Itchiness, flakes, patches, and unpleasant appearance of the skin are the symptoms of several skin conditions. Some of them are often mistaken for others. Seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis may look similar, but in reality, they are two completely different diseases.  

Before making a diagnosis, it’s important to learn the basics about both conditions and consult a doctor. Treating the wrong problem can lead to worsening of the symptoms and the quality of your life. Let’s start with the basics.

Seborrheic Dermatitis vs. Psoriasis: Symptoms

Even though the symptoms of these two conditions are similar, you can determine a few differences.

1. Symptoms Of Psoriasis

  •         Red and raised skin patches
  •         White (or silver) scales or plaques on the patches
  •         Dry skin, which may crack
  •         Pain around the patches
  •         Itching and burning around the patches
  •         Pitted nails
  •         Painful joints


There are five different types of psoriasis. Each one comes with its own set of symptoms

  •         Plaque psoriasis – the most common type. The symptoms include red and inflamed patches covered with white scales. They are usually found on elbows, knees, and scalp.
  •         Guttate psoriasis – usually appears in childhood. The symptoms include small pink spots on the torso, arms, and legs. Rarely, these spots may be thick and raised similar to plaque psoriasis.
  •         Pustular psoriasis – symptoms include pus-filled pimples and large areas of red and inflamed skin. It usually appears on hands or feet.
  •         Inverse psoriasis – symptoms include large areas of red, shiny, and inflamed skin. Patches usually develop under armpits, breasts, and in the groin area.
  •         Erythrodermic psoriasis – the rarest and the most dangerous type of psoriasis. A very large area of the body is covered with patches and scales.


  1. Symptoms Of Seborrheic Dermatitis
  •         Red patches, usually not raised
  •         Itchiness and burning
  •         Usually appears on the face, in the eyebrows, behind the ears, around the nose and under the hair on your head. May appear (but rarely) in the middle of the chest, around the navel, in the groin and skinfolds.
  •         Red patches are covered with white or yellowish oily or moist scales.

The symptoms of plaque psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis are very similar. However, the location is usually different. While seborrheic dermatitis tends to appear on the face and scalp, plaque psoriasis “prefers” elbows and knees.

However, plaque psoriasis may appear on the scalp. Meanwhile, in rare cases, seborrheic dermatitis may target arms and legs. That’s why it’s almost impossible to tell one from another without a doctor’s assistance. The biggest number of similarities are between seborrheic dermatitis and scalp psoriasis

Scalp Psoriasis vs Seborrheic Dermatitis: Causes

Another thing psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis have in common is that their causes are unknown. For many years, scientists have been trying to figure out what causes these conditions in order to find the right preventive treatment. Unfortunately, they haven’t come up with anything so far.

There are theories that seborrheic dermatitis is caused by the yeast called Malassezia and/or an irregular response of the immune system.

When it comes to psoriasis, the only theory is currently an irregular immune system response. Scientists believe that T-cells, which normally defend the body against viruses and bacteria, start attacking healthy skin cells, thus causing the body to think it needs to heal a wound or fight an infection. Researchers can’t figure out what misleads the T cells. Among the possible causes are genetics or environmental factors.

Overall, both psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis could be caused by the immune system overreaction.  

Scalp Psoriasis vs Seborrheic Dermatitis: Triggers

They seem to look very similar. They itch, flake, and burn. Perhaps they are triggered by different things?


Psoriasis Triggers:

  •         Skin infections
  •         Skin injuries
  •         Stress
  •         Smoking
  •         Alcohol in big dosages
  •         Vitamin D deficiency
  •         Some medications (against bipolar disorder, high blood pressure, and more)
  •         Hormones

And many more. Triggers differ from person to person. That’s why it’s important to keep track of the lifestyle to figure out which triggers to avoid.


Seborrheic Dermatitis Triggers:

  •         Diet changes (milk, sugary foods, fried foods, and more)
  •         Fungus (Malassezia)
  •         Heavy alcohol consumption
  •         Hormones
  •         Weakened immune system
  •         Some medications
  •         Skin injuries

Again, we can see that some of the triggers for these two diseases are the same. That’s why tracking the triggers may not always give you a definite answer which condition you are suffering from.

Scalp Psoriasis vs Seborrheic Dermatitis: Risk Factors

Who is at a risk of getting one or both of these conditions?


Psoriasis risk factors:

  •         Family history – you are more likely to suffer from psoriasis if one or both of your parents have it.
  •         Obesity – The increasing number of skinfolds create a favorable environment for psoriasis patches.
  •         Race – people with fairer skin are more likely to develop psoriasis than people with darker skin.
  •         Cold climate – people whose skin is often exposed to cold and dry weather are more likely to develop psoriasis.


Seborrheic dermatitis risk factors:

  •         Family history – same as with psoriasis.
  •         Chronic conditions – problems with the immune system may cause it to overreact.
  •         Neurological conditions – Parkinson disease or stroke make it likely for the person to develop seborrheic dermatitis.

Even though risk factors are somewhat different for both conditions, the risk factor subject hasn’t been entirely studied just yet due to the lack of information about the cause.


Seborrheic Dermatitis vs Psoriasis: Treatment

Since no definite causes have been found for either of the conditions yet, the treatment includes the alleviation of the symptoms and the possible avoidance of triggers.


Psoriasis treatment:

  •         Topical treatments – corticosteroids, vitamin D creams, anthralin, topical retinoids.
  •         Phototherapy – treatment with natural and artificial ultraviolet light.
  •         Oral or injectable meds – usually required for severe or persisting psoriasis. This treatment may have unpleasant side effects. That’s why it’s only used occasionally.
  •         Avoiding triggers – patients keep a log of what they eat, drink, and do in order to identify the triggers to avoid them in the future.


Seborrheic dermatitis treatment:

  •         Ultraviolet light  – exposure to the sun (with sunscreen applied) could decrease the number and severity of rashes caused by seborrheic dermatitis
  •         Antifungal products – the most common and effective treatment is shampoo with ketoconazole (2%).
  •         Topical treatments – corticosteroids
  •         Different shampoos – ketoconazole, salicylic acid, ciclopirox olamine
  •         Avoiding trigger  – mostly involves watching the diet.

As we can see, some of the treatment for both conditions are similar. However, the majority of approaches is different.

The main difference between seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis is that some seborrheic dermatitis may possibly be caused by fungus. That’s why for some patients, systematic use of ketoconazole may prevent dermatitis flare-ups.

However, even if the frequent use of ketoconazole may keep the symptoms at bay, it doesn’t mean you have seborrheic dermatitis. You may still have psoriasis, which isn’t appearing as often due to some other reasons.

Since the treatments for these two conditions are different, it’s highly important to make the right diagnosis in order to keep the symptoms at bay. For that, you need to consult a professional.


Seborrheic Dermatitis vs. Psoriasis vs. Eczema

When they see red patches with flakes, some people believe that they have eczema. If they are diagnosed with seborrheic dermatitis, it’s true. Seborrheic dermatitis is nothing more than one of the eczema types.  

Most of the eczema types involve such symptoms as flaking, patching, itching, and burning. Each one of them requires a certain treatment approach.


When it comes to comparing seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis, it’s hard to tell them apart. These two conditions often have the same symptoms, triggers, and risk factors. However, the treatment may be different.

That’s why it’s highly important to get the right condition diagnosed. Even though the causes of both conditions are currently unknown, the right treatment can alleviate the symptoms and improve the quality of a patient’s life.

If you notice some of the above-listed symptoms, it’s imperative to consult a dermatologist in order to figure out the best treatment plan.