PsoriasisNet Spotlight Article
Scalp Psoriasis

Plaque (pronounced plak) psoriasis is the most common type of psoriasis. This type of psoriasis can develop anywhere on the skin. When it develops on the scalp, people call it “scalp psoriasis.”

Who Gets Scalp Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is common on the scalp. Researchers estimate that at least half (50%) of the people who have plaque psoriasis will have at least one flare-up on the scalp.

Signs and Symptoms of Scalp Psoriasis
Scalp psoriasis can appear anywhere on the scalp. Sometimes one small patch develops, which can be easy to hide with hair. Scalp psoriasis also can cover the entire scalp. It can even creep beyond the scalp, appearing on the forehead, back of the neck, or behind the ears.

Psoriasis behind the ear

The reddish plaques can creep beyond the hairline and appear behind the ears.


Scalp psoriasis

The silvery-white scale can cover the entire scalp.

(Photos used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides)

When scalp psoriasis develops, people have one or more of these signs and symptoms:

  • Reddish plaque on the scalp. Plaques range from barely noticeable to thick and inflamed.

  • Silvery-white scale. This often develops on the scalp and can be mistaken for dandruff.

  • Dandruff-like flaking. This is common due to the continual shedding of the new skin cells. Unlike dandruff, scalp psoriasis causes a silvery sheen and dry scale on the scalp.

  • Dry scalp. The scalp may be so dry that the skin cracks and bleeds.

  • Itching. This is one of the most common symptoms. For some the itch is mild; others have intense itching that can interfere with everyday life and cause them to lose sleep.

  • Bleeding. Because scalp psoriasis can be very itchy, almost everyone scratches. This can cause the scalp to bleed. Scratching also injures the skin, which tends to worsen the psoriasis. This is why dermatologists tell their patients “Try not to scratch your scalp.”

  • Burning sensation or soreness. The scalp can burn. It can feel extremely sore.

  • Temporary hair loss. Scratching the scalp a lot or forcefully removing scale can cause hair loss. Once the scalp psoriasis clears, hair usually re-grows.

These signs and symptoms can come and go. Some people have only one mild flare. Others experience flare-ups that range in intensity, with some flare-ups being milder than other flare-ups. Many things can trigger a flare-up, including stress, cold, and a dry environment.

Scalp Psoriasis can be Controlled
Scalp psoriasis causes many people to feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. There are many safe and effective treatments. A dermatologist can tell you what can help control your scalp psoriasis.

Van de Kerkhof PCM and Schalkwijk J. “Psoriasis.” In Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Rapini et al. [editors]. Dermatology. Spain. Mosby Elsevier; 2008. p. 122.

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology



Good News About Scalp Psoriasis

Dermatologists say that it is unusual for anyone to suffer from scalp psoriasis for long when treatment is used as prescribed. Even when the psoriasis is severe, treatment can be effective.

Treatment: Scalp Psoriasis

Understanding Scalp Psoriasis May Head Off Hair Loss





     © American Academy of Dermatology, 2011  All rights reserved.

Page last updated 8/18/10

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