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This story originally appeared on Health.com.
As if 2020 weren't stressful enough, it was also the year I found out that I have scalp psoriasis. For months, I noticed severe dryness on my scalp followed by flakes and irritation. I ignored the discomfort for far too long, and by the time I saw a dermatologist, they confirmed that it was much more than just a typical dry scalp.
Now, as anyone with psoriasis knows, it's technically not a "curable" skin condition, though you can try different treatments to hopefully lessen symptoms. I was prescribed Ketoconazole shampoo, which is often used to treat fungal infections on the scalp or severe dandruff, but I was still on the hunt for products other than shampoo that could soothe my scalp throughout the day. I have very thick, curly hair, and if I wash it too often, my strands dry out—I definitely wasn't willing to damage my hair while also dealing with psoriasis. That's when I found the $9 product that's ended up being a total game-changer for me: the Cantu Txtr Oil + Vitamins Scalp Saver ($9, amazon.com).
While there are plenty of products on the market that target scalp issues, there weren't many that worked for my specific hair type. But Cantu's Txtr line caters specifically to curly and coily strands, which (along with its affordable price point) made it a standout product for me.
The ingredient list was immediately appealing to me as well because I love formulas that use shea butter. Along with shea butter, it includes vitamins A, D, E, and K to nourish and strengthen hair follicles, plus rosemary oil, which helps retain moisture and soothe the dryness that comes with psoriasis.
To understand more about the benefits of these ingredients, I spoke to Connecticut-based dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, who said that "anti-inflammatory agents, often in an oil base" are commonly used to treat scalp psoriasis. "Shea butter has anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in fat, which can get absorbed into the scalp without leaving a greasy feeling or clogging pores," she added, which explains why this formula has worked so well for me.
I also tapped Carl Thornfeldt, MD, dermatologist and founder of Epionce, to learn why scalp psoriasis happens. "The scalp follicles are very large, which means they can hold large amounts of oil, skin cells and bacteria, and yeasts of the microbiome. These microbes are important for immune balance but also shield skin cells from disease-causing microbes," he said. "But scalp follicles are also sensitive to physical and emotional stress which can allow overgrowth of the microbiome."
Dr. Thornfeldt seemed to agree that the ingredients used in Cantu's hair oil are effective: "Shea butter has mild barrier repair to reverse scaling and a very mild anti-inflammatory effect, while rosemary is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-yeast, while improving hair regrowth in one clinical trial," he said.
Shop it! Cantu Txtr Oil & Vitamins Scalp Saver, $9, amazon.com
At first, I was using it every two to three days when I felt symptoms arising, but now, I only need to apply it once or twice a week to notice the same effect. The bottle's applicator makes it very easy to apply evenly throughout the scalp, and I've used it on both wet and dry hair. I also love that its consistency is lightweight rather than thick or greasy. Plus, it provides an immediate sense of relief the moment it touches my scalp, and even more so when I massage it in.
The standard treatment for scalp psoriasis usually involves medicated shampoo, cream, or even steroids, according to Dr. Gohara, but the Cantu Txtr hair oil does the job for me. "It certainly won't provide a cure, but possibly alleviate scale and uncomfortable symptoms—the same goes for rosemary oil," she added.
As always, it's important to see a licensed professional to determine the cause of any skin- or scalp-related issues and get a proper diagnosis. But If you suffer from scalp psoriasis or dry scalp and are interested in a supplemental treatment option, I'd recommend this under-$10 scalp oil that's been incredible for me.