Acne does not appear on the face or even on the back – pustules can also emerge on the scalp, leading to scalp acne. As the name implies, scalp acne includes whiteheads and bumps directly on the scalp, explains dermatologist Steven Shapiro, MD, founder of the Shapiro MD hair care line. Hairstylist Courtney Foster adds that scalp acne often appears along the hairline and can appear all over the scalp. To help you heal scalp acne, we interviewed medical doctors and hair experts for their product recommendations.
MOVE FORWARD The best scalp acne treatment
Scalp acne: Common causes and treatment
There are a few reasons why you might be facing scalp acne, and the good news is that you can manage some of these causes with over-the-counter products and some lifestyle changes. The scalp “contains many oil glands,” and a buildup of dead skin products, oil, and hair can “create a perfect environment for bacterial overgrowth” that leads to breakouts, according to Dr. Dermatologist Jessie Cheung, who added sweat, friction. And humidity can also cause scalp breakouts.
An easy way to prevent scalp breakouts is to change the products you use or at least modify the way you use them. Oil-based hair products like pomade “block oil from coming out of the pores or pores,” says dermatologist Lindsey Bordone, MD, of Columbia University Medical Center. She recommends swapping these oil-based products for lighter water-based styling products. If you prefer to use thicker styling products, she recommends applying them at least an inch away from your scalp to prevent breakouts.
The bad news is that if your scalp acne is genetic or hormonal, it’s a little more complicated to fix. For example, pregnant women can produce progesterone, a hormone that can cause oil glands to produce more sebum, which builds up on the scalp, clogging pores and leading to scalp breakouts, Shapiro says. In those cases, your safest and most effective solution is to make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist, who can help you find potential treatment options.
The best and worst ingredients for treating scalp acne
Cheung recommends using cleansing shampoos to remove buildup on the scalp and looking for ingredients like salicylic acid, which helps break down oil and dead skin cells. She’s also a fan of hair products that use tea tree oil, sulfur, and benzoyl peroxide, all of which “will reduce surface bacteria.” She adds shampoos made with coal tar “reduce inflammation while exfoliating the scalp” and anti-dandruff shampoos will minimize oil production.
And for the worst ingredients, Cheung warns of the following:
- Sulfates will foam to clean the scalp but “may cause excessive dryness leading to irritation.”
- Dimethicone Smoothes dry hair but can cause buildup on the scalp.
- Triclosan is a “controversial antibacterial” because it can act as a hormone disruptor.
Best product to treat scalp acne
The medical doctors and hair experts we consulted recommended 9 hair care products made with popular acne-fighting ingredients, including salicylic acid and glycolic acid. In addition to ordering directly through the brands, you can find these scalp acne medications anywhere you like to shop for hair care products, including Walmart, Amazon, Target, Ulta and Sephora. Regardless of which product you use, Cheung notes that you may notice a “instant” drying effect, but scalp breakouts can take a few days to heal.
Yes, you can use acne treatments that are formulated for your face when you have breakouts on your scalp. Cheung notes that these treatments can be “messy” as they probably won’t blend in with your hair, but notes that they can still work against scalp breakouts when you’re “in the throes of an upset.” “. Differin use adapt, a popular skin care ingredient known to treat blackheads, teen acne, and adult acne. It’s also the #1 best-selling skin care product we’ve covered in 2020 and is a popular skin care product among Amazon Prime Day Shopping readers. It boasts an average 4.5-star rating from nearly 39,230 Amazon reviews.
When board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner wanted his patients to treat scalp acne, he suggested Dove Dermacare shampoo. It contains pyrithione zincAccording to Zeichner, reduces yeast on the scalp, reduces inflammation and reduces the number of bumps, pimples and scalp flakes. He recommends letting it sit on the scalp for 5 minutes before rinsing it off to “give enough time in the scalp to do its job”. As one of the best shampoos of 2021, this pharmacy pick has previously received a recommendation from dermatologist Hadley King, MD, who has praised its “mild” formula that “can be” reduces yeast on the skin without causing irritation.” It received an average rating of 4.5 stars from 250 reviews on Amazon.
According to dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, this shampoo is “great” for treating scalp acne because it’s formulated with tea tree oil, which has antibacterial properties. She also notes that it is made of lactic acid, a popular alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), that helps unclog pores. Ovante recommends using one to two tablespoons of shampoo on wet hair and scalp, letting it sit for 5 minutes before rinsing it out.
Briogeo is a black-owned business that earned the Clean at Sephora seal, plus an offer from Foster, who noted it helps remove dead skin cells and product build-up on the scalp. . Combination of Charcoal and Mint helps remove impurities from the scalp and leaves a cooling effect that helps soothe scalp inflammation, according to Foster. Briogeo’s Scalp Revival received an average rating of 4.4 stars from more than 1,710 reviews on Nordstrom.
Cheung recommended CLn’s shampoo because salicylic acid through hair follicles. She also notes that this investment-grade shampoo lathers gently to clean your scalp without over-drying. It received an average rating of 4.3 stars from more than 1,510 reviews on Amazon.
Zeichner recommends using Carter + Jane’s Scalp Fix dry shampoo if you can’t wash your hair as often. According to Zeichner, hazel and silver berry crystal ha Helps soothe the scalp and remove excess oil, which can improve both scalp flakes and acne. It is also built with manuka honey and rosemary oil, the latter of which has astringent benefits, he adds.
Hill is also a fan of this scalp acne serum as it is made with biotin, a popular hair care ingredient known for preventing breakage. It is also built with ginseng, lilac stem cells and kino malabar bark, which together will prevent bacteria and yeast from growing on the scalp, according to the brand.
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