Authored by Revere Health

What is Scalp Psoriasis?

June 9, 2017 | Dermatology

If you ever notice raised, reddish and often scaly patches on your scalp, you may have a condition called scalp psoriasis. Psoriasis can affect any part of the skin and is relatively common, affecting roughly 7.5 million Americans. About half of these cases are specific to the scalp.

Scalp psoriasis doesn’t appear to be contagious, and doctors aren’t completely sure what causes it. In some cases it can be mild and virtually unnoticeable, and in others it can be severe and long-lasting. Fortunately, there are treatment and management tactics you can try as well.


Scalp psoriasis may appear anywhere on the scalp and may cover the entire scalp or just part of it. They may come and go, and some people have just a single mild flare-up. Symptoms include:


  • Reddish patches: Ranging from barely noticeable to thick and inflamed.
  • Flaking and scale: In many cases, scalp psoriasis symptoms will look very similar to dandruff, however, there are differences—including a silvery sheen and dry scale on the scalp.
  • Dry scalp: People with this condition find that their scalp is often dry enough to cause cracking or bleeding.
  • Itching: One of the most common symptoms, itching ranges from mild to intense and intrusive, interfering with day-to-day life.
  • Bleeding: Often a result of scratching from itching, bleeding can worsen psoriasis and make patches larger or thicker.
  • Burning sensation or extreme soreness.
  • Temporary hair loss: This is often caused by scratching to remove scales. After scalp psoriasis clears, hair usually grows back.



Scalp psoriasis is not contagious. The causes are not exactly known, but doctors do know that it develops when the immune system has faulty signals and tells skin cells to grow too quickly. This causes cells to form in days instead of weeks, and the body is unable to shed these cells. As a result, they build up on the skin. At least 50 percent of people who have plaque psoriasis will get at least one flare-up on their scalp.

Treatment and Management

Several treatments can provide success with scalp psoriasis:


  • Topical treatments: Shampoos, creams, gels, ointments and soaps. Some can be found over-the-counter, though stronger versions need prescriptions
  • Scale softeners
  • Injection of steroids
  • Phototherapy with a laser or non-laser light source
  • Biologics: Drugs taken via injection or IV that prevent the skin from making too many cells


There are also several steps you can take to help treatments benefit scalp psoriasis as much as possible and prevent symptoms. These include:


  • Don’t scratch: While this can be very difficult in many cases, scratching often makes psoriasis worse. It can cause bleeding and hair loss.
  • Relieve itching: Understand that the itch will subside after successful treatment. Speak to your dermatologist if the itching is too unbearable before treatment is complete.
  • Gentle care: Whether you’re shampooing the scalp or removing scale, take gentle care. Rubbing shampoo heavily may worsen psoriasis, and picking at scales can cause flare-ups and hair loss.
  • Scale softener: This is a solution containing salicylic acid, and it can help soften psoriasis patches. This can also make applying medicine easier and more effective.
  • Limit stress: Stress can make matters worse and can lead to hair loss. Look for ways to reduce stress.


If you or your child show the signs of scalp psoriasis, speak to your dermatologist about your treatment options.


As Utah County’s leading dermatology practice, Revere Health Dermatology provides the best in skin care for our patients.



“Scalp psoriasis.” American Academy of Dermatology.

“Scalp Psoriasis.” WebMD.



The Live Better Team

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