Background: Topical corticosteroids are the primary treatment for scalp psoriasis. Keratolytic agents are promoted as adjunctive treatments. However, complex treatment regimens may result in poor adherence and outcomes.
Objective: To evaluate the evidence for the need for use of topical keratolytic agents as opposed to topical corticosteroid monotherapy in the treatment of scalp psoriasis.
Methods: A review of the literature was performed seeking clinical trials using topical keratolytics, topical corticosteroids or the combination for treatment of scalp psoriasis.
Results: Complete clearance of scalp psoriasis can be achieved in 10-78% of patients using topical corticosteroids alone, in 3% of patients using topical keratolytics alone, and in up to 84% using a combination of topical keratolytics and topical steroids. Clinical trials comparing the combination of keratolytics and topical corticosteroids versus topical corticosteroids alone found marginally more efficacy using combination regimens.
Limitations: We could not find any long term study evaluating the efficacy of combination therapy in scalp psoriasis and its effect on the patients' adherence.
Conclusion: High potency topical corticosteroids are usually effective in treating scalp psoriasis in clinical trials. Poor efficacy in clinical practice may be owing to poor adherence to the treatment regimen. Using a keratolytic agent in conjunction with a topical corticosteroid may provide marginal additional benefit in clinical trials, but that benefit is likely outweighed by the downside of complicating treatment and reducing adherence in the clinical setting, unless a single product containing both medications were used.