The 7 Best Shampoos For Acne Prone Skin That Help Banish Scalp Breakouts For Good


As if run-of-the-mill facial acne wasn't enough to deal with, acne on your scalp is absolutely another thing many have to wrestle with. Scalp acne forms when there's a buildup of clogged oil, dead skin, or bacteria in pores. The best shampoos for acne prone skin can help treat your breakouts at their source. To find out more, Bustle reached out to Dr. Anna Guanche, MD FAAD a board-certified dermatologist, dermatologic surgeon, and the founder/director of the Bella Skin Institute.

Dr. Guanche’s advises avoiding oil-based shampoos since “[…] the main components of acne is increased sebum (oil) production that can lead to clogged pores.” This means that using oil-rich or ointment-based products with ingredients like silicone, jojoba oil, shea butter, and petroleum may not be the best for acne prone skin, according to Dr. Guanche.

However, she does qualify, when it comes to acne treatment there’s no universal treatment and, for some, oils like jojoba and coconut can be “[…] compatible with acne prone skin because of their anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. [...]”.

Although your scalp and hair require delicate ingredients that won't cause dandruff or make your locks brittle and dry, many ingredients found in the best acne products for skin work for your scalp too, like salicylic acid, which is the main ingredient in Dr. Guanche’s top pick, Neutrogena T/Sal, a shampoo “[…] that would not aggravate acne, rather, it may help improve it. It's also free of fragrance and dermatologist-recommended to treat dandruff, psoriasis, and dermatitis.”

Otherwise Dr. Guanche advises tea tree shampoos, sulfur-based shampoos, antibacterial shampoos, and apple cider vinegar shampoos since apple cider vinegar-based shampoos are “acidic, antibacterial or keratolytic, which makes them more compatible with oily skin.”

Some shampoos contain chemicals and harsh ingredients that, unbeknownst to many consumers, can clog pores and create a messy situation on your scalp and along your hairline. Generally, searching for shampoos for sensitive skin or those free of sulfates and mineral oil can help keep pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads at bay.

Read on to get rid of scalp acne by avoiding chemical-laden shampoos and choosing the best shampoos for acne-prone skin.

1. This Salicylic Acid Shampoo For Fast, Powerful Results

Salicylic acid is a hydroxy acid commonly used to treat acne, psoriasis, and other skin conditions — including dry scalp that can lead to pimples. Not only is Neutrogena T/Sal Shampoo Dr. Guanche's top pick, but it also contains a fast-acting power punch of ingredients, with 3 percent salicylic acid taking top billing as its star. It's also free of fragrance and dermatologist-recommended to treat dandruff, psoriasis, and dermatitis.

What fans love: "This works so well at getting and keeping my scalp acne under control. Pimples are way less noticeable after only 1 wash and pretty much gone after 2. I usually use it 2x/week or when I notice pimple action up there."

2. An Antibacterial Shampoo That Banishes Bacteria From Pores

When pores are clogged with bacteria, you can experience a major case of scalp acne. The ANTI-b Antibacterial Shampoo combines lemon essential oil, witch hazel, aloe vera, and Cutipure CLR to eliminate bacteria and fungi and treat inflammation that can lead to dandruff and acne. It's sulfate-free and, according to the many reviewers who gave it stellar reviews, works after one or two uses.

What fans love: "I have struggled with scalp acne and terrible breakouts for years. After trying every shampoo and antibiotic out there, I found this. It works like magic. Within the first few days I noticed substantial improvement. I’m now 2 weeks in and not a single breakout on my scalp or neckline for the first time in literally YEARS!It’s a little pricey but worth every cent to have my confidence back and not have to hide my scalp with a hat. :)"

3. A Tea Tree And Peppermint Shampoo For Dandruff

Over time, the dead skin that accumulates with dandruff can lead to nasty and painful breakouts on the scalp. Banish dandruff naturally with this Tea Tree Peppermint Shampoo, which contains tea tree, a recommended shampoo base for acne-prone skin according to Dr. Guanche. It also has peppermint and rosemary essential oils — all of which are proven to help flaky, dry skin — and this shampoo has absolutely no parabens or sulfates.

What fans love: "I bought this as I was having issues with a sore, itchy scalp and acne-like skin problems in my hairline. It started helping straight away providing soothing itch relief. Over two months it has completely cleared up my scalp and I now use it daily."

4. An Anti-Fungal Sulfur And Salicylic Acid Soap Bar

It might take some getting used to at first, but this salicylic acid and sulfur bar soap contains two of Dr. Guanche's recommended ingredients for a shampoo that's great for acne-prone skin: salicylic acid and sulfur. This bar soap can heal acne, itch, and dry skin anywhere — on your body, face, and scalp. Expect a slightly stinky experience (that's the 10 percent sulfur working alongside 3 percent salicylic acid), but reviewers say it's worth it: it will clear up your scalp and can do wonders for facial acne, to boot.

What fans love: " [...] After about a week of use I realized there were zero new pimples popping up and scarring and inflammation from previous acne and picking was going away. I can say today that I have had just a few small pimples pop up since using, but they aren't inflamed and if I don't touch them and use the soap, they go away rather quickly and don't ever rise from the top layer of skin. [...] I hope this continues and the way my skin loves this soap, I don't think I'll ever have to use any other soap. It does not smell like egg or linger on my skin. You smell some sulfur in the shower but it doesn't follow you around, I don't care what people say. [...] Use this stuff and enjoy the benefits!!"

5. An Apple Cider Vinegar-Based Shampoo And Conditioner Set

With a 4-star rating after over 10,000 reviews, this apple cider vinegar-based shampoo and conditioner set is a great buy for those looking to rid their scalp of acne as Dr. Guanche likes apple cider vinegar for its antibacterial, acidic, or keratolytic properties. Plus this set's ingredients include coconut oil, which Dr. Guanche said works for some people who struggle with scalp acne because of its "[...] anti-inflammatory and soothing properties." The coconut oil along with aloe promises to help strengthen and rejuvenate hair while the apple cider vinegar clears pores. Plus, this pick has vitamins E and B5, keratin proteins, and palmetto extract which promises more hydration for your hair and scalp.

What fans say: "I truly love this stuff. I get acne on my scalp with just about every other shampoo and conditioner I've tried. I also have fine, oily hair. Not only has my hair not been oily at all but I haven't had a single problem with my scalp, and my hair looks and feels fuller."

6. An Organic Shampoo With Ingredients Straight From The Forest

If Snow White had a favorite shampoo, this would be it: a hypoallergenic, organic soapberry shampoo made with olive leaf, gotu kola, and chamomile, which battles dandruff with an extremely gentle formula. It's free of sulfates, parabens, silicone, DEA/MEA, perfume, and dyes.

What fans say: "[...] This shampoo is amazing. [...] After one wash, my acne calmed down immensely. [...] Beyond that, my hair line broke out and scalp had weird clogged pores from using chemically dense dry shampoo aerosol sprays. I’ve never had so much problems with my skin and hair until the recent stress. [...] There’s antibacterial properties and I’m just amazed that not only does this product give me smooth hair but also combats acne.[...] Fantastic buy! Well worth it. Cleared my skin, scalp and smoothed my hair while solving some portion of my stress. I never thought I would say that about a shampoo."

7. A Hypoallergenic Shampoo Made With Natural Oils

This natural shampoo for oily and greasy hair contains ingredients like basil, cypress, jojoba, rosemary, and lemon essential oil that restore sebum and pH balance on your scalp, eliminate excess oils, prevent dandruff, and alleviate itch. Remember, Dr. Guanche qualifies that jojoba oil can be great for some people dealing with acne prone skin given its anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. This shampoo is also paraben and sulfate free, contains no dyes or artificial fragrances; it's even hypoallergenic and safe for sensitive skin.

What fans love: "I was skeptical about this product working at first and on my first use it didn't really seem to do anything. I came back to see what other people had said and they said to follow the directions as instructed. I wasn't letting it sit for the full amount of time so I wasn't seeing any results, but once I started following them, I saw results instantly. Great for people who have oily hair and good for scalp acne."

Bustle may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from Bustle's editorial and sales departments.

Experts referenced:

Dr. Anna Guanche, MD FAAD a board-certified dermatologist, dermatologic surgeon, and the founder/director of the Bella Skin Institute.

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