by Alexandra Nicole Nuralam

Everything You Need To Know About Scalp Acne

This is why you’re experiencing breakouts on your scalp (and how to get rid of them).

scalp health
Image via @trishnagoklani

Acne doesn’t discriminate on where it pops up—your face, your chin, your cheeks. As if ordinary acne wasn’t enough to contend with, you have acne on the scalp to wrestle with. You’d think that wasn’t possible given that it’s covered in hair follicles, but the scalp is still skin and just like your face, it can be prone to dryness, peeling and yes, acne.

What is scalp acne?

We’re all familiar with what pimples look like, but now imagine them around the hairline or underneath your hair. Scalp acne happens when a hair follicle gets clogged up by a mixture of product residue and sebum. Things like travelling, stress and lack of sleep also contribute. When your cortisol levels rise, your body is more likely to produce oil and this excess oil can cause acne.

How to treat scalp breakouts

Don’t pick. It’s never a good idea to try and squeeze or pop a pimple (on the scalp or anywhere else for that matter) unless a professional is doing it for you. Squeezing the pimple out may feel satisfying but in reality, you’re delaying the healing time and the infection and inflammation of the pimple could go deeper into the skin and become more buried, which could ultimately lead to scarring and hair loss.

Remember to exfoliate, at least once a week. It helps remove any dead skin cells and exfoliating scalp treatments often have ingredients that help treat acne—although less is more here. Products like these are helpful against scalp acne but they can dry out your hair if you overuse them, so every other day is a good measure. Stick to chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid instead of physical exfoliants as these could worsen the irritation on your scalp.

Christophe Robin Cleansing Scrub Purifying with Sea Salt, SGD67
Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo, SGD38

Avoid using heavy hair products that could leave residue. Keep any hair treatments away from the scalp and conditioners should be used on the hair strands only as they can cause buildup of product debris on your scalp and worsen your acne.

Apply products with acne-fighting ingredients directly to the lesions. You can treat scalp acne with most acne-fighting products, though you should avoid benzoyl peroxide products as they could discolour your hair. Salicylic acid is a good alternative.

Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment, SGD49
Sachajuan Scalp Treatment, SGD62

How to prevent scalp acne

The same rules can be applied to prevent pimples from forming on your scalp; keep your hands off your scalp, exfoliate and keep product buildup on your scalp to a minimum.

If you’re prone to oily hair, it could be the excess oil contributing to the breakouts on your scalp. Washing your hair becomes very important here, as well as regulating oil production, so look for products that help with oil control.

Ouai Clean Shampoo, SGD45
Christophe Robin Purifying Shampoo with Jujube Bark Extract, SGD52