What Is The Difference Between Scalp Psoriasis And Dandruff
Dandruff is a skin condition that affects your scalp. Its itchy, white or yellow flakes on your scalp. Medical researchers arent sure of the exact cause of dandruff, but they think factors may include:
- A yeast called Malassezia that overgrows on your skin.
- An increased level of androgens.
- An increased level of skin lipids.
- An inflammatory reaction.
Scalp psoriasis is an autoimmune disease.
Treatment For Scalp Psoriasis
Your dermatologist can treat mild scalp psoriasis with topical medications. For more stubborn cases, oral or injectable treatments are also effective but may have side effects including increased infections.
At UCLA Dermatology, our specialists may recommend one or more of the following:
- Topical medications applied to the scalp, such as tar shampoos and steroid sprays, creams and solutions
- Medicated shampoos
The Nitty Gritty Of Scalp Psoriasis
Its easy to think that patches of dry, itchy skin on the scalp are caused by some kind of lack of hygiene. But cleanliness has nothing to do with scalp psoriasis.
Psoriasis is actually a chronic inflammatory disorder caused when the immune system doesnt work quite right. Doctors arent sure why, but some people have an immune system that churns out too many skin cells. Since the body cant get rid of these excess cells fast enough, they pile on top of each other, forming flakey, silvery scales.
Psoriasis can pop up anywhere on the body, but when it shows up on your head, dry skin patches can appear under the hair, on the back of the neck, and behind the ears.
Its easy to confuse psoriasis with dandruff, and sometimes dermatologists arent so sure themselves. When it looks like a blend between psoriasis and dandruff, they call it sebopsoriasis a cute couples name for seborrheic dermatitis, aka dandruff, and psoriasis.
However, some clues that your scalp irritation might be psoriasis include more defined or patterned pink scale-like plaques.
Dandruff looks more like generalized greasy flaking with pink patches. Over-the-counter shampoos can typically knock out dandruff, but scalp psoriasis is a little harder to treat.
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Look For Scaly Patches Of Skin
The best way to look for this particular psoriasis symptom is to feel around on your scalp. Youâre looking for patches of skin â particularly in areas you might not see in the mirror â that feel raised, bumpy, or scaly in nature. These bumpy patches of skin are the result of overactive skin cell growth. Itâs believed that an autoimmune issue is the cause of this skin buildup. When skin grows so quickly like that, your body canât shed cells fast enough. If you feel small patches or large areas of scaly skin on your scalp, itâs likely psoriasis.
What Causes Scalp Psoriasis
Scalp psoriasis is an immune system disease. Your immune system overreacts, causing inflammation, which leads to new skin cells growing too fast.
Typically, new skin cells grow every 28 to 30 days. But in people with scalp psoriasis, new skin cells grow and move to the skin surface every three to four days. The buildup of new cells replacing old cells creates thick patches of skin.
Scalp psoriasis can runs in families, but the actual triggers are complex. Parents may pass it down to their children, and environmental exposures can include skin trauma, sunburn, medications, stress and other inflammatory or autoimmune health conditions.
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Avoid Drinking And Stress
Different people have different triggers for psoriasis, and unfortunately, these arent things you can always completely avoid, says Dr. Warren. Since heavy drinking and high stress levels can be common triggers that cause psoriasis to flare up, its important to avoid these triggers when possible and practice relaxation techniques when you start feeling stressed.
What Causes Psoriasis Outbreaks
Psoriasis outbreaks differ from person to person. No one knows exactly what causes flare-ups. Common psoriasis triggers may include:
- Skin injury .
- Streptococcal or other infection that affects the immune system.
- Certain prescription medications .
- Cold weather, when people have less exposure to sunlight and humidity and more to hot, dry indoor air.
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Rule Out Dandruff First
Scalp psoriasis can be a serious issue for those who have it. If you suspect youâre one of those people, itâs important to rule out dandruff first. Dandruff can be caused by a number of factors, but most commonly itâs the result of oily, itchy, or irritated skin. As a result of this irritation, dry skin flakes off and often lands on your hair or clothing. One key symptom to look out for here is dry skin flakes. Itchiness can also be a symptom of dandruff, but it shouldnât be accompanied by any redness or scaly skin. If you think you see either of those things, itâs probably time to get checked out for psoriasis. In addition, dandruff often comes and goes. Keep track of how long youâre experiencing symptoms â if theyâre ongoing for more than a week or so, you could be looking at scalp psoriasis.
How Do I Manage My Symptoms
- Take any OTC or prescription medications and products as recommended by your healthcare provider, including antihistamines for severe itching.
- Bathe or shower in lukewarm not hot water. Limit the amount of time you spend in the water to under 15 minutes and apply moisturizers or emollients immediately after lightly toweling dry.
- Use conditioner every time you wash your hair to keep your scalp and hair moisturized.
- Gently comb your hair to avoid causing irritation.
- Moisturize your scalp or affected areas several times a day using a cream or ointment, including after your bath or shower.
- Avoid wearing hats or other headwear unless necessary you generally dont want to cover your plaques so your scalp can breathe.
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How Do You Get Rid Of Psoriasis On The Scalp Naturally
Thick scales on your forehead, hairline, behind your ears, or on the back of your neck can be softened with coconut, olive, or peanut oil. Massage a small amount into your scalp, then put on a shower cap overnight, and shampoo in the morning. Repeat for two or three nights. The dead skin should soften and wash away.
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How To Treat Scalp Psoriasis At Home
Its important to note that home remedies can help ease symptoms but theyre not proven cures. The following home treatments are generally safe and may help you reduce the symptoms of mild to moderate scalp psoriasis. Those with more aggressive forms of the condition should consult a doctor before starting home treatment.
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Be Aware Of Itching Or Burning Sensations
Another common symptom of scalp psoriasis is an itching or burning sensation around the affected areas. This can be a result of skin cracking or flaking. Whatever you do, donât scratch at your scalp if you feel these sensations. Doing so could irritate your condition further and lead to complications down the line. In addition, it could cause additional scalp soreness or pain.
A Flaking Scalp And Skin Are Some Of The Most Frustrating Symptoms Of Psoriasis And Psoriatic Arthritis Heres How To Stop Shedding
It can be enough of a challenge to deal with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis flare-ups the physical appearance and itchy discomfort of psoriasis plaques is upsetting and frustrating for patients. But when psoriasis plaques begin to build up and flake off the skin, leaving behind dandruff-like evidence of the condition on your clothes and surroundings, it can make things even worse. Many patients feel like flaking adds to the stigma they already experience, in part because it calls more attention to the disease from others.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes skin cell buildup that appears as red, scaly, itchy patches on your skin and scalp that can burn and sting. These plaques can also become so thick and dry that they start to flake off the skin in large, silver-toned scales. When it happens on your scalp, it can look like severe dandruff. Research shows that about half of psoriasis patients experience scalp psoriasis, though some estimates say that 90 percent of patients will deal with scalp psoriasis at some point. Sometimes psoriasis plaques on your body shed their scales, too. In one study, doctors rated flaking, along with itch, as one of the most physically bothersome symptoms in their psoriasis patients.
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What Are The Most Common Scalp Psoriasis Symptoms
Youre probably wondering, What does scalp psoriasis looks like? Generally, you might notice flaking or scaly patches of raised skin on your scalp first, Dr. Bhutani says. These patches can also be inflamed, thick, and swollen6, and sometimes extend to the forehead, the back of the neck, or behind the ears. On light skin tones, psoriasis plaques on the scalp typically appear pink or red with silvery scales. For people with dark skin, these lesions may range in color and appear salmon-y pink, silvery white, violet, or brown, depending on your specific skin tone7.
But the signs of scalp psoriasis go far beyond the physical effects. Scalp psoriasis, honestly, causes some of the largest impact on quality of life, Dr. Bhutani says. Thats because severe symptoms can interrupt sleep, create feelings of anxiety, and hurt a persons self-esteem, especially if the scalp psoriasis plaques are clearly visible.
In addition to plaques, other scalp psoriasis symptoms include6:
- An extremely itchy scalp that can be distracting
- A burning sensation or soreness on your scalp
- Cracked and/or bleeding skin from scratching too much or from having a dry scalp
- Temporary hair loss if you excessively touch your scalp or attempt to pick off your scales, which can forcibly remove hair follicles
Get Hair Health And Science News Delivered Right To Your Inbox
Does anybody actually like dealing with scalp infections? Well, actually we do. Yes, we know scalp fungus causes hair lossÃ¢and can be uncomfortable and itchy. But weÃ¢ve done our scalp infection research and have solutions for you. Not only will we tell you the difference between scalp fungus and plain old dry skin, but weÃ¢ll also share how and why scalp infections happen. Plus, weÃ¢ve got scalp fungus treatment options. HereÃ¢s what we know.
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Scalp Psoriasis Vs Seborrheic Dermatitis
Occasionally, seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp can be confused with scalp psoriasis since both can produce excess scale and can itch. Pathological examination of the skin biopsy material occasionally may be helpful in distinguishing the two entities. As a practical matter, this is rarely necessary because most patients with psoriasis have typical psoriatic lesions present in other areas, such as the elbows, knees, or torso. In addition, both conditions generally respond to similar topical medications.
How Does Scalp Psoriasis Affect My Body
Scalp psoriasis causes thick, rough, scaly, dry, discolored plaques to develop on your scalp and the skin around your scalp. The plaques can be itchy or painful. Scalp psoriasis can cause hair loss , and scratching your plaques may worsen that hair loss.
Scalp psoriasis can make you worry about how others look at you. It can also affect your behavior and how you think about yourself. You may become self-conscious or experience stress, anxiety and depression.
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Oats Or Colloidal Oatmeal
Some people also notice that their psoriasis symptoms get worse after eating certain foods or as a result of allergies. Research has not yet conclusively proven that these factors can trigger psoriasis, however.
It is worth noting that environmental triggers alone do not cause psoriasis. People without a genetic predisposition for psoriasis will not develop it, even when they experience these triggers.
In the following sections, we will cover the different types of shampoo and home remedies that people with scalp psoriasis can try.
Main Symptoms Of Psoriasis
Psoriasis typically causes patches of skin that are dry, red and covered in silver scales. Some people find their psoriasis causes itching or soreness.
There are several different types of psoriasis. Many people have only 1 form at a time, although 2 different types can occur together. One form may change into another or become more severe.
Most cases of psoriasis go through cycles, causing problems for a few weeks or months before easing or stopping.
You should see a GP if you think you may have psoriasis.
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Psoriasis Triggers To Know
There are also other day-to-day triggers that dont necessarily cause psoriasis, but might make it worse or spark a flareup:
- Drinking a lot of alcohol
- Vitamin D deficiency
About half of patients with psoriasis experience a flare in their disease with stress. It can be mental stress or a physical stressor, says Dr. Reichenberg. Another common cause of flares is infections. We think that when a persons body starts to get the immune system ready to fight an infection, it also makes the part of the immune system responsible for psoriasis get over active.
Treatment: Where To Start
The most common treatments for mild cases are medications that you put directly on your scalp. If you have a more severe case or have psoriasis elsewhere on your body, you may need a medication that treats your whole body. You can take these medications by mouth or injection.
If your psoriasis doesn’t respond well after repeated use of one medication, your doctor may replace or combine it with another type of treatment.
One of the first steps is to soften and remove scales. This makes it easier for medications to do their job.
- Apply over-the-counter products to your scalp to help soften scales and make them easier to peel off. Look for products with the active ingredients salicylic acid, lactic acid, urea, zinc pyrithione, or selenium sulfide.
- Gently loosen the scales with a brush or fine-toothed comb.
- Shampoo your scalp to remove the scales, using a salicylic acid shampoo or soap.
- Apply thick creams to your scalp while it’s still damp to hold in the moisture.
To apply medication:
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Is Psoriasis The Same As Eczema
Psoriasis and eczema are two different skin conditions. They differ in where the disease appears on the body, how much it itches and how it looks. Eczema tends to appear more often behind the knees and inside the elbows. Eczema also causes more intense itching than psoriasis. Many people, especially children, can get both eczema and psoriasis.
What Are Scalp Psoriasis Symptoms And Signs Can Scalp Psoriasis Cause Hair Loss
Psoriasis appears as a small bump, a papule, surmounted by scale. When these papules coalesce, a plaque is formed that is often covered by thick layers of horny scale. When this scale is shed, it appears as dandruff, which can be quite unsightly. Scratching these plaques, either because of itching or because of the impulse to remove it, is a very poor idea because of what is called the Koebner phenomenon . This may cause psoriasis to develop in areas of inflammation and trauma. Scratching off the scale will only make things worse. Although most patients do not note hair loss, there can be extensive alopeciahair loss in severe cases.
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Prescribed Treatments Can Include Ointments Lasers And Injections
Your doctor can prescribe a number of topical medications that can be applied directly to your scalp that can assist with decreasing the amount of scales you have. Topical steroids come in a variety of types, including lotions, solutions and thicker ointments. These can help clear some of the scales without damaging your hair.
But for more difficult cases, there are also handheld laser treatments and steroid injections available. Many patients need something more because their scalp psoriasis is stubborn, says Dr. Warren. If you have moderate to severe psoriasis, you might also be prescribed oral or injectable medications to target psoriasis, not only on your scalp, but also on other parts of your body, nails or joints.
Coconut Or Avocado Oil
Coconuts and avocadoes are filled with healthy fats that boost skin health. Massage a few drops of either type of oil, cool or lightly heated, onto your scalp and put on a shower cap. Wait 20 minutes, remove the cap, then wash your hair as usual. This can reduce and remove some of the scaling associated with the condition.
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What Are Office Treatments For Scalp Psoriasis
Rarely, it may be of benefit to inject triamcinolone acetonide directly into psoriatic plaques. Aside from the pain involved, the benefit only lasts about six weeks at best. Ultraviolet light in wavelengths near 313 nm is effective in psoriasis. The hair, however, can pose a barrier to effective administration unless it is removed or sparse. The excimer laser produces out laser light in these UV wavelengths also and can be of benefit if the amount of scalp involvement is limited.
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Do Scalp Psoriasis Home Remedies Work
How you take care of your hair and scalp can have a big impact on your scalp psoriasis flare-ups. In addition to the treatment plan your doctor recommends, you may want to try some of the following tips at home12:
Skip styling tools when possible: Since heat can further dry out your scalp and exacerbate symptoms, its best to avoid blow-drying, curling, and straightening tools if you can. When brushing your hair, use gentle pressure to avoid further irritation. If you have natural hair and are used to consistent styling that requires heat, talk to your dermatologist or stylist to figure out a plan that reduces the risk of potential flare-ups while maintaining the health of your hair.
Avoid the tight up-do: If you have longer hair and have hair loss, you may also want to avoid pulling it back tightly in a ponytail, since that can pull on the already-fragile scalp and possibly lead to more hair loss. If you must pull your hair back, keep the hair low and loose to prevent excess tugging.
Choose hair products wisely: Using certain hair products, such as hair dyes, can also be irritating to your scalp. Ask your dermatologist for brand recommendations or if there are ways your stylist can dye your hair that might be more gentle on your scalp.
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