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Last Updated on May 8, 2024

While dandruff is a milder, chronic scalp illness marked by dry or greasy scales and flakes that fall onto shoulders and clothing, psoriasis is a more severe, chronic inflammatory condition that affects multiple body systems, including the skin and immune system.

You might be surprised, but around 45-56 percent of people having psoriasis have it in the scalp.


If you notice flakes in your hair, your first question will be: is it scalp psoriasis vs dandruff?

Scalp diseases can be painful and often perplexing, especially when distinguishing between similar conditions, such as scalp psoriasis and dandruff. Understanding the differences between these two illnesses is critical for proper management and therapy.

Let’s understand this scalp psoriasis vs dandruff dilemma.

Scalp Psoriasis vs Dandruff-What’s the Difference?

Here is a brief guide on the difference between psoriasis and dandruff to overrule the confusion between the two.

Key Differences-Scalp Psoriasis vs Dandruff

There are differences to consider, while scalp psoriasis and dandruff can cause flaking and itching. Scalp psoriasis produces thicker, silvery scales, whereas dandruff flakes are typically smaller, white, or yellowish. Scalp psoriasis may also involve redness and inflammation, which are less usual with dandruff.

Also read: The Connection Between Seborrheic Dermatitis and Hair Loss.

Scalp Psoriasis vs Dandruff- Causes


Scalp psoriasis happens when your immune system goes into overdrive, causing swelling that makes your skin produce new cells faster. Your skin renews itself every month, but if you have scalp psoriasis, new skin cells pop up every few days. This quick growth, along with old cells piling up, leads to thick patches of skin. It’s worth noting that you can’t catch scalp psoriasis from touching someone else’s skin directly.


Here are some potential causes and factors to consider:

  • Firstly, secretions from the sebaceous glands might be involved. Using harsh hair products or cosmetics could also contribute, as might washing your hair too much or too little.
  • Fungal growth on your skin could be a reason. If you don’t wash your hair enough, dead skin cells can build up, causing flakes and itching. Conversely, washing your hair too often can dry out your scalp.
  • Brushing your hair too vigorously can also irritate your sensitive scalp. Furthermore, a type of yeast called Malassezia could worsen your scalp issues by promoting extra skin cell growth.
  • Moreover, certain personal care products might cause contact dermatitis, which makes your scalp red and itchy. Sun exposure and wearing hats might also affect your scalp. Even your diet and exposure to dirt or dust could play a role.

Also, read Lip Licker’s Dermatitis.

Scalp Psoriasis vs Dandruff-Symptoms


Scalp psoriasis presents with several distinctive symptoms that can vary in severity from person to person. These symptoms include:

  • Thick, silver scales
  • redness and inflammation
  • Itching and burning sensation
  • Scalp tightness and pain
  • Hair loss


Dandruff, while often less severe than scalp psoriasis, can still be bothersome and persistent. The symptoms of dandruff include:

  • White or yellowish flakes
  • Scalp itching
  • Scalp irritation
  • Oily or greasy scalp
  • Fluctuating symptoms

Scalp Psoriasis vs Dandruff-Diagnosis

Scalp Psoriasis:

A doctor will carefully check your skin, scalp, and nails for signs of the condition to identify if you have psoriasis on your scalp. They’ll also ask about your overall health, past illnesses, any medicines you’re taking, and if anyone in your family has had psoriasis. Moreover, they’ll look for symptoms like itchy skin, burning, recent illnesses, stress, joint pain, and specific medications you’re using. It helps them identify if you have psoriasis and what type it is. Sometimes, they might take a small piece of skin to examine it closely under a microscope to be sure it’s psoriasis and not something else.


You can usually identify dandruff by seeing white flakes on your hair and scalp. If you’re worried it might be something else, it’s better to see a doctor or a skin specialist. They’ll check your scalp and confirm if it’s dandruff. They can also suggest treatments. If the dandruff doesn’t go away with treatment, they might recommend taking a tiny piece of skin to test and ensure it’s not another problem causing it.

Scalp Psoriasis vs Dandruff- Treatment

Scalp Psoriasis:

If you’re dealing with scalp psoriasis and want relief at home, here are some simple tips:

  • Be gentle with your hair: Avoid rough brushing or combing to prevent irritation.
  • Use lukewarm water: Stick to warm, not hot, water for showers or baths, and keep it short.
  • Condition regularly: Using conditioner helps keep your scalp and hair moisturized.
  • Keep your scalp moist: Apply cream or ointment throughout the day, especially after bathing, to reduce redness and scaling.
  • Try home remedies: Aloe vera, coconut oil, olive oil, or a baking soda paste can soothe your scalp, but talk to your doctor first.


If you’re dealing with dandruff, consider these natural approaches:

  • Stay clean: Avoid scratching your scalp too much and keep dirt away.
  • Shampoo smartly: Find the right balance between washing too often and not enough.
  • Relax: Stress can make dandruff worse. Therefore, find ways to manage stress.
  • Massage your scalp: Massaging your scalp can help prevent dandruff.
  • Try aloe vera: Rubbing aloe vera onto your scalp before shampooing might help.

What are the Preventions for Both?

Prevention is better than cure. Therefore, here are some preventive strategies for psoriasis or dandruff:

  • Don’t scratch or pick your scalp. It can cause increased irritation and discomfort. Picking at plaques raises the risk of infection and hair loss caused by psoriasis on the scalp.
  • Use a mild shampoo or one specifically designed for psoriasis.
  • Massage the scalp while cleansing, remove plaques, and reduce itching.
  • Apply a deep moisturizing conditioner, a leave-in conditioner, or topical treatments containing shea butter or aloe to reduce itching, keep skin hydrated, and encourage healing.
  • If your scalp is extremely itchy, soak it in colloidal oatmeal. It is better to relieve itching in any body part, including the scalp.

Does Scalp Psoriasis Cause Dandruff?

Here’s the most significant question: if you have psoriasis, can it lead to dandruff?

Psoriasis can cause dry flakes that resemble dandruff, but it is a much more critical condition. Remember that dandruff is a distinct condition, not just a symptom.

Dandruff-like flakes appear in scalp psoriasis and other scalp conditions. That’s the distinguishing factor in the skin’s location eruption and other symptoms, such as plaques and inflammation that occur in psoriasis but not in dandruff.


To conclude, flakiness in the skin might appear like either psoriasis or dandruff. It is necessary to identify which skin condition you are going through to manage it well. Understanding the differences between these two illnesses is critical for proper management and therapy.
Dandruff results from the body’s hypersensitivity to skin yeast, seborrheic dermatitis, or eczema.

In contrast, psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune illness that characterizes the accumulation of dead skin cells on the skin’s surface. Psoriasis can affect numerous regions of the body, including the scalp.

Moreover, if you have psoriasis, enroll in clinical trials today to help find potential treatment options and to know the vastness of clinical research. Clinical trials provide extensive opportunities to explore the variables of clinical research and help humanity find potential cures.


MetroBoston Clinical Partners is a well established and experienced research center in the greater Boston area. Under the leadership of qualified physicians and medical professionals, we coordinate a range of clinical research trials in Dermatology and Internal Medicine.

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