Scalp Acne is Real – Here are Your Treatment Options

scalp acne
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Scalp acne is something not many people think they can have, but they actually do appear. Acne, or small red bumps, usually appears on the face, chin, and cheeks. However, they can also appear on your scalp.

How do you treat scalp acne? And can you prevent these bumps from appearing on your scalp? We’ve got the answers.

Why people ignore scalp acne?

People ignore the fact that the scalp is actually skin. Yes, the scalp is covered in hair follicles, but it is actually skin. And same as your facial skin, the skin on your scalp can be prone to dryness, scarring, acne, and scabbing.

Doctors call scalp acne folliculitis. It is a term used for a condition when a hair follicle gets clogged with sebum, debris, or other impurities. In most cases, the condition is caused by inflammation of the hair follicles.

However, in other cases, it can be a more serious condition.

For example, acne on your scalp can be a sign of a bacterial infection. And if they are spreading quickly on your scalp, you should definitely seek help from a dermatologist.

Types of Scalp Acne

You might think that scalp acne is just red bumps, and they are easy to identify. The problem, however, is that there are many reasons why pimples and/or blackheads can appear on your scalp. That makes identifying acne on the scalp that much more difficult.

With that in mind, here are the three most common types of scalp spots.

  • Scalp folliculitis is a condition in which bacteria on the scalp causes the follicles to become inflamed and infected. The result is small, itchy, and red bumps appearing on your scalp
  • Pilar cysts are bumps, which are hard, and filled with keratin that forms near the hair root. Unlike acne, pilar cysts do not have a white head
  • Seborrheic dermatitis is a common condition causing dandruff and leaves the scalp red and scaly. Picking at the area can cause additional inflammation, irritation, and injury. The result will look a lot like pimples on scalp
  • In some rare cases, bumps on the scalp are a sign and symptom of cancerous cells

Causes of Scalp Acne

Pimples on the scalp appear when the hair follicle gets clogged with dead skin cells, sebum, or other impurities. Sebum is the natural oil your skin produces to keep itself moisturized. Yeast, bacteria, and mites can also get into the pores and cause a reaction.

Here is a quick breakdown of factors that can clog the hair follicle and cause problems:

  • Dead skin cells and excess oil production clogging the hair follicles
  • Buildup of products, including hairspray, hair gels, and leave-in treatments
  • Sweating while wearing a head covering, causing friction and reaction
  • Waiting too long after a workout to wash the hair

There are specific germs that can cause acne on the scalp. Additionally, a diet high in sugary carbs has also been linked with an increased risk of acne.

How to Treat Scalp Acne

Scalp Acne Is Real

Acne can be treated with home remedies and over the counter remedies. A doctor, or a dermatologist, can always recommend a medicated shampoo for scalp treatment. These shampoos work in a very specific way, washing away any excess oil and other impurities that can clog hair follicles.

You can buy shampoo for acne online as well, and you do not need a prescription. In most cases, these medicated shampoos contain one of the many helpful ingredients you can use at home as a DIY shampoo.

With that in mind, here is a quick list of ingredients you should look for in your medicated shampoo for acne on scalp:

  • Tea tree oil, one of the best antibacterial and antimicrobial essential oil
  • Glycolic acid, known for its exfoliating properties, can help remove dead skin cells, sebum, and other impurities from the scalp
  • Salicylic acid, another great exfoliant, can remove dead skin cells
  • Benzyl peroxide, helping eliminate one of the most common bacteria causing acne on the scalp
  • Ketoconazole, antifungal agent that improves the condition of your skin

If your scalp acne is a more severe condition, a doctor can prescribe additional scalp treatments. If not treated, scalp acne can lead to inflammation and hair loss.

Here are some remedies doctors prescribe for severe conditions:

  • Topical antibiotic ointments
  • Steroid Creams
  • Steroid Injections
  • Phototherapy
  • Specific medications for severe acne
  • Oral antibiotics

Let’s hope that with prevention you can avoid a severe condition. You can also try home remedies for scalp acne.

Here are four DIY treatments you can try.



Great for maintaining pH balance of your skin and hair, tomatoes are also high in salicylic acid, an exfoliating agent known for removing dead skin cells.

Tomatoes are one of the best natural remedies for acne.

How to use?

Just prepare a tomato juice, mix with some water, and rinse your hair with the solution.



Known as the best natural antibiotic, garlic is also high in salicylic acid. In addition, it contains a high amount of antioxidants and has antiviral and antifungal properties.

Prepare garlic tea by bringing water to boil, and then adding peeled cloves of garlic. Once the tea is infused with garlic, strain, and rinse your hair with the solution.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar rinse is one of the most commonly used at home hair treatments. You can use to prevent dandruff, pimples on scalp, and many other hair and skin conditions.

Mix one part of apple cider vinegar and two parts of water. Rinse your hair with the solution after applying mild shampoo.

Tea tree oil

tea tree oil

As mentioned previously, tea tree oil is the most potent natural antibacterial and antimicrobial agent. You will find tea tree oil as one of the ingredients in medicated shampoos.

But you can prepare a similar shampoo at home. You can put tea tree oil in your regular shampoo, or dilute in water and apply as a spot treatment. Never apply undiluted tea tree oil on your scalp, as it can cause irritation.

Can you prevent scalp acne?

The best way to deal with any condition is to prevent it in the first place. Hygiene is the key to preventing scalp pimples. With proper hygiene, you can avoid clogged pores.

Here are some tips for how to practice good hygiene that will help you prevent acne and pimples on your scalp.

  • Wash your hair whenever it starts to feel oily
  • Wash your hair as soon as you can after finishing your workout
  • Wear loose-fitted headgear when you must
  • Switch to natural and hypoallergenic hair care products
  • Avoid constant use of hair products for styling your hair, including gels, pomades, and hairsprays
  • Consume foods high in vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E. Go out in the sun to get additional vitamin D
  • Pay attention to see if any foods cause flare-ups and breakouts, and eliminate them from your diet

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