What Is Facial Psoriasis?

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Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes skin cells to reproduce rapidly. When this occurs, the old, dead skin cells do not slough off as they normally would, leading to thick patches of itchy skin. Most people with psoriasis have a type of psoriasis called plaque psoriasis, which appears as raised patches of silvery-white, scaly skin. 

Psoriasis can affect any part of the body, but it usually presents on the elbows, knees, and lower back. It is also possible to experience psoriasis plaques on your face and scalp.

The National Psoriasis Foundation estimates that up to 50% of people with psoriasis experience it on their face. Facial psoriasis usually appears on the hairline, upper forehead, eyebrows, and the skin between the nose and lips. 

head of sick man with red allergic reaction on facial skin, redness and peeling psoriasis on nose, forehead and cheeks, seasonal skin problem

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Types

Psoriasis on your face will appear differently depending on which type of psoriasis you have and which part of your face is affected.

Hairline Psoriasis

It’s estimated that 45% to 56% of people with psoriasis experience scalp psoriasis. This can affect the upper forehead as well. Scalp and hairline psoriasis may be mild, appearing as fine dandruff flakes, or more severe. You may notice thick plaques of skin covering the hairline and behind the ears. 

Hairline psoriasis can often be treated with over-the-counter products containing salicylic acid and tar. Scalp psoriasis may be associated with psoriatic arthritis, so talk with your doctor if you develop symptoms of the condition. 

Sebo-Psoriasis

Sebo-psoriasis is a condition that involves both facial psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis. It can appear on the hairline, eyelids, eyebrows, sides of the nose, and beard area. Sebo-psoriasis leads to thin, pink plaques that may be covered in greasy, yellow scales. 

True Facial Psoriasis

True facial psoriasis presents as classic psoriasis plaques on the face. The red, scaly plaques are usually symmetrical and appear on other areas of the body as well. The skin is often painful and itchy in this condition.

Symptoms

Psoriasis symptoms will vary depending on which area of the face they affect. Psoriasis usually causes small, red bumps that grow into red or pink sores on the face. These sores are often covered in silvery-white plaques, which may flake off.

Facial psoriasis generally appears on the hairline, upper forehead, eyebrows, and the skin between the nose and lips. Psoriasis on the scalp and hairline often appears as greasy, yellow plaques.

Eyes

Psoriasis around the eyes is rare and may cause dry, red patches of skin. You may notice pain or impaired vision. It’s important to work with your dermatologist to find a safe treatment option that won’t affect your vision. 

Ears

Facial psoriasis may also affect the inner and outer ears. Symptoms include redness, itching, and patches of scaly skin. These patches may appear on the skin behind the ears, around the ears, or inside the ear canal. When scales build up inside the ear, they can lead to temporary hearing loss. See your dermatologist if you experience this, and never try to push or remove the scales yourself.

Mouth

In rare cases, people with facial psoriasis experience psoriasis symptoms in their mouths. You may notice redness, burning pain, and bleeding along the gums, tongue, or inner cheeks. The symptoms usually make eating and drinking difficult. Mouth psoriasis generally requires treatment from both your dermatologist and your dentist.

Causes

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes inflammation and leads to skin cells growing and reproducing too quickly. When the cells grow too quickly, the dead skin cells do not slough off as they should, leading to the silvery-white plaques of skin.

Psoriasis has a genetic component and tends to run in families. Once you have psoriasis, the causes of an outbreak include emotional stress, skin injury, infection, cold weather, and certain prescription medications. Too much time in the sun and smoking can also worsen psoriasis symptoms. 

Treatment

There is no cure for psoriasis, but there are effective treatments available to ease the symptoms. The skin on and around the face is sensitive, so it may be challenging to find the right treatment at first. Possible treatments your dermatologist may discuss with you include topical medications, oral prescriptions, phototherapy, and immune therapies. 

Medications

Once you see your dermatologist about your facial psoriasis symptoms, the two of you will sit down to develop a treatment plan. There is a wide array of medications available to treat this condition, and your treatment will depend on the severity of your symptoms and where on your face they occur. 

Your dermatologist may recommend the following medications:

  • Topical treatments include medicated creams, ointments, and shampoos that treat psoriasis symptoms. First-line treatment often includes a steroid cream, and hairline psoriasis may need to be treated with a medicated shampoo.
  • Phototherapy uses ultraviolet light (UV) treatments to help slow skin cell growth and reduce inflammation, improving facial psoriasis symptoms over time.
  • Systemic medications are usually considered when you are experiencing psoriasis symptoms all over your body. These medications can include methotrexate, cyclosporine, retinoids, and immune therapies. 

At-Home Treatment

While it’s not always possible to control your psoriasis symptoms, there are steps you can take at home to avoid triggers and care for your skin.

Choose your skincare products carefully, avoiding any harsh ingredients. Use a gentle daily moisturizer, especially after washing your face. Avoid overwashing your face even if it feels greasy.

If you’re experiencing psoriasis symptoms on your scalp or hairline, talk with your dermatologist about using a medicated shampoo at home. 

To treat scalp or hairline psoriasis at home, look for an over-the-counter product that contains both salicylic acid and tar. The salicylic acid works to soften and remove the thick plaques, while the tar helps slow skin growth and reduce inflammation.

If you have been able to identify your triggers for a psoriasis outbreak, work with your dermatologist to develop a plan to avoid them. Take steps to manage stress with mindfulness and physical activity. Avoid cigarette smoke, and be sure to wear quality sunscreen any time you’re in the sun. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you treat psoriasis on your face?

Because the skin on your face is more sensitive than other parts of your body, the treatment will most likely start out conservative. Your treatment plan will also depend on how severe your symptoms are and if you are experiencing psoriasis sores or plaques on other areas of the body.

Your doctor will recommend using a quality moisturizer on your face, as dryness is a trigger for psoriasis symptoms. Other possible treatments include steroid creams, vitamin ointment, light therapy, and immune therapies. 

What does psoriasis look like on your face?

Psoriasis on your face usually starts out as small, red bumps that grow into reddish-pinkish sores. The sores are then covered in silvery-white scales that may flake off. 

Psoriasis signs can appear differently on various parts of the face. Sebo-psoriasis on the scalp usually presents as skin plaques with greasy, yellow scales. 

What causes psoriasis on your face?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation and skin cells to grow too quickly. Physicians do not know why some people develop psoriasis while others do not. There appears to be a genetic factor because you are more likely to experience psoriasis if your parents have it. 

Common triggers that lead to a psoriasis outbreak include stress, skin injury, infection, cold weather, and certain prescription medications. Facial psoriasis is not contagious, and you cannot give it to or get it from someone else.

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