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Scalp psoriasis: what is it and how to treat it?

Dandruff or scalp psoriasis? It may be characterized by flakes, but scalp psoriasis couldn’t be any more different from dandruff. Find out why, what scalp psoriasis is and how to go about treating it with our guide to this rarer genetic condition. 

What is scalp psoriasis?

Scalp psoriasis is a somewhat rare genetic condition that affects around 3% of the world’s population. Because some of the symptoms can appear similar, it may be worth trying common dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis treatments first, to see if your condition improves.

What are the symptoms of scalp psoriasis?

Some symptoms are similar to dandruff: as the body’s skin cells increase the rate of shedding, leading to a build-up of flakes that may be confused with dandruff.

But there are some important differences to remember:

  • Redness beyond the hairline – you might notice it at the top of your forehead or around your sideburns too

  • Flakes tend to be silver in colour – they can also be more oily than dandruff flakes

  • Scaly areas– the red patches associated with scalp psoriasis are often covered by scale-like areas of dead skin

  • Other parts of the body can be affected– unlike dandruff, you may experience psoriasis in other areas, such as your hands and face

Not sure if it’s psoriasis? 

If your scalp is red, itchy and flaky it could be dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis or scalp psoriasis – so how do you tell?

Try replacing your usual shampoo with Head & Shoulders Anti-Dandruff Shampoo first.

If you’ve got dandruff, it will quickly tackle the problem and leave you up to 100% flake free*.

Just use it every time you wash your hair (preferably at least 3 times a week). If it’s dandruff, you should start to see an improvement in the first week.

After two or three weeks, you should see no visible flakes.

If you’ve tried this and still have problems

The next step is to rule out seborrheic dermatitis, which is essentially a more severe form of dandruff.

The causes of seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff are the same, so if you have seborrheic dermatitis the dandruff shampoo should have helped reduce flaking – just not as much as you hoped for.

Still suffering?

You may have scalp psoriasis.

How to treat scalp psoriasis

Scalp psoriasis is a genetic condition and has different causes than dandruff; so, some effective anti-dandruff shampoos won’t help it. Over-the-counter shampoos containing coal tar or salicylic acid can help to manage psoriasis flaking.

You’ll need to see a dermatologist who can advise you on how best to go about managing your scalp psoriasis and may recommend stronger prescription shampoos.

Dermatologists will often try a number of treatment options to find one that works best, as some treatments will work better for some people than others.

It all depends on the severity of the psoriasis and your individual reaction to treatment.

A worried woman looking in the mirror and touching her scalp

What treatments might your doctor recommend for scalp psoriasis?

You should definitely consult your doctor or dermatologist to find the right treatment – and there are plenty they might suggest:

1. Medicines applied to the skin

These treatments aim to soothe and reduce irritation and inhibit the skin cell turnover. Corticosteroids are prescribed most commonly.

2. UV light therapy

Controlled use of UV light can help to stop the problem cells from multiplying as quickly.

3. Steroid injections

This treatment is usually only for mild scalp psoriasis and is administered by a doctor.

4. Oral or injected medication

For severe scalp psoriasis, your doctor might prescribe drugs to be taken by mouth or by injection. These medications include corticosteroids and cyclosporine.

Scalp psoriasis doesn’t have a cure, but with the right treatment it can be managed and kept under control so if you think you have the condition, make sure to see your doctor or dermatologist.

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