What Acne On Your Scalp May Mean

December 07, 2016
Jessica Khorsandi
By: Jessica Khorsandi | skincare.com by L'Oréal
What Acne On Your Scalp May Mean

If our zits were likened to relationships, they’d be the ex-boyfriend we hope to never cross paths with again. Unfortunately, there’s no way to ensure that pesky pimples—and exes alike—won’t rear their heads one day just in time to put a huge damper on our mood. Not only is no one safe from zits, no area of skin is exempt from a ruthless attack…not even the scalp. That’s right, scalp zits are a thing and they’re painful, annoying, and everything you wish you didn’t have to deal with. But just what causes scalp acne to begin with? More importantly, what’s the best plan of action to kick them to the curb? To find out, we tapped board-certified dermatologist, and Skincare.com consultant, Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali. Keep reading to discover why you may be suffering from scalp acne and how to help keep those blemishes under control!   


Much like acne on the rest of your body, scalp acne occurs when pores become clogged with dirt and oil. This can be due to a number of factors, including overactive sebaceous glands, surface debris—think: residue from styling products or shampoo—and frequent sweating. The blockage in the follicle can then become infected with bacteria and well…you know what happens after that. These pustules can be incredibly bothersome, especially when you touch your scalp or brush your hair. “Acne on the scalp can also be due to folliculitis,” says Dr. Bhanusali. “Or even a hypersensitivity to a yeast, a condition known as seborrheic dermatitis.”


Now that we know why scalp acne may occur, it’s important to know how to manage symptoms. Luckily, scalp acne is pretty easy to cover up, but that doesn’t make it any less of a nuisance. It’s also one of the more challenging skin issues to address, since hair can trap dirt and oil next to the scalp. Also, since most of the zits are covered by strands of hair, this makes it even more difficult to see improvement. But don’t fret. There are good practices to adopt that may help improve your scalp acne. Step one: Visit your dermatologist. “The key is to see a dermatologist early on and get treatment if needed,” Dr. Bhanusali says. “This can prevent worsening of the condition or even scarring!” Since scalp acne can be due to a number of factors, it’s a good idea to seek professional guidance early. Your dermatologist may wish to provide you with a combination of oral and topical medication depending on the root cause. Also, be sure to exercise good hygiene by washing your hair and scalp regularly, especially after a workout or a sweat sesh.


Your first reaction to a zit may be to reach for benzoyl peroxide, but you don’t want to use it on your scalp since it could potentially bleach your hair. If you’re battling scalp acne, try to steer clear of oily styling products or dry shampoo that can clog pores. Consider switching to a mild clarifying shampoo formula that’s free of irritants. Make certain that all residue is washed away, especially before bed.

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