These are the best products for treating scalp acne

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Pimples can (obviously) appear on your face, as well as areas such as the chest, back and booty. But did you know that you can also break out on your scalp? Yes, scalp acne is a very real thing. “Although it is less common on the scalp than on the face, acne can form anywhere we have pores and sebaceous glands,” explains Craig ziering, dermatologist, hair transplant surgeon and restorative expert based in Beverly Hills.

Scalp acne is very similar to acne you would find on your face or body, and occurs when hair follicles (aka pores) become clogged with sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria, Ziering explains. A whole litany of things, from hormones and weather to stress and genetics, can contribute to those clogged pores, notes Dennis Gross, MD, a certified dermatologist in New York and founder of the eponymous skincare line. (Related: The Healthy Scalp Tips You Need For The Best Hair Of Your Life)

But there is a unique factor at play when it comes to the scalp: hair products. Styling products, especially those rich in comedogenic oils such as coconut oil, some waxes and polymers that create hold can all buildup on the scalp, leaving behind a pore-clogging residue, says Iris Rubin, MD, a certified dermatologist at Bethesda and founder of VU hair care. Likewise, “not washing your hair regularly can cause excess sebum to build up, further contributing to scalp acne,” she adds.

So who is most likely to have scalp acne? “If your skin in general is more acne-prone, you are more likely to develop scalp acne, ”notes Dr. Gross. (And again, keep in mind that it can manifest itself just like anywhere else, via black dots, whiteheads, red papules, or even cysts, he adds.) (Related: Why you should treat your scalp with detox)

While you may not be able to control some of these aforementioned contributing factors (genetics, we’re looking at you), and there really isn’t always a way to completely prevent all types of acne, there are things you do. can do to make it less likely to happen and more manageable if it does, Ziering says. When and how you wash yourself is very important; while you want to rid your scalp of excess sebum, you do not want to wash too much and overdrying the scalp, because that can end up triggering the production of more sebum and make things worse, he points out. Try to avoid heavy styling products as much as possible and avoid wearing a hat when working out, suggests Dr. Gross; this can trap sweat and bacteria on the scalp, further increasing the risk of clogged pores.

If you suffer from scalp acne, try using non-comedogenic hair products whenever possible (read: non-clogging pores), says Dr Rubin (although she notes that this can be tricky as few are labeled as such). In general, avoid heavy, pore-clogging ingredients such as coconut oil and cocoa butter, and consider using a shampoo with salicylic acid, both to help treat a scalp acne breakout and to help prevent future breakouts, she adds. (Related: The best salicylic acid facial cleanser for every skin type)

Coming up, eight of the best acne fighting products for the scalp.

Best Salicylic Acid Shampoo: Neutrogena T / Sal Therapeutic Shampoo Control Scalp Buildup

This shampoo contains salicylic acid, the beta-hydroxy acid that experts recommend for acne-prone skin, in a super effective 3% concentration. The ingredient is lipophilic, which means it can help dissolve and remove oil deep in the pores to decongest them, says Dr Gross, who is a fan of this (affordable) foam. (Related: The best sulfate-free shampoo, according to experts)

Best Scalp Treatment: Inkey List Salicylic Acid Exfoliating Scalp Treatment

Both Dr. Gross and Ziering are fans of this formula, which combines salicylic acid, soothing panthenol, and a proprietary ingredient that helps calm redness. “The pre-cleansing treatment helps both exfoliate and absorb excess serum, while helping to hydrate and balance the scalp,” Ziering explains. Apply enough to cover your scalp and let sit for 10 minutes before washing your hair as usual, once or twice a week.

Best Non-Salicylic Acid Scalp Treatment: Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal Scalp Treatment

For those who want something a little softer – but still effective – this 98% natural formula is a good option. It boasts, among other things, charcoal and tea tree oil, the latter which Ziering says is great for “balancing and soothing the scalp and helping manage scalp acne.” Bonus points for adding biotin, a B vitamin that helps strengthen your strands. (Related: Reviews Say This $ 25 Hair Growth Shampoo & Conditioner Set Cuts Hair Loss In Just One Week)

Best scrub: Philip B. Peppermint Avocado Scalp Scrub

While salicylic acid and glycolic acid offer chemical exfoliation, says Ziering physical exfoliation is also a good choice. He is a fan of this scrub, which gently removes dirt, oil, product, and environmental build-up. He congratulates him on adding witch Hazel, a natural astringent that also helps remove excess sebum. It rinses off completely and on top of that, the peppermint and eucalyptus oils in the formula give it a pleasant and refreshing feel (and smell).

Best styling product: SEEN Blowing Skin Cream

This hair care brand has been specially formulated to be good for both your hair and skin – and it’s also one of the only lines that has been clinically proven to be non-comedogenic. Since you might not want to skip styling products completely just because you have scalp acne, this is the perfect alternative. It helps to fight frizz, add shine and protect your hair from UV rays, without ever clogging your scalp pores. Happy reviews not only point out how well it works on their hair, but also that it doesn’t irritate. sensitive skin.

Best alternative to dry shampoo: Carter Jane Scalpfix

Heavy gels, ointments, and creams aren’t the only scalp acne culprits in the styling world. Dry shampoo can also create a buildup on the scalp, says Dr. Gross. (Not to mention, if you’re stocking up on stuff, you probably don’t wash your hair that often). Spray this alternative along your roots and onto your scalp and let the combo of Naturally Antimicrobial Manuka Oil and Purifying Witch Hazel Oil and Peppermint quickly refresh your scalp and strands, while imparting those additional benefits. benefits which are good for scalp acne sufferers. (Related: I buy this dry shampoo for $ 5 at the checkout)

Best Glycolic Acid Shampoo: Glycolix Shampoo

We’ve talked a lot about salicylic acid, but glycolic acid is also a great ingredient for anyone with scalp acne. “It loosens the ‘glue’ that holds together dead skin cells that cause blockages,” says Dr. Gross. Ziering also advises looking for alpha hydroxy acid. Although it is very common in skin care, it is less often found in hair care, but this shampoo has a potent 10% concentration of the ingredient, but can still be used daily. Tip: Lather and let sit on your hair and scalp for 3-5 minutes for best results. (Related: Your guide to chemical peels at home)

Best Scalp Scrub: Sunday Riley Clean Rinse Clarifying Scalp Serum

To fully detoxify your scalp, try this pick, which combines both salicylic acid and glycolic acid in a premium formula. Still, there’s no need to insist on over-drying your scalp (or hair) as it also contains moisturizing and soothing ingredients. niacinamide, too much. Users love its ease of use and repeatedly note how well it helps remove bumps and rashes on their scalp, without causing any type of irritation. (Dealing with acne on the back or buttocks? Check out this spray that critics call “magic”.)


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