Seborrheic Dermatitis vs. Psoriasis: How to Spot the Difference

seborrheic dermatitis vs. psoriasis, psoriasis seborrheic vs. dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis vs. psoriasis scalp

By Laura Dolgy (see bio below)

Do you suffer from a greasy or flaky scalp, inflamed skin and itchiness but cannot determine whether it might be seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis?

Although both conditions can look strikingly similar, there are a few symptoms that differentiate the two.

Discover the difference between psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis scalp below!

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis of the Scalp?

Seborrheic Dermatitis is almost like hybrid dandruff. All dandruff is a result of a fungus that builds up on the scalp. Over time, this fungus can grow and spread into what is known as seborrhoea. This seborrhoea can also grow on other oil-producing glands like the face or chest.

Unlike more normal forms of dandruff, seborrhoea can cause extreme itching, discomfort, redness and inflammation. It is usually characterized by an oily type of flake that falls off the scalp and spreads into the hair.

Scaly skin on the scalp

The most common seborrheic dermatitis symptoms include:

  • Itchiness on your scalp
  • Inflamed skin covered with white or yellowish scales
  • Skin flakes (dandruff) visible on your scalp, hair, eyebrows, mustache, or beard
  • Rash which takes a red form on white skin or a darker or lighter form on black or brown skin
  • In the case of a type called petaloid seborrheic dermatitis – an annular (ring-shaped) rash
  • Both sides of your face covered with pinkish plaques of thick skin
  • Red folds and creases of your armpits, genitals, and the space under your breasts
  • Blepharitis (eyelid edges covered with red scales)
  • Inflammation of hair follicles on the upper half of your trunk and on your cheeks
  • Chest and hairline covered with flaky patches shaped like a ring or a flower petal

What is Scalp Psoriasis?

On the other hand, scalp psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes itching, scaling, and inflammation. White blood cells in the immune system trigger skin cells to surface and shed at 10 times their normal rate.

Unlike seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp, psoriasis is often characterized by lifted red or flaky silver patches. Even mild psoriasis can cause discomfort because even if the symptoms are not that severe, it can be an embarrassing condition as it is clearly visible to other people.

Other scalp psoriasis symptoms include:

  • Red rashes
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Nail abnormalities
  • White lesions
  • Silvery-white scaly skin
  • Dandruff-like flakes
  • Soreness or burning sensation
  • Dry scalp
  • Increased hair loss

Scalp psoriasis

Psoriasis is also quite different than eczema. Learn how eczema and psoriasis are different from one another in our blog post: Eczema and Psoriasis: What’s the Difference?

The hair-itching scalp psoriasis is also quite different from eczema. Learn how eczema and scalp psoriasis are different from one another in our blog post: Eczema and Psoriasis: What’s the Difference?

Psoriasis and Seborrheic Dermatitis

As previously mentioned, scalp psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that can be triggered by certain health issues (like rashes from rheumatoid arthritis), medications, or even stress. Normally this condition tends to develop between 15 and 35 years old. Seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp can develop much earlier.

Ever heard of a baby cradle cap? A cradle cap is actually a form of infant seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp. Although this type of dermatitis usually does not bother babies, there are numerous treatments that can be used to diminish its appearance.

Infant seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp

Unfortunately, there is no known cause for body-itching seborrheic dermatitis. Although many believe the condition might be linked to an abnormality of oil glands or hair follicles, others believe it can be caused by hormones, yeast fungus, heavy drinking, stress, and much more.

Seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp can also appear in the form of waxy, greasy hair that is not itchy, but (like a cradle cap) can be seen as unsightly and embarrassing.

Natural Scalp Treatments

To learn whether you might be suffering from seborrheic dermatitis or scalp psoriasis, we recommend seeing a doctor to receive a formal diagnosis. Although there are natural treatments that can treat both, these conditions are entirely different from one another and should be treated as such.

Natural Remedies for Psoriasis can be used to diminish symptoms like rough, itchy skin. This Organic Manuka Skin Soothing Cream is a wonderful treatment to use on the ears, forehead, and neck (where psoriasis might appear) due to its thick, nourishing consistency. Not only will this treatment restore much-needed moisture, but its manuka oil and manuka honey contents offer both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties as well.

To prevent scratching and further irritation, we also suggest Remedywear™ products that cover up the scalp, ears and face. These are:

Remedywear Hat for Kids

Remedywear Hat for Adults

Remedywear Balaclava for Kids

Remedywear Balaclava for Adults

Healing from Within

Because scalp psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis both cause inflammation, perhaps it might be time to control it through nutrition.

Similarly to eczema, certain food allergens can trigger psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis. An elimination diet can provide muchneeded answers to what might be triggering your flare-ups.

This process works by removing certain foods from your diet (such as soy, gluten, dairy, nuts and more) and reintroducing them over a period of time to pinpoint triggers. Many who have suffered from eczema and psoriasis have found improvements in easing their symptoms after carrying out this process.

Bio: Laura is a contributor and content developer for It’s An Itchy Little World. She is in no way a medical professional. Her comments, suggestions, and reflections are not intended to replace any medical advice. Always seek the help of a medical professional before undertaking any diet or lifestyle changes. Please see It’s An Itchy Little World’s disclaimer for information about affiliate links and more.


  1. David William ELLIS on October 19, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    I am 84 years old but in good health only one thing wrong i have a scrap problem which I t stop scratching and sometimes it bleeds i have tried recommend shampoos witch have not help one little bit can you help me out as it is driving me mad as I have a full head of hair and have to go to the hairdressers ones every two weeks and it is very embarrassing please can you help me please?

  2. C on March 10, 2020 at 12:13 am

    For over 3 years now scalp is extremely itchy. Had biopsy done, traction alopecia. Hair thinning on sides. Brittle nails, thinning of eyebrows. ….

  3. Gloria Borja on December 18, 2020 at 3:11 am

    I was diagnosed of second rid dermatitis.. My doctor recommended cream to apply on my scalp its not really that bad to compare with other.and also I used shampoo that prevent but after I wash my hair I notice dry scalp with flaky dandruff now my hair are thinning especially on my forehead

  4. Gloria Borja on December 18, 2020 at 3:13 am

    I mean seboheric

  5. Georgia Gardner on December 13, 2021 at 12:14 pm

    I’ve just been diagnosed today with seborreic dermatitis today. The doctors are prescribing shampoo, condioner and creams. Has anyone had any experience with prescription shampoos?

    • Ro on April 22, 2022 at 9:28 pm

      Hey i know its a few months late but what i usually do is keep up a showering schedule (every other day) using head and shoulders dandruff shampoo, trader joes shampoo bar, and a hydrating conditioner. With spots that pop up under my beard or on my face i just use my usual dandruff shampoo. Psoriasis cleanser helps with this too.

  6. Carole on January 23, 2023 at 6:15 pm

    There’s a product on amazon, i used to buy at drug store it’s a liquid hydrocortisone, it’s called scalpicin, it’s gives you relief in 15 minutes.

Leave a Comment

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This