Dandruff vs. Scalp Psoriasis: What’s the Difference?

Dandruff Scalp

Understanding the Difference between Dandruff and Scalp Psoriasis:

Dandruff and Scalp Psoriasis can be extremely similar in appearance, causing confusion as to which condition is affecting an individual. While both conditions can cause dry, flaky skin on the scalp, it is important to understand the differences between them in order to determine the best course of action for treatment.

What is Dandruff?

Dandruff, which is also known as seborrheic dermatitis, is a common and persistent condition that presents itself as white or grayish-white flakes on the scalp. It is caused by the skin’s natural renewal process – where older skin cells are replaced by newer skin cells – which occurs more quickly in the case of dandruff, causing these dead skin cells to accumulate on the scalp surface. While the condition isn’t dangerous, it can often cause embarrassing itching and flaking.

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What is Scalp Psoriasis?

Scalp psoriasis, unlike dandruff, is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body’s natural defense system attacks healthy skin cells. It appears as scaly red patches, often covering the entire scalp area, which can be extremely itchy, sore and can cause hair loss.

What are some of the key differences between Dandruff and Scalp Psoriasis?


The primary difference in appearance between dandruff and scalp psoriasis is the size of the flakes that develop. Dandruff appears as small, white or grayish-white flakes, while scalp psoriasis tends to present itself as large, scaly red patches.

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Dryness and Inflammation:

Dandruff and scalp psoriasis may both cause dryness on the scalp and may be accompanied by itching and flaking but scalp psoriasis often causes far more severe itching and inflammation when compared to cases of dandruff.


The treatments for dandruff and scalp psoriasis may be similar, but they are not necessarily the same. Many mild cases of dandruff can often be treated with over-the-counter shampoos that contain anti-dandruff active ingredients such as zinc pyrithione or selenium sulfide. For cases of scalp psoriasis, more aggressive treatments are often necessary, such as steroid creams, light therapy, or prescription medications.

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The Importance of Seeking Medical Attention for Dandruff and Scalp Psoriasis

Since dandruff and scalp psoriasis can present similarly and both conditions can worsen over time, it is important to get a professional diagnosis from your dermatologist or primary care physician to ensure that the correct treatment regimen is followed. It is also important to take steps to protect your scalp from further damage and irritants. Following an effective skin care routine that includes using gentle shampoos, using a humidifier, and avoiding heat or hair styling products can help keep the scalp healthy and protect from further damage.