Understanding Scalp Psoriasis


Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition which affects your skin. It causes raised patches of scaly or flaky skin, similar to dandruff. Psoriasis can also cause dry, red patches along your skin. It is possible to get psoriasis on multiple parts of your body, but it is most commonly found along the scalp. In more severe cases, psoriasis affects the entire scalp, but for the most part, it appears in small patches. Scalp psoriasis can often spread down the length of your head, affecting your hairline or ears, and in some cases, even your neck.

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, two to three percent of the United States have some form of psoriasis. It is more common in adults, but it is possible for children to have scalp psoriasis as well.

Symptoms of Scalp Psoriasis

Scalp psoriasis has multiple symptoms. In mild cases, it normally presents itself as small red or scaly patches along your scalp. As it becomes more severe, you may develop flaky skin or light bumps in the afflicted area. Itchiness is also common as well. In the most severe cases, you may feel a light burning sensation. While hair loss is not technically a symptom of psoriasis, many patients end up picking or scratching at their skin, which can lead to minor hair loss.

Similar Conditions

There are several other conditions which are sometimes mistaken for scalp psoriasis. Scalp eczema, is frequently confused with scalp psoriasis. Both conditions lead to itchy and flaky patches of skin. The main difference is eczema is more likely to affect children than psoriasis. It can also form along different parts of the body, though like psoriasis, it is most common along the scalp.

One of the differences between the two conditions is how the skin looks. Psoriasis produces thicker, silvery scales, while eczema is thinner, with either white or yellowy scales. It also leads to a greasier appearance. Psoriasis causes a greater irritation as well, making the scalp feel tender or sore. It is possible to have both psoriasis and eczema at the same time, making it harder to distinguish between the two.

Another similar symptom is ringworms. Ringworm is a fungal infection, which causes a red rash along your scalp. Psoriasis rarely presents itself in such a clear point, so an easy way to distinguish between the two is to look for the circular ring. Additionally, ringworm is normally a much deeper shade of red, with crustier patches along your scalp.

Causes of Scalp Psoriasis

As of writing, the exact cause of scalp psoriasis is not known. Thanks to medical research, there are some theories regarding what causes psoriasis. Psoriasis forms as a result of the immune system sending wrong signals to the body. These incorrect signals cause your skin cells to quickly multiply. It normally takes several weeks for new skin to form along your scalp, but because of the rapid growth, your skin develops over the course of few days. Because of this, your body is unable to shed excess cells, leading to psoriasis patches.

Research shows psoriasis is likely genetic in nature. If someone in your family has psoriasis, you are more likely to develop it later in your life. A study from 2016 showed there may be nutritional factors as well. Patients with obesity were more likely to develop psoriasis. Psoriasis was also more common in patients with gluten sensitivity.

There are a few other miscellaneous factors that can contribute to psoriasis flareups. An injury to the scalp, such as a bruise, cut or burn can cause psoriasis. You are also more likely to develop psoriasis when you are stressed. Stress can also cause the conditions to worsen. Certain medications, such as Indomethacin and Quinidine are also associated with psoriasis.

Treatment for Scalp Psoriasis

Currently, there is no medical cure for scalp psoriasis, but there are multiple treatments to lessen the conditions. There are both topical and systemic medications you can use, as well as several natural remedies. Topical treatments are available as either creams or shampoos. There are three common ingredients found in topical treatments.

  • The first is salicylic acid. This causes your outer layer of skin to soften and shed much quicker. Some patients experience further irritation from salicylic acid, so do not continue treatment if you find your skin becoming scratchier or more tender.

  • Another ingredient is coal tar, which slows the growth of skin cells. This not only causes the patches to decrease in size, but it also reduces itching and irritation on your scalp. It is normally found in shampoos, but many patients do not like the strong smell. The last ingredient used in topical treatments is clobetasol propionate, which reduces all the overall symptoms of psoriasis. Products containing vitamins A and D also help treat psoriasis.

  • There are a few medications you can take to treat psoriasis as well. One of the newest medications is Brodalumab, which the FDA approved for psoriasis treatment in 2017. Cosentyx and TALTZ are also good medications for treating psoriasis.

If none of the medical options work, you can try home remedies. Apple cider vinegar is commonly used to reduce itching and scalp irritation. Aloe vera is also a recommended remedy to reduce redness and eliminate scaly patches. Both turmeric and tea tree oil also reduce psoriasis symptoms.