Having scalp pimples/ acne may not be the most noticeable unless you have very short hair. I’m not sure if it’s due to weather change, the effects of hard water or that I haven’t been drying my hair properly prior to sleep but I started developing pimples on my scalp. Since it is hidden within the hair, I have been guilty of picking them. Before you go on a frenzy of picking the pimples on your scalp, please take a minute to read on.
What is it?
It could vary from mild either white heads or blackheads on the scalp; moderate with papules and pustules on the surface of the skin; and severe which includes nodules and cysts, which are imbedded under the skin.
Severe scalp acne may result in permanent scars and hair loss. Therefore, it is always advisable that you consult with a dermatologist if symptoms persists. If you suffer from androgenic alopecia and have started using minoxidil again, it would be best to either seek advise from your trichologist or dermatologist.
What causes pimples on your scalp?
Similar to pimples on the face, pimple occur when the pores or hair follicles get clogged. This causes the follicle to swell up, and become infected with bacteria.
Reasons may include:
- over-reproductive sebaceous gland (i.e.: poor diet, hormonal imbalance, stress, or hereditary)
- product buildup from shampoo or other hair products, such as gel or hairspray etc.
- not washing hair frequently/ properly enough to clean scalp
- waiting too long to wash your hair after a workout
- wearing a hat or other headgear or equipment that’s caused sweat build up and friction against your scalp
Is it safe to pop a pimple on your scalp?
“It’s best to avoid popping or picking at pimples on the scalp. This type of trauma to the skin can lead to worsening of the condition and a deeper infection. Gently washing the scalp regularly with shampoo and warm water can help many conditions improve on their own. It is important to minimize irritation to the scalp that can come from razors, hair products, high heat, and chemical treatments. These can cause inflammation and irritation that can lead to further complications. The kinder you are to your scalp and skin, the less likely you are to have problems.”- Judith Marcin, MD
What to do?
The best way to treating scalp acne is to keep it clean. If you suspect that your shampoo have be the culprit then you could switch to a new shampoo. Here are a few key ingredients that maybe useful to look at when choosing your shampoo:
- Tea tree oil– has antimicrobial properties to help fight acne-causing bacterias. Alternatively, you could even buy a tea tree oil essential oil and add a few drops into your shampoo.
- Sulfate-free – especially if you have senstive/ sensitised scalp- it is best to steer clear away from sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) shampoos. These are surfactants that is used to ‘bubble-up’ products. The reason that these ingredients are in personal care products is because they are cheap and does the job. There have also been a long misconception that more bubbles the better cleaning power. Odylique has a fantastic shampoo that is parabens and sulfate-free- plus it only costs £12 for 200ml!
- Salicylic acid– this helps by exfoliating dead skin cells and unclog pores that causes acne
- Sea buckthorn oil– this may not help get rid of acne but will definitely bring down the inflammation. I use this as a spot treatment on dry, clean scalp. My papules settled down within a couple of days.
- High frequency scalp treatment- this is also a very effective method to kill off acne-causing bacterias. Check with a local aesthetician near you to find out if they provide such treatments. Read: What is High Frequency Facial?: A must-have for problematic skin
Personally, I would advise against using products such as Nizoral, which contains ketoconazole/ ciclopirox. While these ingredients are anti-fungal and may be especially effective to counter dandruff by thoroughly cleansing your scalp, however, Nizoral also contains SLS which is known to cause hair loss. I will also not recommend Neutrogena’s T/Gel as it contains coal tar and DMDM Hydantoin (Formaldehyde Releaser) as these ingredients are carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Furthermore, if you have frizzy/ brittle hair, you should stay clear from this product as it may cause further damage to your hair.
- Another tip is to always blow-dry your hair after a hair wash, especially in environments with high humidity. Also, try not to go to bed with damped hair. It may very well worsen your scalp condition. Bacterias tend to harbour in moisture so your safest bet is to keep your scalp dry as much as possible.
- If you have dry hair and feel that you aren’t able to shampoo everyday, then try thoroughly cleaning your scalp once in two days and avoid using any styling products (i.e.: gel, hairspray, silicone-heavy tame-frizz products).
Your scalp may take 4-8 weeks to heal depending on severity. It takes time so you have to be patient with the recovery process.