Tresses Under Threat: Psoriasis Scalp vs Dandruff

Tresses Under Threat: Psoriasis Scalp vs Dandruff

Scalp psoriasis and Dandruff are two of the most irritating scalp problems that you could experience. While both of them are treatable, the process takes a lot of time and patience and each of them is markedly different. Let’s find out more.

What is the Difference Between Psoriasis Scalp vs Dandruff?

A lot of people seem to have the following query ‘are dandruff and psoriasis the same thing?’ Another common misconception seems to be ‘dandruff vs dry scalp vs psoriasis’ confusion. Dandruff is essentially a reaction to oily or dry skin and is usually easily treatable with an OTC shampoo. Psoriasis scalp is thought to be an immune disorder. It is a condition in which skin cells buildup in excess amounts leading to scaliness, itchiness and dryness. The affected experience immense discomfort and require elaborate treatment. Severe cases of scalp psoriasis can lead to telogen effluvium.

What Are the Causes of Dandruff?

The skin cells on our scalp are in a process of constant regeneration and old skin is constantly flaked out and replaced with new skin. When this process of flaking is expedited and more white flakes are visible, people are said to be suffering from dandruff problems.

Dandruff is not directly connected to your hair or its hygiene, but it has more to do with the condition of your scalp skin. Dandruff can happen because of a variety of causes including:

  • Oily skin
  • Dry skin
  • If you do not shampoo regularly and excess skin cells develop
  • The Malassezia fungus that feeds on scalp oil
  • Contact dermatitis, wherein the person has an unfavourable reaction to certain hair products.
  • It could also be the result of hormonal issues.
  • Could be due to pitta dosha

Dandruff related problems give you an itchy scalp as a result of the accumulation of skin flakes which could worsen in cold and dry weather. Severe stress leads to more dandruff issues and could cause extensive hair loss. Dandruff can cause irritation, itchiness, flakiness, dryness and inflammation and can get aggravated by stress and weather.

What Are the Causes of Psoriasis Scalp?

Scalp psoriasis is an anomaly of the immune system that causes skin cells to regenerate at abnormally fast rates. This results in red patches and scaling. It is believed that both environmental and genetic factors are responsible for scalp psoriasis. It has been found that if you have at least one member of your family suffering from scalp psoriasis then you have a greater possibility of developing the same condition.

People susceptible to scalp psoriasis may not show any symptoms for years until it is triggered by an external agency. The most common reasons for scalp psoriasis include:

  • Throat or skin infections
  • High-stress levels can weaken your immune system and the possibility of developing psoriasis
  • Cold, dry conditions
  • A skin injury brought about by cut, bite or sunburn
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Certain strong medicines for conditions such as malaria and high blood pressure
  • Withdrawal symptoms after stoppage of corticosteroids.

Treatments for Psoriasis Scalp

Though there is no cure for scalp psoriasis it is possible to get it under control with the help of several treatment processes. The treatment will depend on

  • The severity of the problem
  • How your body has responded before (if this is a relapse)
  • The presence of psoriasis in other parts of your body
  • The density of your hair.

The medicines are generally administered directly onto the scalp whether orally or with the help of injections. Phototherapy or light treatment techniques have also become very popular nowadays. If the medication does not prove to be effective the doctor may suggest a combination. The first step is to remove the scales which will make it convenient for the other medicines to work their magic.

  • Several OTC products contain salicylic acid, zinc pyrithione, selenium sulphide and lactic acid which are extremely effective in loosening the scales.
  • You can then further loosen the scales with a brush
  • Shampoo to remove the scales with a product containing any of the above-mentioned ingredients
  • After removal of the scales apply the creams in those places while they are still damp to hold in the moisture.

Apart from this, there are several products that doctors would recommend on how to treat scalp psoriasis.

  • Corticosteroids: They are available in various forms such as lotions, gels, sprays and shampoos and are used for treating inflammation in bigger patches. The effect of corticosteroids diminishes if used for a long period.
  • Coal tar products: They are very useful in reducing itchiness, inflammation and scaling. They also help in decreasing the speed of growth. You can apply a coal tar shampoo on your scalp and rinse it off after 10 minutes.
  • Steroid injections: Intralesional steroid injections are administered to reduce inflammation and are injected directly into the affected area.
  • Light therapy: In the process, the infected skin is exposed to natural or artificial light. It could involve exposure to sunlight daily as well as UVB broadband light from a controlled source.
  • Creams: Creams such as anthralin, calcipotriene (vitamin D) and Tazarotene (vitamin A) could also be suggested.

Certain categories of medication can also be used to treat specific scalp psoriasis problems:

  • Methotrexate is useful in reducing the effect of an enzyme responsible for faster skin cell growth.
  • Biologics focus on parts of the immune system overactive in psoriasis.
  • Oral retinoids are useful in controlling the pace of cell growth.
  • Cyclosporine deactivates the immune system and reduces psoriasis inflammation.

Home Remedies to Treat Dandruff and Scalp Psoriasis

It is always advisable to act on the recommendations of your health care provider but many home remedies could provide a soothing touch and also cure your dandruff and psoriasis scalp issues. Let’s find out more about how to treat scalp psoriasis naturally.

  • Aloe vera: Use fresh aloe vera gel extracted from the plant and apply it over your hair and scalp. It is very effective in reducing scaling.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Use a 1:1 solution of aloe vera with water. Dilute it further if it produces a burning sensation. Use this remedy 3 times a week for best results. Avoid using it if you have a cracked or bleeding scalp.
  • Turmeric: Turmeric is very effective in reducing the inflammation associated with psoriasis. It is also a very good antioxidant. You can also add the extra dose of turmeric to your cooking to derive its benefits. This is how to treat scalp psoriasis at home
  • Baking soda: This is a very useful solution for an itchy scalp. Add 1 tablespoon of baking soda to a glass of water. Use cotton wool to apply it over the affected regions of your scalp to get relief from itching and inflammation.
  • Coconut oil: Coconut oil is considered to be a highly potent remedy as it has a lot of healthy fats that augment scalp health. Massage some mildly heated oil onto your scalp and cover it up with a shower cap. Wash it off with a mild shampoo after 20 minutes.

It is always advisable to consult with a doctor to address your scalp psoriasis scalp and thereby avoid any complications. Depending on the severity of your condition you can supplement your efforts with some home remedies that could reduce the symptoms and lead you towards recovery. Do visit us at Traya for solutions to this and various other problems as our experts will help you by designing the perfect plan to deal with your specific issue.

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Dr. Jaspreet Sarna, M.D


Dr. Sarna is an MD (Skin & VD) with a decade-long experience in treating hair loss and working on hair regrowth. She believes stress management is the key to good health.


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