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Scalp Psoriasis vs Dandruff: How to Tell the Difference


Are they exasperated with the annoying white flakes that keep falling off your scalp and constantly ruin your dress of the day? That uncomfortable feeling of continuous itching and irritation that doesn’t seem to go away might be simply dandruff or a chronic medical condition called scalp psoriasis. Though both conditions appear quite similar, yet their causes and treatment options vary significantly. Explore the difference between dandruff and scalp psoriasis through this article and get rid of this flaky situation with ease. 

Table Of Contents: 

  • Scalp Psoriasis Vs. Dandruff
  • Causes And Symptoms Of Dandruff
  • Causes And Symptoms Of Scalp Psoriasis
  • Tips For Treatment Of Dandruff And Scalp Psoriasis

Scalp Psoriasis Vs. Dandruff

While dandruff is a non-contagious scalp condition characterized by flaky skin and an itchy scalp, scalp psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that leads to the formation of red, scaly, and itchy patches on the scalp. 

Dandruff usually spreads on the scalp, whereas scalp psoriasis can spread to other regions of your body as well, including your neck, forehead, and behind the ears. 

Dandruff is a mild condition that can make your scalp go dry or greasy, but scalp psoriasis is often a medical condition that requires proper diagnosis.

Though dandruff is not considered an autoimmune disorder, scalp psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder where your skin cells often get impacted.

dandruff, scalp dandruff

Causes And Symptoms Of Dandruff

We’ve all at some point wondered the reason behind the sudden appearance of these flakes on our scalp. What exactly goes wrong that leads to the eruption of dandruff? Here are some of the significant causes of dandruff:

  • Use of harsh chemical infused hair care products
  • Severely dry skin and scalp
  • The built-up of excess oil and dust due to irregular cleansing of scalp and shampooing
  • Overgrowth of a fungus called Malassezia on your scalp. 
  • Hormonal imbalance and a compromised immune system
  • Stress caused due to physical and psychological factors
  • Seasonal changes 
  • Genetics

Symptoms to understand if you’re scalp’s dealing with dandruff: 

  • Tiny white flakes falling on your shoulder
  • Dry patches on your scalp
  • Irritation and itching
  • Scalp getting too oily or too dry

dry scalp

Causes And Symptoms Of Scalp Psoriasis

Unlike dandruff, scalp psoriasis is a severe chronic skin condition that leads to overproduction of the skin cells present in our body. The autoimmune disorder triggers white blood cells that further lead to overproduction of the skin cells. 

Though the exact factors leading to this disease are not known, some factors that can trigger scalp psoriasis are:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Extreme temperatures 
  • Infectious diseases

Here are a few symptoms that can help you understand whether you’re suffering from scalp psoriasis:

  • Dry and scaly patches of skin red in color covering your scalp
  • Cracked skin that might bleed as well
  • Stiff joints
  • Burning sensation

red scalp

Tips For Treatment Of Dandruff And Scalp Psoriasis

Now that the difference between the two conditions affecting your scalp is clear let’s check a few simple tips to help you soothe your scalp in both situations.

Tips for treating dandruff:

A soothing shampoo: Opting for a gentle shampoo formulated with active ingredients such as apple cider vinegar can work well for your scalp. Several studies show that the growth of certain types of fungus can be prevented with ACV.  Try to go for a product that is free from chemicals and has been formulated with all-natural ingredients. 

Eliminate stress and anxiety: There’s no denying that stress is the root cause of several health issues. Though stress doesn’t cause dandruff, yet studies reveal it aggravates dryness and itching caused by dandruff. Try simple activities such as deep breathing, yoga, and meditation to combat everyday stress. 

Add probiotics to your diet: Available in different types of fermented food items, probiotics work exceptionally well to enhance the immune function of our body and further reduce the severity of dandruff. 

Use hair oils: Massaging your scalp with gentle hair oils can be an excellent way to combat dandruff as well. Coconut oil is one such hair oil known to enhance the nourishment and hydration level of your mane. The oil, apart from hydrating your scalp, also helps in minimizing the symptoms of dandruff. 

scalp massage, hair oil

Tips for treating scalp psoriasis:

Go natural with Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil infused with its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties is known to alleviate several conditions such as acne, dandruff, and scalp psoriasis as well. The essential oil can do wonders for your scalp and provide relief from the itchiness caused due to this skin condition. WOW, Skin Science’s Tea Tree Essential Oil is an all-natural and vegan product formulated free of harsh chemicals and makes for a safe choice. 

Topical creams: The buildup of skin cells, as well as scaly, red patches caused due to scalp psoriasis, can be taken care of with over- the- counter ointments containing active ingredients such as Anthralin, Calcipotriene, Calcitriol, and Tazarotene.

UV Light therapy: A therapy targeting trouble spots affected with scalp psoriasis can effectively help in combating the disease. 

Anti-inflammatory medicines: Several steroids and other powerful medicines containing essential vitamins can prove to be quite helpful in fighting against scalp psoriasis symptoms. 

Eliminating trigger factors: Several factors that can aggravate this chronic condition must be eliminated to seek relief. These factors include tobacco, alcohol, stress, extreme weather conditions, and infections. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Should you wash your hair with scalp psoriasis?

Yes, it’s completely okay to wash your hair if you suffer from scalp psoriasis. Try a medicated shampoo infused with tar, ketoconazole, or salicylic acid, and do not rinse too hard. 

Does picking at dandruff make it worse?

Though occasional picking isn’t that harmful, continuous scratching might increase your risk of folliculitis, which can lead to permanent hair loss.

What are the first signs of scalp psoriasis?

Scaly red patches, dry scalp, itching, burning sensation, and hair loss are a few of the first signs of scalp psoriasis. 

Understandably, none of these hair care concerns make for a glamorous or exciting topic about which you can have a free conversation. Instead, they are relatively stressful for you. But, identifying your signs and symptoms at the right time and following the recommended tips can help you tackle both dandruff and scalp psoriasis head-on. 

Get rid of those spilling white flakes and intense irritation and get a much calmer and clearer scalp with a little bit of effort and patience. 

Geetika Kapoor

Deeply passionate about writing, I’m a freelancer and have been working on several writing projects for several domains across the globe since last three years. I love reviewing different products ranging from skin care products, perfumes, body lotions, feminine products, hygiene items and several others. An English teacher by profession, I love interacting with kids and discovering different personalities as well. When I’m not writing I spend most of time reading novels, listening to songs, solving tricky puzzles and travelling around the world to my favourite destinations. Collen Hoover and Nicholas Sparks are my all time favourite authors. Their writing leaves a deep impact and stays with me for long.

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