What Causes Scalp Acne?
Scalp acne is much like acne you might get on the face or elsewhere. "Just like acne on other parts of the body, scalp acne can occur when the pores get clogged by sebum (the skin's natural oil) and dead skin cells," dermatologist and SEEN Hair Care founder, Iris Rubin, MD, told POPSUGAR. "Residue from your hair care products can also clog pores."
This type of acne can also be the product of stress, as stress can increase cortisol levels which can in turn cause more sebum to be produced from the scalp or face. As Dr. Rubin notes, bumps on the scalp can also be caused by folliculitis, which is when the hair follicles become inflamed because of potential infection — which is why, if your acne persists, you should probably see a dermatologist to rule it out. "This may look like scalp acne, though is important to treat, as there can be associated infection," she said.
What's the Best Way to Treat Scalp Acne?
You can treat scalp acne with products containing similar ingredients to traditional acne products. Dr. Rubin recommends using medicated shampoo with salicylic acid if possible, though you can also treat it with dandruff or skin-friendly shampoos like the SEEN Fragrance Free Shampoo ($29) and the Neutrogena T/Gel Extra Strength Therapeutic Shampoo ($8).
"Avoid applying products with excess oil, and make sure to wash your scalp regularly," she said. "Also make sure your hair products are non-comedogenic (won't clog pores). It turns out, hair-care products can leave a residue or an invisible film on your scalp which has the potential to clog pores and cause acne or breakouts."
How Can I Prevent Scalp Acne?
If you have breakout-prone skin, you can get ahead of scalp acne by washing your hair regularly and ensuring that you're keeping your hair and scalp free of any buildup of excess product and oil.
"Consider using a salicylic acid shampoo periodically for prevention if you are prone to scalp acne," Dr. Rubin said. "Use non-comedogenic hair products that won't clog pores, and promote a healthy scalp."