- Scalp pimples can be caused by fungal infections, excess oil or sweat, and poor hygiene.
- To get rid of acne on your scalp, try medicated shampoos with ingredients such as tea tree oil and coal tar.
- To prevent acne on your scalp, wash your hair regularly, eat healthy foods, and use a minimum of hair products.
- Visit the Insider Health Reference for more tips.
“Pimples on the scalp can look and feel like regular pimples, located around the hairline or on the scalp under the hair. They can appear as a single spot of acne or multiple spots and can even affect the entire scalp, ”says Michelle Greene, M.D., a dermatologist in private practice from New York.
Here’s what you need to know about the causes, treatment, and prevention of scalp acne.
What causes scalp acne?
According to Green, scalp acne is caused by a buildup of dead skin cells, debris, and oil that clogs hair follicles, creating acne.
- Increase in oil production
- Accumulation of hair products or sensitivity to hair products
- Bacterial or fungal infection
Scalp pimples look like red, raised rashes that can appear on the scalp and hairline. But other scalp conditions can also cause pimples, which are not actually pimples. These include:
- Scalp folliculitis: Folliculitis or inflammation of hair follicles, often appears like acne, but with itching and burning sensation on the skin.
- Seborrheic dermatitis: If you have scaly oily patches on your scalp with redness, itching and dandruff, it could be seborrheic dermatitis instead of acne.
- Psoriasis: Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease that causes dry, cracked skin and red scaly patches that are painful and itchy. It can happen on the scalp.
- Pilar cysts: Hairy cysts are flesh-colored benign growths that can grow anywhere on the body, but usually take place on the scalp.
How to treat scalp acne
Scalp acne can be treated at home with over-the-counter medicated shampoos. “These foods work by reducing surface bacteria, excess fat, and inflammation, resulting in fewer breakouts,” Green says.
Healing shampoos often contain the following active ingredients:
- Salicylic acidthat heals acne cleaning skin pores and edema reduction.
- Zinc pyrithione, general anti-dandruff ingredient.
- Ketoconazolewhich helps consider skin fungal infections such as seborrheic dermatitis.
- Coal tar, an agent who can facilitate itching.
- Tea tree oilwho can help consider dandruff due to its antifungal properties.
- Selenium sulfide, the agent received seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff under control.
“I suggest taking a few extra seconds to really apply the shampoo to your scalp and leave it on for 3-5 minutes before rinsing off to optimize the effect. It can take six to 12 weeks for acne to improve, ”says Jeffie.
If over-the-counter shampoos do not improve symptoms within 12 weeks, Jeffie says, you should see a dermatologist for topical and oral antibiotics, antifungal, or oral retinoids.
Acne usually appears on the face, but it can also affect the scalp when dead skin cells, debris, and oil accumulate on the sebaceous glands and hair follicles.
Scalp acne can be treated with over-the-counter medicated shampoos with acne-reducing active ingredients. However, severe cases may require prescription medications to treat the skin condition.
Be sure to wash your hair regularly, limit the use of hair products, and maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent acne from developing on your scalp.
“It’s important not to wait too long to see a dermatologist for persistent rashes. If you have severe acne, you may need oral antibiotics, ”says Green.