Scalp Psoriasis: Causes, Picture, Symptoms and Treatment

Scalp psoriasis is a common disorder causing scaly and raised patches. It can affect your scalp, forehead, back of your neck or behind as well as inside your ears. The reddish and scaly patches can appear alone or in several batches. It appears like dandruff. But, the scalp can have a silvery sheen along with dry scales. It is a form of psoriasis, which is the autoimmune condition affecting your skin. Plaque psoriasis is the common form of the disease. The condition can vary from mild to severe. While mild condition causes signs that remain unnoticed, the severe condition can result in thick, crusted sores. Severe forms of the problem last for a long time. It can result in intense itching, making it impossible for performing daily functions. It can also affect your regular sleep pattern.

You cannot catch the condition by coming in contact with an affected person. It is not contagious. But, the underlying cause that leads to skin disorder remains unclear. But, doctors believe the problem occurs due to some issues with your immune system. So, your skin cells grow quickly and accumulate into patches. It results in scalp psoriasis. People with the condition need to avoid scratching their head a lot. It can result in skin infection and loss of hair. Read ahead to know more about the condition and the methods to manage it.

What Is Scalp Psoriasis?


Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease causing problems to your body. It results in your immune system arming your body instead of protecting it. The chronic condition can cause symptoms in different parts of the body. The condition is known as scalp psoriasis when it features raised, scaly, and red-colored patches on your scalp. The treatment for psoriasis in the scalp differs from plaque psoriasis. It is because your scalp is thicker than the rest of your skin.

Symptoms Associated With Scalp Psoriasis

You can see symptoms of the condition based on its severity. The signs you see may vary from mild to severe. The common symptoms associated with the condition are:

  • Dryness of scalp
  • Flaking that looks like dandruff
  • Reddish raised patches
  • Itchiness
  • Burning sensation in the scalp
  • Silvery scales
  • Bleeding from scratching the scalp plaques

Temporary hair loss due to scratching/removing plaques on the scalp

The symptoms can appear evenly on both sides of the scalp. At times, they affect most of your head. The condition can also extend to the following areas:

  • Forehead
  • Ears
  • Neck
  • Other parts of the face

Conditions Similar To Scalp Psoriasis

Some other skin conditions can also cause similar symptoms. You need to observe the symptoms closely to distinguish psoriasis in the scalp from other conditions.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis affects both adults and babies. In babies, the condition is referred to as cradle cap. It can cause a red and patchy rash. It looks moist or greasy on the scalp.



It is the fungal infection resulting in a red and crusty rash on the scalp. In usual cases, it forms rashes in the shape of a ring. But, scalp psoriasis does not form a ring while the affected patches or have a dry and scaly texture.

Causes Of Scalp Psoriasis

Scalp psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that usually develops due to problems in the immune system. Your immune system sends wrong signals to the body, resulting in the condition. The wrong signals from the immune system to the skin cells triggers it to multiply too quickly without shedding. In normal cases, the formation of new cells on your scalp takes weeks. But, when you suffer from the skin condition, the cells develop within a few days. So, it becomes difficult for your body to shed excess cells. It leads to skin buildup on the scalp surface. You can see scaly patches on the scalp due to an autoimmune condition.

Risk Factors Associated With Scalp Psoriasis

The exact reasons for the problem remain unknown. But, certain factors can increase the risk of getting the condition. The following factors can affect your chances of skin disorder:

Genetic Link

Studies suggest that a genetic link exists in developing the condition. If you have one or more family members with the condition, then you face a high risk of developing scalp psoriasis.


People with excess body weight can suffer from inflammatory problems. Overeating increases your immune response. The increased immune response can result in your body generation excess inflammation. It can trigger several diseases, including skin problems in your scalp.

Dietary Factors

Dietary factors like gluten sensitivity can also trigger the problem. Gluten intolerance refers to the reaction by your immune system when you consume products containing gluten. The immune system treats gluten products as a foreign invader and attacks your intestines. Around 25% of the people suffering from scalp psoriasis have gluten intolerance.

Risk Factors Causing Flare Ups

Some factors can trigger the flaring of symptoms in people suffering from the skin disorder. The factors that can trigger the issue in vulnerable people are:

  • Injury (like a cut, bruise, or burn) to the scalp
  • Infections like strep throat
  • Stress
  • Use of medications (to treat conditions like heart problem or arthritis)

In some cases, weather can play a role in triggering the issue. Allergies also can result in the condition. But, no conclusive evidence exists to confirm it. People suffering from the problem can only manage the condition from flaring up. So, you have no treatment available to complete alleviate the issue. You can see flare-ups periodically. But, with medical care and attention, you can control the symptoms.

Diagnosing Scalp Psoriasis

Persistent itching or scratching can make your life hell. It is important to seek treatment for the condition as early as possible. It will help prevent the worsening of symptoms. Your doctor can suggest the following diagnosis options to detect the issue:

Physical Examination

The conditions are diagnosed easily by performing a physical assessment. Your doctor checks your skin and scalp to detect the problem. Your face, ears, and neck are also checked to make a conclusive diagnosis.

Skin Biopsy

In some rare cases, the doctor sends the sample of skin from your scalp to the lab for analysis. The sample examined under a microscope can provide more details about the issue. It can also rule out other disorders with similar symptoms.

Treatment For Scalp Psoriasis

You need to know that you have no cure available currently for the condition. Researches are still underway to find the medications to alleviate the skin condition completely. But, you have over-the-counter and prescription treatment available to manage the symptoms. For mild cases of the condition, home remedies can offer relief. So, based on the severity of the condition, a healthcare professional can determine the perfect treatment plan.

Medications To Manage Scalp Psoriasis

If you have moderate to severe cases of skin disorder, then your doctor can suggest topical and systemic medications. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, you can get relief within a few weeks. Remember to rotate the medications as the immune system can become used to one medication. So, the effects can lessen after its repeated use.

Topical Medications

You can apply topical medications directly on the scalp. The medication available in the form of cream or shampoo will offer relief from the symptoms associated with the skin disorder. The treatment can contain one or a combination of the following ingredients:

  • Salicylic acid
  • Coal Tar
  • Clobetasol propionate

Medicated Shampoos

Your doctor can suggest using medicated shampoos that contain the following to manage the symptoms.

  • Salicylic Acid
Salicylic Acid
Salicylic Acid Chemical Structure

Shampoos containing salicylic acid can help the outer layer of the affected skin to shed. So, it can soften the scales developed due to skin disorder. But, the ingredients can irritate your skin. It can also weaken your hair. So, it results in hair breakage.

  • Coal Tar

Products containing coal tar can slow skin cell growth. So, it can provide a normal appearance to affected skin. Coal tar derived from coal can decrease itching as well as inflammation. Shampoos containing 2%-10% coal tar solution can help manage the condition. But, the product is suitable for people who are sensitive to its smell.

  • Clobetasol Propionate

Shampoos containing clobetasol propionate (0.05% strength) can help manage the condition effectively. It is highly effective in managing the scalp condition for initial treatment and maintenance. But, for it to show visible effects, you need to use other treatment methods to bring skin disorder under control first. But, you must control using the shampoo containing clobetasol propionate. You need to avoid using it for not more than four weeks. People under 18 years must refrain from using it.

Topical Creams

Doctors can also prescribe topical creams that contain the following ingredients that can reduce the scales and offers relief from itching:

  • Salicylic acid
  • Coal tar
  • Topical corticosteroids
  • Vitamin D based medications
  • Vitamin A derivatives

Your doctor can suggest products containing the single or combination of the products suggested above to see visible effects.

Systemic Medication

For moderate to severe scalp psoriasis, your doctor can suggest systemic medication. It is selected for severe cases and when other medication fails to offer relief. You can take the drug orally. The medication works throughout the body to manage the symptoms associated with the problem. Therefore, your doctor can choose from the following:

  • Methotrexate

It is the strong medication used to treat severe cases of psoriasis. When other medications or light treatments fails to offer relief, your doctor can opt the medication. It works by suppressing the overactive immune system that triggers severe and disabling skin condition.

  • Oral Retinoid

A retinoid is a form of Vitamin A. In some severe cases of scalp problem caused by psoriasis, your doctor recommends the use of oral retinoid. Acitretin is the common and only oral retinoid used to treat the condition. It is only prescribed for a short duration of time due to its side effects.

  • Cyclosporine

It is a quick and effective treatment option to control severe and disabling psoriasis. Once the symptoms come under control, your doctor switches to other medications. Due to its side effects, you can only take it for a short duration of time.

  • Biologic Therapies

It is the new medication that can target specific molecules in your overactive immune system. The medication can correct the immune response that leads to increased cell production. But, the medications can lower your body’s immune response. So, you can become more vulnerable to infections. You need constant monitoring to prevent any complications.

Steroid-Based Treatment

Your doctor can prescribe topical medication containing steroids. It can reduce inflammation and itching sensation. In some rare cases, medical professionals can inject the affected lesion with steroid medications. Your doctor opts it for mild cases of the condition. Your doctor uses the specific method sparingly due to its diverse side effects.

Light Therapy

Light Therapy

Light therapy can offer relief from the symptoms of the skin disorder. As the name suggests, you need to expose the affected area in the scalp to ultraviolet light. The therapy is needed regularly to control the issue. The doctor uses a special lamp to emit the required UVB light. You need to undergo the treatment in doctor’s supervision to avoid overexposure or burns.

Natural Remedies To Manage Scalp Psoriasis

You have several herbal remedies to manage scalp psoriasis. The alternative preparations can reduce the symptoms associated with the skin disorder. So, you can try the following natural preparation that causes no side effects. You can use the products containing the natural ingredients to alleviate the problem to an extent. But, before using the products, check with your doctor first to ensure its safety.

Apply Apple Cider Vinegar

You can apply ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) on your scalp directly to reduce the itching sensation. But, vinegar can irritate your scalp when you apply it directly. So, you need to dilute ACV by mixing it with equal parts of water. You can also try rinsing the scalp after vinegar dries. Make sure you never use ACV on open wounds.

Use Aloe Vera

You can either use Aloe Vera directly on your scalp or use products containing 0.5% aloe vera. You can use creams or gels containing aloe to reduce scaling and redness.


Oatmeal has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can offer relief from skin or scalp irritation. You can add oatmeal to your bath or apply the oatmeal paste to the areas on scalp affected from psoriasis to reduce symptoms. But, no evidence supports the effectiveness of the alternative home remedy.

Tea Tree Oil Shampoo

Tea tree oil has antiseptic and antimicrobial properties that can relieve several skin problems. But, no evidence supports the claim. So, you need to try it first on some areas of your scalp. It is to check if you have an allergic reaction to tea tree oil.


Turmeric is well-known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. You can take turmeric directly as a spice in your food. You can also use a topical gel containing turmeric to reduce the symptoms of scalp psoriasis. It is a safe option to take by mouth or apply it on the skin. But, it is better to check with your doctor before using it.

Capsaicin Ointment

It is effective in reducing the itching. Capsaicin can numb the nerve endings. So, you can get relief from itching. It can cause a burning sensation. But, more research is required to prove its effectiveness and safety.

Dead Sea Salts

You can add Dead Sea salts to your warm bath. It can offer relief from scaling and itching. But, using Dead Sea salts can strip away the moisture content from your scalp. So, it is important to use a moisturizer after using it.

Oregon Grape

Oregon grape is a disinfectant that offers relief when applied to the skin disorder. You can opt for topical cream containing 10% concentration of Oregon grape. The effective ingredient can help you get relief from mild cases of skin disorder.

Use Garlic

Garlic has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. It can improve skin disorders and avoid infections. You can use garlic with aloe vera gel or coconut oil to see visible results. But, it has a strong odor. So, if you never mind the smell, then you can use the method.

Vitamin D

You can go outside during the day to get the necessary vitamin D. But, apply sunscreen to prevent sun poisoning.

If you use complementary therapies to get relief from the skin condition, then you need to talk to your doctor. Some alternative therapies can trigger allergic reactions. People taking other medications need to ensure the natural therapy does not cause adverse reactions.

Managing Scalp Psoriasis

Scalp psoriasis is a chronic condition that can affect your self-esteem. You need to take steps to manage the condition and cope with the mental stress associated with it. You can follow the tips suggested below to manage the condition effectively.

Seek Treatment

You need to consult a medical professional to manage the condition. The doctor can provide you oral medications or topical ointments to manage the symptoms like itching. Getting medical assistance can prevent the problem from worsening.

Treat Scalp Gently

You need to maintain caution while handling your scalp. People with scalp psoriasis need to avoid washing and combing your hair vigorously. It can lead to hair breakage and hair loss. It is because your hair becomes fragile due to treatment.

Avoid Scratching

The skin disorder can lead to your skin becoming sensitive. So, scratching the scalp can lead to bleeding. It can subsequently result in infection.


Moisturizing the scalp may not cure the condition. But, it can manage irritation. It also improves the appearance of your skin.

Never Use Tanning Beds

People with scalp condition need to stay away from tanning beds. It is because tanning beds emit substantial about of UVA light. It can cause adverse effects on the body and have fatal complications.

Avoid Triggers

You need to avoid triggers that can result in the condition or worsen it. So, try to identify the triggers leading to the problem like stress. Try to consider the ways to limit them to prevent it from affecting your life.
When you encounter a problem, it is important to seek treatment. It will reduce the risk of further complications like bleeding skin on your scalp, hair loss or cracked skin on the scalp.

Preventing Scalp Psoriasis

Since the exact reason why the condition occurs remains unclear, you cannot prevent scalp psoriasis. But, you can get treatment for the condition as soon as they appear to prevent it from getting worse. The condition affects individuals differently. So, you may not see the same symptoms in people suffering from the condition. In some affected individuals, the problem flares up occasionally while others deal with it frequently. If you know the exact triggers resulting in the problem, then you need to avoid these factors to prevent complications.


Scalp psoriasis is a challenging condition. You need to prepare yourself to mentally cope with it. The skin disorder can affect your visual appearance adversely. But, you have effective treatment methods to reduce the visibility of skin disorder. Talk to your doctor about the treatments available to manage the symptoms and prevent hair loss. Get advice before undergoing any hair treatment as it can affect the skin condition. With proper medical assistance, you can manage the symptoms and prevent flare-ups.

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