Scalp Acne - How to Treat Pimples on Scalp

Scalp Acne - How to Treat Pimples on Scalp

Scalp acne or pimples on the scalp might not be one of your serious problems but for the affected it is very irritating and demands quick treatment. Severe acne could also cause scalp pain. Scalp acne is essentially the result of clogged pores on your scalp and the remedy could be as simple as keeping your hair clean and using medicated shampoos to remove the dirt from your scalp. 

What Causes Scalp Acne

There are varied reasons for the occurrence of scalp acne. It could be the result of several skin complications but it essentially happens of the following reasons:

  • A rise in oil levels or the production of excess sebum in the scalp
  • The clogging of hair follicles with dead skin cells and dirt
  • Inflammation of the hair follicles 
  • The spread of acne bacteria in the scalp
  • Digestive problems could also aggravate acne problems
  • Stress which leads to an exaggerated production of sebum and clogged pores

The scalp is dotted with a number of hair follicles and an extensive network of oil glands. The pores are frequently blocked by dirt and oil which could lead to acne issues. This can also happen if you wait too long to shampoo your hair after you are done with your workout. If you sweat a lot while wearing a cap, it could also cause a lot of friction leading to significant acne problems. 

You could suffer from acne even if you wash your hair regularly. The build-up of sweat, oil and dirt as a result of badly shampooed hair could also lead to the clogging of your pores. This is when you have to take a relook at your hair care regime as the use of improper hair care products like styling gels and sprays can also lead to an exaggerated build-up of impurities in your scalp. 

Types of Scalp Acne

It is important to identify the severity of your acne problem to determine the course of treatment. The issue could be:

  • Mild
  • Moderate 
  • Severe.

The pimples on the scalp could manifest themselves in the following ways. 

  • Blackheads also referred to as open comedones
  • Whiteheads also referred to as closed comedones
  • Papules or inflammations
  • Pustules or bumps filled with pus
  • Cysts that form deep inside your skin 
  • Mixed forms that are a combination of many different types. 

How to Identify Scalp Acne

Scalp acne is not difficult to identify. They are similar to pimples in many ways and are quite apparent as raised bumps on scalp that are sensitive to touch. Unlike scalp psoriasis they do not affect layers of scalp. In some cases, they may also form in clusters. They appear as zits in the back of the head. They can be sore and itchy. Scalp acne can frequently:

  • Appears as tiny swellings on your forehead or along the back of your neck. 
  • Very tiny bumps that might be felt but not seen.
  • A cluster of bumps on your scalp
  • Whiteheads that form on your hairline and scalp
  • Skin coloured bumps on your scalp and hairline

Sometimes the acne may not respond to treatment and could indicate symptoms of a more serious strain. This is when you need to take the help of an expert who would be able to suggest a detailed and stronger treatment plan. 

Treatment for Scalp Acne

The standard treatment for scalp acne would in most cases involve a medicated shampoo. These shampoos can be very effective as they can remove all the debris and excess oil and stop scalp acne from happening again. These shampoos can be purchased without a prescription. The ingredients that are used most frequently in these shampoos are:

  • Tea tree oil, which is very useful in removing scalp bacteria
  • Glycolic acid helps in exfoliating the scalp, removing dead skin and excess sebum
  • Ketoconazole is a very potent anti-fungal agent and can be used to treat red and scaly skin
  • Salicylic acid helps remove all the dead skin cells
  • Ciclopirox is very good for dandruff infections 
  • Benzoyl peroxide is best remedy for the bacteria which causes scalp acne

If the patient is experiencing a more severe form of scalp acne which is responsible for hair loss, the doctor could also recommend a number of alternatives including the following: 

  • Steroids
  • Antibiotics
  • Topical ointments or creams
  • Light therapy

It is however suggested that a person should pursue only a single line of treatment at any point of time unless specifically instructed by a medical practitioner.

Home Remedies to Treat Scalp Acne

Scalp Acne could be the result of many reasons including hair products that damage our skin cells and cause inflammation. It could also be caused by an excessively sweaty scalp which is covered and  not washed properly. But not to worry, there are a number of effective scalp acne home remedies that will take care of all your scalp acne problems. Let’s find out about some of them:

  • Coconut oil: The antimicrobial properties of coconut oil help protect your hair against scalp acne. Leave it on for about an hour after applying it to your hair and itchy scalp before washing it off with a mild shampoo. Do this twice a week for best results.
  • Lemon: This is one of the simplest and yet the most effective cure for scalp acne. Put some lime juice on your scalp and let it stay for 5 minutes. You might experience a slight burning feeling but it is very useful for clearing your scalp acne.
  • Aloe vera: Aloe vera is widely regarded as the best remedy for all forms of acnes. It has very potent anti-inflammatory qualities that form an effective defence against any sort of acne issues. Use the freshly extracted gel from the aloe vera plant and apply it thoroughly over your scalp and let it stay for 30 minutes. Wash it off with cool water later. 
  • Tea tree oil: This is also a very effective form of treatment for scalp acne because of the good antimicrobial as well as anti-inflammatory properties. Wash your hair with shampoo and add a few drops of tea tree oil to your conditioner before applying it carefully to your hair and scalp. You will find your scalp acne issues disappear if you do this thrice a week. 
  • Black pepper: This is one of those traditional cures that works very well for acne problems. Make a paste of black pepper and water and apply it over the acne. Let it dry, add some yoghurt if you experience a burning feeling. Wash it off with a mild shampoo afterwards.

Tips to Prevent Scalp Acne

While there are a number of cures for scalp acne it would make perfect sense to take some very basic steps to ensure that you do not have to deal with such issues in the first place. Let’s look at what you can do :

  • Wash your hair immediately after a workout
  • Wear loose fitting headgear so that your scalp receives enough air to breathe
  • Ensure that your hair receives a sufficient dose of vitamins A, D and E to nourish them
  • Avoid using too many hair products that tend to clog your pores, use natural products instead
  • Consult with a doctor to create a diet chart to avoid foods that aggravate hair acne issues

Scalp acne is not a very serious issue and timely intervention can help you resolve the problems very easily with some simple scalp acne treatment. However, there could be times when you let the acne linger, leaving you with a severely infected scalp that would demand expert medical intervention. Do visit us at Traya and let our experts take over, as they provide effective solutions to any such hair issues and more.

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Dr. Sarna is an MD (Skin & VD) and Gold Medalist from Baroda Medical College. She has a decade long experience in treating hair loss and working on hair regrowth. She believes stress management is the key to good health.

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