How To Prevent Scalp Breakouts

Posted by Itati Acosta on

We’ve all heard of pimples on our face, but what about pimples on our scalp? Believe it or not, scalpne is more common than you think. But before you freak out- Dr. Azi explains scalpne and tells us her best tips for the scalp. 

What cause scalpne?

The scalp has a high density of hair follicles and oil glands that can get clogged with dirt, buildup, yeast, and bacteria that ultimately lead to folliculitis or acne.  Sweating or wearing hats or headbands increases the risk of acne in this area.  Furthermore, hair products formulated with oils or wax can lead to acne along the hairline.  

What’s the best way to treat scalpne?

If the breakouts appear all of a sudden, it can be a sign of year folliculitis especially if you workout and can’t wash the area right away or you wear hats or headbands regularly that may not get cleansed often enough. It’s best to use exfoliants to prevent clogged pores, which is how acne starts. Dr. Azi favors ClariFY pads formulated with glycolic and salicylic acid that can easily be carried in a gym bag and used right after workouts as a cleansing and exfoliating wipe.  Using a shampoo with zinc pyrithione such as Head & Shoulders is helpful in reducing both yeast and bacteria on the skin’s surface. Leave it on a few minutes prior to rinsing to help reduce scalp breakouts. Benzoyl Peroxide is also effective but it’s also a bleaching agent so be cautious. GlySal Spray has glycolic and salicylic acid in a vehicle that’s also anti-bacterial and anti-fungal in a convenient spray that doesn’t bleach hair or clothing.  

What should we avoid?

Avoid scratching or rubbing, wearing hats or headbands as that friction on the scalp and hairline can cause yeast and bacteria to get deep into the pores causing breakouts. Avoid using oils on the scalp because when mixed with moisture it leads to waxy substance that further clogs pores.  If you are acne prone, avoid hair products that are also oil based and have lanolin, silicone, and petroleum which can further clog pores and trigger acne breakouts.

Scalp psoriasis and scalp acne; whats the difference?

Scalp acne looks similar to acne breakouts elsewhere, red inflamed sometimes pus filled round individual bumps.  They can be sore or itchy.  Scalp psoriasis comes up more like thick dry skin that flakes.  Some described it as a red patch of skin with thick white scales on the surface. 

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Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, MD is a Board-Certified Dermatologist.

Specializing in medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology, Dr. Shirazi received her undergraduate and medical degrees from the University Of Kentucky College of Medicine. After doing a Research Fellowship at Harvard Medical School at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine, she completed her residency training in Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in addition to completing her training in dermatology and cosmetic surgery at the University of California San Diego.

She has received multiple research scholarships from iconic institutions including Harvard University and the University Of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and has several peer-reviewed publications to her name.