Psoriasis and folliculitis are skin conditions. They have some similar features and may coexist but have different causes and treatments.

If you’ve noticed a rash or discoloration on your skin, you may be wondering whether you’re experiencing one of these conditions. In this article, we’ll look at the differences between psoriasis and folliculitis, how to tell them apart, and what other skin conditions you might be experiencing.

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that affects the skin. It triggers the rapid buildup of skin cells. In addition to skin lesions, psoriasis symptoms may include:

Psoriasis is a chronic condition. It has no cure, but you may experience periods when symptoms improve.

Psoriasis may increase your risk of developing certain diseases such as:

Researchers are not sure what causes psoriasis. But the following may put you at increased risk:

  • smoking
  • skin injuries
  • obesity
  • infections, usually more severe types
  • stress
  • certain medications, like beta-blockers and antimalarial drugs
  • family history of psoriasis
  • HIV

Folliculitis is the inflammation or infection of hair follicles. These follicles are most often infected with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Folliculitis may occur anywhere on the skin. Folliculitis is common on the scalp, where hair follicles are abundant.

Folliculitis begins as small, pimple-like bumps that spread and turn into crusty sores. Other symptoms may include:

  • pus-filled blisters that may erupt and ooze pus
  • itching
  • burning skin
  • pain
  • a large bump or mass

Anyone can get folliculitis. Your risk increases if any of the following apply:

  • you have a medical condition that suppresses the immune system, like HIV or chronic leukemia
  • you have acne or dermatitis
  • you’ve experienced a previous skin injury
  • you’re overweight
  • you frequently wear tight, restrictive clothing

Despite some similarities between psoriasis and folliculitis, there are some major differences as seen below.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease.Folliculitis is an infection caused by bacteria.
Psoriasis is incurable and flares may be long lasting.Folliculitis is curable and usually heals within a few days.
The cause of psoriasis is unknown.Folliculitis may be caused by tight clothing, heat, skin injury, exposure to hot water, or shaving.

Your treatment plan depends on which condition you have.

Psoriasis treatment

There are several treatments for psoriasis. These may include:

Folliculitis treatment

Self-care remedies are often an effective treatment for folliculitis. These may include:

  • warm compresses
  • oatmeal baths or lotions
  • keeping the affected area clean
  • avoiding triggers that worsen your condition

When self-care isn’t enough, your doctor may prescribe topical or oral antibiotics. Infections caused by fungus are treated with antifungal medication.

If you’ve noticed a rash or bumps on your skin, it could also be something else. Here are conditions with some similar or overlapping symptoms to psoriasis and folliculitis.

  • seborrheic dermatitis, which can occur on oilier areas of your body, like the scalp, upper chest, and face
  • ringworm, or dermatophytosis, dermatophyte infection, or tinea, a type of fungal infection
  • lichen planus, a skin rash triggered by the immune system
  • eczema, which comes in a number of forms with multiple causes
  • contact dermatitis, which is usually caused by environmental irritants or allergens
  • pityriasis rosea, a rash that researchers believe may be a viral infection
  • scabies, which is highly contagious and caused by a mite known as the Sarcoptes scabiei
  • acne, often caused by clogged pores due to hormones, bacteria, excess oil production, and more

Below are some commonly asked questions about identifying psoriasis and folliculitis.

Does psoriasis look like folliculitis?

Psoriasis and folliculitis are two distinct skin conditions. In terms of appearance, psoriasis tends to appear as raised, red patches covered in silvery scales on light skin tones. These patches may appear dark brown or purple and have grayish scales on dark skin tones.

Meanwhile, folliculitis tends to present as small red or white bumps around hair follicles that often contain pus.

How to tell the difference between psoriasis and fungal infection?

Psoriasis and fungal infections have have similar symptoms. If you have dry patches of skin covered in a silvery-white scale, then you may have psoriasis. If you have a fungal infection such as ringworm, you are more likely to have a circular rash or ring-shaped patch.

Learn more about psoriasis vs. fungal infections.

What could be mistaken for folliculitis?

Folliculitis may be mistaken for the following conditions:

What autoimmune disease causes folliculitis?

The precise cause of folliculitis is unknown. However, if you are immunosuppressed (your body can’t fight disease) or immunocompromised (you have a weakened immune system), you may be at risk of developing folliculitis. In some cases, it may progress to more severe diseases.

Contact a doctor if you have symptoms of psoriasis. If you’ve received a psoriasis diagnosis, contact your doctor if:

  • you experience a widespread flare
  • your symptoms are worse than usual
  • you show signs of infection like fever, increased pain, or swelling

If you have an unexplained rash or suspect you have folliculitis, consult a doctor. Also seek medical help if you’ve received a folliculitis diagnosis and your symptoms recur frequently, worsen, or last longer than a few days.