Scalp Eczema Vs. Psoriasis: Know The Difference

Trusted Health Products

Written By Krishma Patel / Reviewed By Ray Spotts

You notice a flaky scalp situation coupled with dryness and itching one morning. Google tells you it could be dandruff or scalp eczema. Or maybe psoriasis? But wait. Before you get confused and scratch your head, even more, consider getting a quick clarity on the similarities and differences between the two.

The symptoms may appear to be the same, but these are two different skin conditions, and hence the treatment for eczema and psoriasis depends on the correct diagnosis.

What is scalp eczema?

Eczema (aka dermatitis) is a skin condition that causes inflamed patches, itchy, and cracked skin. One in five children and one in 10 adults in the UK have eczema. It can affect various parts of the body, but it is simply called scalp eczema when it involves the scalp. Seborrheic and atopic dermatitis are the most common types of scalp eczema with dandruff or flaky skin on the head.

What is psoriasis of the scalp?

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease where the process of skin production speeds up. Like eczema, psoriasis also causes red, scaly skin with itching. However, it is distinguishable by the thick and silvery scales produced on the skin compared to the thinner, whitish-yellow scales caused by scalp eczema.

Forty-five to 56 percent of people having psoriasis suffer from psoriasis of the scalp, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation, USA.

What causes scalp eczema and psoriasis?

The exact cause of both skin conditions is unknown. Still, usually, a person’s gene pool, immune system and environmental circumstances may disrupt the skin barrier leading to scalp eczema or psoriasis.

Some risk factors that may trigger scalp eczema are weather extremities, oily skin, stress, lack of sleep and even alcohol-based grooming products. Whereas if a person already has psoriasis anywhere else on the body, they are more likely to get psoriasis on the head. It is caused by an overactive immune system and could be genetic.

What do the symptoms of scalp eczema vs. psoriasis look like?

There are common symptoms between scalp eczema and psoriasis like raised red, scaly patches with dry and thickened skin that may bleed due to constant itching. A person may also experience burning and soreness which may increase at night.

While it is difficult for a non-specialist to differentiate between scalp eczema and psoriasis symptoms, seeking a doctor’s assistance can help.

In general, scalp eczema causes small bumps with sensitive, swollen skin, which may leak fluid when scratched a lot. Scalp psoriasis is accompanied by a burning sensation and scales that appear silvery.

Treatment options for scalp eczema

A dermatologist may prescribe medicines based on the severity of the condition. Meanwhile, a few home remedies and treatment options are also available to soothe the symptoms.

  • Avoid over washing and take a shower with lukewarm water. Itchy scalp and scaly skin caused due to scalp eczema can be misconstrued as bad dandruff. In response, you might be tempted to over wash your hair. But doing this will strip your scalp skin of its natural moisture and worsen eczema by making your skin dry.

Also, if you bathe with anything hotter than lukewarm water for a long duration, it might exaggerate the symptoms.

  • Use gentle hair products. There may be irritants or harsh ingredients in your usual shampoo or conditioner that might be making your scalp eczema worse.

It is advised to use a gentle shampoo like Alphosyl 2-in-1 Medicated shampoo, Capasal shampoo or Dermax shampoo that contain Coal Tar – an anti-scaling agent Salicylic Acid, Coconut Oil or Benzalkonium Chloride to treat dry, itchy scalp and severe dandruff in scalp eczema or even psoriasis of the scalp.

Treatment options for psoriasis of the scalp

  • Although there’s no cure for it, scalp psoriasis treatment options are available to keep the symptoms under control.
  • Systemic Treatment. Oral medication like methotrexate, retinoids, cyclosporine, and biologics needs to be taken in case of moderate to severe scalp psoriasis. Phototherapy is another scalp psoriasis treatment option.
  • Topical Treatment. Topical corticosteroids like Dovobet Gel Scalp Application and Betamethasone cream are most commonly used to treat psoriasis on the head.

Other topical treatments include betamethasone valerate, ex. Betacap Scalp Application. Dovonex (Calcipotriol) cream - A vitamin D based medication can slow down the growth of skin cells and reduce inflammation in psoriasis hair treatment.

  • Shampoo for scalp psoriasis. Since the symptoms of eczema and psoriasis are similar, shampoos that contain Salicylic Acid and Coal Tar extract are also the best shampoos for scalp psoriasis.

You must seek professional help to diagnose and effectively treat scalp eczema or psoriasis and reduce any further complications.

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Written By:

Krishma Patel is the co-founder and the Superintendent Pharmacist at MedsNow - online pharmacy in UK that provides health and wellness products and treatments along with free online consultations. She is passionate about showcasing the integral function community pharmacies can play in supporting the healthcare system and the NHS by providing patients with high quality, safe and discreet access to healthcare at their convenience. Along with being the co-founder of MedsNow, Krishma is also the Director and the Superintendent Pharmacist of Enimed Ltd., an independent pharmacy group comprising 32 branches.

Reviewed By:

Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at

Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels

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