scalp acne

Scalp Acne: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Scalp acne, also known as scalp folliculitis, is a common skin condition characterized by the occurrence of bumps or pimples on scalp. While scalp acne may not be as visible as facial acne, it can be equally distressing and uncomfortable. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of scalp acne, including its causes, symptoms, and effective treatment options.

I. Understanding Scalp Acne

A. Scalp acne causes

Scalp acne occurs when hair follicles on the scalp become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. Several factors can contribute to the development of scalp acne, including:

  1. Excess sebum production: Overactive sebaceous glands can lead to an accumulation of oil on the scalp, promoting the growth of acne-causing bacteria.
  2. Poor scalp hygiene: Inadequate cleansing of the scalp can result in the buildup of dirt, sweat, and oil, leading to clogged follicles.
  3. Hormonal changes: Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as during puberty or menstrual cycles, can trigger increased sebum production, worsening acne symptoms.
  4. Certain hair products: The use of oily or greasy hair products, such as conditioners or styling gels, can contribute to scalp acne by clogging the hair follicles.
  5. Sweating and humidity: Excessive sweating, high humidity levels, or wearing hats for prolonged periods can create a favorable environment for bacterial growth and exacerbate scalp acne.

B. Symptoms of scalp acne

Scalp acne typically presents as small, red bumps or pimples on the scalp. These bumps may be tender, itchy, or painful, and can occur in isolation or in clusters. In severe cases, scalp acne can progress to pustules or cysts, which are larger, pus-filled lesions. Additionally, some individuals may experience accompanying symptoms, such as scalp tenderness, flakiness, or hair loss.

II. Diagnosis and Treatment

A. Diagnosis

To diagnose scalp acne, a dermatologist will examine the affected area and consider the patient’s medical history. In some cases, a scalp biopsy may be performed to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as psoriasis or fungal infections.

B. Scalp acne treatment

The treatment of scalp acne aims to reduce inflammation, control bacterial growth, and unclog hair follicles. The following treatment options are commonly employed:

  1. Topical Medications:
    • Benzoyl peroxide: An over-the-counter medication that helps kill bacteria and reduce oil production.
    • Salicylic acid: Helps exfoliate dead skin cells and unclog follicles.
    • Topical antibiotics: Such as clindamycin or erythromycin, can help control bacterial growth.
  2. Prescription Medications:
    • Oral antibiotics: In severe cases, oral antibiotics like tetracycline or doxycycline may be prescribed to address widespread infection and inflammation.
    • Retinoids: Prescription-strength retinoids, such as isotretinoin, can effectively treat severe cases of scalp acne.
  3. Scalp Care:
    • Gentle cleansing: Regularly wash your scalp with a mild, pH-balanced best shampoo for scalp acne to remove excess oil, dirt, and dead skin cells.
    • Avoid harsh chemicals: Refrain from using harsh hair products that can irritate the scalp and exacerbate acne symptoms.
    • Regular exfoliation: Gently exfoliate the scalp using a soft brush or a specialized scalp exfoliating product to remove dead skin cells and prevent clogging of the hair follicles.
    • Avoid scratching: Resist the urge to scratch or pick at scalp acne

C. Lifestyle and Home Remedies

In addition to medical treatments, certain lifestyle changes and home remedies can help manage scalp acne:

  1. Maintain proper scalp hygiene: Wash your hair regularly with a gentle scalp acne shampoo and conditioner. Avoid using hot water, as it can strip the scalp of essential oils and lead to dryness. Ensure thorough rinsing to prevent any product buildup.
  2. Avoid excessive heat and friction: Limit the use of heated styling tools, such as hair dryers or straighteners, as they can aggravate scalp acne. Also, avoid wearing tight hats or helmets for prolonged periods, as they can trap sweat and bacteria.
  3. Use non-comedogenic hair products: Opt for hair products labeled as non-comedogenic, meaning they won’t clog the hair follicles. Look for water-based or oil-free formulas that are less likely to contribute to scalp acne.
  4. Keep your hands off: Refrain from touching or scratching your scalp excessively. Picking at acne lesions can worsen inflammation and potentially lead to infection.
  5. Stress management: Stress can contribute to hormonal imbalances and trigger flare-ups. Practice stress-reduction techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in hobbies that help relax your mind.
  6. Natural remedies: Some individuals find relief from scalp acne using natural remedies. Tea tree oil, known for its antibacterial properties, can be diluted and applied topically to affected areas. Aloe vera gel, with its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, can also be beneficial.

III. When to Seek Medical Attention

While mild cases of scalp acne can often be managed with home remedies and over-the-counter treatments, it is important to consult a dermatologist if:

  1. The condition worsens or does not improve with at-home treatments.
  2. The acne lesions become painful, tender, or show signs of infection.
  3. Hair loss or scarring occurs.
  4. Scalp acne is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, such as fever or fatigue.

A dermatologist can assess the severity of the condition, provide a personalized treatment plan, and rule out any underlying conditions that may be contributing to scalp acne.


Scalp acne can be a bothersome and uncomfortable condition, but with proper understanding and management, it can be effectively controlled. By identifying the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and implementing appropriate treatment options, individuals can alleviate scalp acne and prevent future flare-ups. Remember to maintain good scalp hygiene, use suitable hair products, and seek professional guidance when necessary. With patience and consistency, you can achieve a healthier scalp and regain confidence in your appearance.

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