reduce the severity of scalp psoriasis by decreasing inflammation and improving vitamin D levels. In some cases, weight loss may even lead to the complete remission of the condition.

Skin Trauma

Skin trauma is a known trigger for scalp psoriasis. Injury to the skin can cause the release of inflammatory chemicals that worsen existing psoriasis or trigger a new flare-up. In addition, skin trauma can damage the skin barrier, making it more difficult for the skin to protect itself against further irritation and inflammation. 

Several types of skin trauma can worsen scalp psoriasis, including:

  • Physical trauma, such as cuts, scrapes, or even bug bites.
  • Chemical trauma, such as using harsh hair products or dyes.
  • Thermal trauma, such as using hot irons or sunburn.
  • Biological trauma, such as an infection.

It is crucial to avoid any type of skin trauma if you have scalp psoriasis. If you must use hair products, choose those that are gentle and non-irritating. Avoid scratching or picking at the scalp, and seek medical advice if you develop an infection. 

By taking these precautions, you can help to prevent further irritation and inflammation of the skin.

Smoking and Alcohol Use

Smoking tobacco is a known trigger for psoriasis and can worsen existing psoriasis symptoms. Alcohol consumption can also lead to flare-ups or make existing symptoms worse. Both alcohol and smoking lower the immune system, making a flare-up more likely. 


The most common type of infection that can worsen the symptoms of scalp psoriasis is a fungal infection of the scalp, known as seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff). 

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common condition that causes flaking and itching of the scalp. It’s usually not serious, but it can be uncomfortable. In some cases, seborrheic dermatitis can lead to a secondary bacterial infection. Both of these infections can trigger or worsen the symptoms of scalp psoriasis.

Poor Diet

A diet high in sugar, fat, and processed foods can worsen scalp psoriasis. This diet can lead to weight gain, triggering or worsening psoriasis symptoms. 

A diet high in sugar and processed foods can cause inflammation throughout the body, which can also worsen the symptoms of psoriasis. To help control your scalp psoriasis, eating a healthy diet low in sugar, fat, and processed foods is essential. Following a Mediterranean diet is a good recommendation. 

How to Prevent Scalp Psoriasis From Worsening

Following your doctor’s advice is the best thing to do when you have scalp psoriasis. Here are some tips for action you can take on your own to prevent your condition from worsening.  

Keep Your Skin Hydrated

To help keep your skin hydrated, use a gentle, non-irritating shampoo and conditioner. Also, avoid hot showers or baths, as these can strip the skin of its natural oils. Instead, take lukewarm showers and apply a moisturizing cream or lotion to the skin immediately after bathing.

Use a Humidifier

If the air in your home is dry, it can worsen scalp psoriasis symptoms. To help keep your skin hydrated, use a humidifier in your home. This will add moisture to the air, which can help to prevent the skin from drying out.

Get a Healthy Amount of Sun

Moderate sun exposure can help to improve the symptoms of scalp psoriasis. Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can slow skin cell growth

Keep a Healthy Body Weight

Carrying excess weight can worsen the symptoms of scalp psoriasis. This is because extra weight can put pressure on the skin, which can then trigger or worsen symptoms. Excess weight can also lead to inflammation throughout the body, which can exacerbate psoriasis symptoms.

Reduce Stress

To help reduce stress, try to do relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation. Also, get plenty of rest and exercise regularly.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you have scalp psoriasis, you should talk to your doctor about the best way to manage your condition. They may be able to prescribe medications or recommend other treatments that can help improve your symptoms. You can also contact the National Psoriasis Foundation helpline at (800) 723-9166 for support.