How To Treat Scalp Acne, According To The Experts

Like all varieties of acne, scalp acne is not a ton of fun. If you've spent a lot of time dealing with this issue, you'll be interested to learn the ways to treat scalp acne, because there's no point putting off this ailment. Whether you're a long time sufferer of acne or you've suddenly developed a few painful pimples on your head, advice from skincare experts will help you no matter the stage of your scalp acne.

Acne alone can make sufferers feel self conscious and uncomfortable in their own skin, but scalp acne is another ballgame. If you're lucky, your scalp acne may be entirely hidden in your hair, but chances are, it's at least a little on show. It might be found along your hairline or have travelled down your neck or forehead. On top of this, the pimples can be painful — which is not ideal when you're trying to get a good night's sleep — plus, they can peek out amongst your strands.

In an email to Bustle, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Janet Prystowsky, says, "Scalp acne is less common than back or face acne, but it can still be a nuisance for some people. Scalp acne forms when there is a buildup of clogged oil, dead skin, and bacteria in a pore. You may not always see or feel your scalp acne, since it will usually be covered by your hair."

So here's some expert advice on how to vanquish your scalp acne and wave goodbye to those painful pimples.

1. Wash Your Hair More

Although you might think that you should wash your hair less if you have scalp acne, in the hopes that you will aggravate your scalp less, Dr. Prystowsky actually recommends the opposite. She says, "If you have scalp acne, try using shampoo more often. The shampoo will help dissolve excess oil and dry your scalp."

2. Temporarily Quit Using Hair Products

"Avoid using other hair products like hair gel, wax, and sprays until your acne clears," advises Dr. Prystowsky.

3. Find The Root Of The Issue

"Introduce products back into your routine one at a time," says Dr. Prystowsky, "so that you can identify which products and ingredients are likely to cause your scalp acne."

4. Use Shampoo Containing Salicylic Acid

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"Try an OTC shampoo that contains salicylic acid such as Neutrogena T/Gel. If this is not sufficient then see your dermatologist for other treatment options and to rule out folliculitis if necessary," says Dr. Hadley King, dermatologist at NYC's SKINNEY Medspa, in an email to Bustle.

5. Avoid Benzoyl Peroxide

"Scalp acne treatments are like other acne treatments, with some tweaks. While benzoyl peroxide is a good acne treatment, it can potentially bleach your hair. So avoid using benzoyl peroxide on your scalp acne. Salicylic acid and AHA’s, like glycolic acid and lactic acid, are better options," Dr. Prystowsky advises.

6. Ask Your Dermatologist About Antibiotics

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"For more persistent acne, isotretinoin, topical antibiotics, or oral antibiotics may be necessary. For cystic acne, steroid injections are also helpful," says Dr. Prystowsky.

7. Ask Your Doctor About Oral Contraceptives

"Some women find that oral contraceptives help treat their acne," says Dr. Prystowsky, which is definitely something to bear in mind if you're not having much luck with other treatments.

8. Don't Confuse It With Scalp Folliculitis

"A similar, but more serious, condition is called scalp folliculitis. This is caused by a bacterial infection of a hair follicle. It can look very similar to scalp acne," explains Dr. Prystowsky. "Effective treatments include topical antibiotics, oral antibiotics, and isotretinoin. To control itching, oral antihistamines are helpful," she elaborates.

"Some cases of scalp follicle problems may be due to more complicated dermatologic problems, such as hidradenitis suppurativa. If your problem does not respond well to the usual treatments, seek a consultation with a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis. Some conditions may lead to permanent hair loss and scarring if not treated properly," says Dr. Prystowsky.

If you're in any doubt about your scalp acne, pay a visit to your local dermatologist who can point you in the right direction and help clarify that it's definitely scalp acne that you're dealing with.

Images: Allef Vinicius (1), Seth Doyle (2), Tamara Bellis (1), Amy Treasure (1), Sylvain Reygaerts (1) /Unsplash; GabiSanda (1) /Pixabay; Courtesy Brand (1)