Difference Between Scalp Psoriasis and Seborrheic Dermatitis

by Garreth Myers


Scalp psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis are both conditions that affect the scalp of infants, children, and adults. Psoriasis is a skin disease that can affect the scalp and cause cells to form dry itchy patches with silvery scales of skin. Psoriasis is a chronic disease and people suffering from the condition can alternate between periods of remission and flare-ups. There is no cure as yet for psoriasis – only ways to reduce the symptoms and lessen the discomfort. Seborrheic dermatitis is another skin disorder that mainly affects the scalp. When found in infants it is known as cradle cap. Seborrheic dermatitis is not a serious medical condition but it can cause embarrassment to those who suffer from it. It tends to recur over time but can often be cured with a combination of home remedies and over-the-counter medications.

The question that often arises is, ‘how does one tell the difference between scalp psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis as they share similar symptoms making it hard to distinguish between the two?’ In addition, there is no single test that confirms the diagnosis of one or the other. Fortunately, both conditions share similar treatments, so not much can go wrong with respect to curing the condition. Until you visit your doctor for a definitive diagnosis, you can look out for the following difference between the two conditions -

Scalp psoriasis symptoms include:
  • Red patches on the scalp with silvery-colored scales of skin.
  • Removal of the scaly skin can result in bleeding.
  • Scales appear thicker than normal.
  • Patches appear beyond the hairline and can be itchy and sore.
  • Scalp psoriasis may also cause an itchy dandruff.
  • There may be other psoriasis patches elsewhere on the body.
Seborrheic dermatitis symptoms are:
  • Greasy red patches of skin on the scalp with yellow or white scales
  • Patches are usually around the hairline
  • Scales can crust over or attach to the hair and be easily removed
  • Severe itching
  • Soreness of the scalp
  • Peeling of the scalp
  • Can affect other parts of the skin such as the back and chest areas that are rich in oil glands

Therefore the main differences between scalp psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis are based on:

  • The Size of the Scales: Scalp psoriasis results in larger scales that also tend to be thicker than the scales caused by seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Color of the Scales: Here is where the signs differ significantly. The scales of scalp psoriasis are distinctly silver or white in color whereas those associated with seborrheic dermatitis are either yellow or white.
  • Location of the Scales: The location of the scales can help determine whether you are suffering from seborrheic dermatitis or scalp psoriasis. Scales of scalp psoriasis tend to extend to the neck and ears and in some cases even the forehead. Scales of seborrheic dermatitis are largely around the hairline.
  • Removal of Scales: It is normal to try to want to remove the scales at some point. Scales of seborrheic dermatitis are generally attached to the hair follicle and are easier to remove than those caused by scalp psoriasis. In fact removal of psoriasis scales can even lead to bleeding.
  • Other Areas Affected: If scales and red patches of skin are found elsewhere on the body, the condition could be caused by psoriasis. Common affected areas include the feet, elbows, hands, and eyebrows. However, it is not unusual for psoriasis to affect only the scalp so this is not a reliable distinction of the condition.

The best way to confirm the cause of the condition is to visit an experienced dermatologist who can make his diagnosis with a simple examination of the scalp. While both conditions are treated similarly, people find that psoriasis is more difficult to treat and manage as compated to seborrheic dermatitis. Some of the common treatments for both conditions include:

  • Medicated shampoos containing tar or salicylic acid
  • Anti-fungal solutions
  • Vitamin D supplements
  • Medical creams and ointments containing tar products or corticosteroids
  • Products and preparations containing mineral or other oils that loosen the scales and reduce inflammation of the scalp
  • Severe cases of scalp psoriasis may require drugs such as corticosteroids or other oral medications
  • Foods high in biotin or vitamin B7 are also recommended
  • Phototherapy (using UV light) is often prescribed to treat stubborn cases of scalp psoriasis
  • If psoriasis has spread to other parts of the body, steroid injections into the lesions may help reduce the inflammation and prevent the spread of the condition.

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
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