How to Treat Scalp Acne in 2024

Although treating scalp acne can be difficult, you can have a clear, healthy scalp by using the right information and treatment techniques. This guide will explain what scalp acne is, how to treat it effectively, its causes, symptoms, prevention techniques, types, and how distinguish it from Folliculitis Decalvans.

1. What is Scalp Acne?

The condition commonly referred to as scalp folliculitis or scalp acne is typified by inflammation of the hair follicles on the scalp. It frequently manifests as tiny, red pimples or bumps that may itch or feel sensitive to the touch. Numerous things can cause scalp acne, such as excessive oil production, dead skin cell accumulation, bacterial or fungal infections, hormonal imbalances, and even specific hair products or styling techniques.

Scalp Acne

Poor hygiene, wearing hats or helmets, and sweating are some of the factors that can make the condition worse. While severe or persistent cases of scalp acne may clear up on their own, others may need medical intervention, such as topical or oral medications to control bacterial or fungal growth, reduce inflammation, and relieve symptoms. Additionally, you can prevent and manage scalp acne outbreaks by maintaining a clean scalp, using gentle products, and adopting proper hair care practices.

2. Treatment for Scalp Acne

In most cases, at-home care is combined with medical interventions in more severe cases to treat scalp acne.

Salicylic acid: This is a typical Trusted Source component seen in acne-fighting skin care products. Salicylic acid breaks down the bonds between dead skin cells to help exfoliate the skin.

Glycolic acid: This acid can aid in scalp exfoliation and help get rid of bacteria, sebum, and dead skin cells.

Ketoconazole: Ketoconazole is an antifungal medication used to treat red or scaly skin.

Ciclopirox: Often included in dandruff shampoos, ciclopirox is an antifungal agent used to treat skin infections.

Benzoyl peroxide: Benzoyl peroxide, an antibacterial component, aids in the removal of Propionibacterium acnes bacteria, which may be the cause of scalp acne.

3. What Causes Scalp Acne?

Numerous factors can cause scalp folliculitis, also known as acne on the scalp. The scalp’s oily glands’ overproduction of oil, or sebum, is one of the main causes. This extra oil may block hair follicles, which can encourage the growth of bacteria or fungi and cause inflammation and lesions that resemble acne.

Acne can also be caused by dead skin cells building up on the scalp, which can clog hair follicles and exacerbate the condition. Bacterial and fungal infections, like Malassezia or Staphylococcus aureus, can be major contributors to the development of scalp acne. Hormonal changes can lead to increased oil production and an increased risk of scalp acne, especially during puberty or in conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Excessive sweating, wearing hats or helmets for extended periods of time, and using harsh chemical-containing hair care products are examples of external factors that can aggravate the scalp and exacerbate acne. Other risk factors include sharing contaminated hair tools or accessories, not washing your hair often, and poor hygiene.

4. Symptoms of Scalp Acne

According to the AAD, individuals with scalp acne may become aware of:

Bumps or Pustules: One common sign of scalp acne is the appearance of small, red pimples or pustules on the scalp. These can range in size and be packed with pus.

Itchiness: Itching occurs in the areas that are impacted by scalp acne often. The impulse to scratch could make things worse and irritate the area even more.

Tenderness: When acne lesions are present, the scalp may feel sensitive or tender to the touch. This tenderness can vary in intensity, from slight discomfort to intense sensitivity.

Redness and Inflammation: A reddish and inflamed scalp can be caused by inflamed hair follicles. The size of the acne outbreak may have an impact on how red something is.

Scalp Sensation: Some people with scalp acne may feel warm or tight in the affected areas, which is indicative of increased blood flow and inflammation.

Oozing or Crusting: Severe cases of scalp acne can cause the lesions to leak or crust, especially if they get infected. This may exacerbate the general discomfort and visual issues.

Hair Loss: Even though they are rare, severe or persistent cases of scalp acne can cause temporary hair loss in the affected areas. If there is significant damage or inflammation to the hair follicles, this is more likely to happen.

5. How to Prevent Scalp Acne

Practicing good hygiene and modifying one’s lifestyle to reduce potential triggers are key to preventing scalp acne. The following advice can help avoid acne on the scalp:

In order to manage scalp acne and stop future flare-ups, one may think about:

  • Putting on less restrictive headwear to allow the scalp to breathe
  • shampooing hair right after working out
  • Refrain from using excessive amounts of gels and sprays for hair.
  • following a diet that improves the health of your skin
  • If someone believes their diet may be the cause of their scalp acne, they should keep a food journal to observe if specific foods trigger flare-ups.
  • converting to hypoallergenic, natural hair care products.

6. Types of Scalp Acne

There are various forms of scalp acne, also known as scalp folliculitis, and each has its own distinct features. Here are a few typical forms of acne on the scalp:

Papules: These are tiny, raised, solid masses on the scalp that are usually swollen and red. Papules may not appear to contain any fluid and may feel sensitive to the touch.

Pustules: Pustules are red, swollen wounds that resemble papules but have pus at the top. They can hurt or itch, and they might resemble typical acne pimples.

Cysts: Larger, fluid-filled lesions that can form deep within the skin are called scalp cysts. They can cause scarring and be more painful than superficial acne lesions.

Blackheads and Whiteheads: Blackheads and whiteheads on the scalp can occur similarly to acne on other parts of the body. Whiteheads are closed comedones with a surface that is the color of flesh, whereas blackheads are open comedones that appear dark.

Scalp Boils: When compared to normal pustules, these are bigger and more severe. Painful, pus-filled red lumps known as boils can form deep inside hair follicles.

Scalp Abscesses: Abscesses are bigger collections of pus covered by inflammatory tissue that can occasionally result from severe or untreated scalp acne.

Follicular Eruptions: This kind results in redness, itching, and occasionally a rash-like appearance on the scalp due to inflammation of the hair follicles.

Scalp Dermatitis: Scalp dermatitis can mimic some symptoms of scalp acne, such as redness, itching, and flaking, even though it is not acne in the conventional sense. Numerous things could be the cause of it, such as sensitivity to specific hair care products or allergic reactions.

7. Scalp Acne vs. Folliculitis Decalvans

Both folliculitis decalvans and scalp acne are different conditions that affect the scalp, but they have different long-term effects, causes, and symptoms.

Scalp Acne:

Cause: primarily brought on by dead skin cells, excess oil, bacterial or fungal infections, hormonal fluctuations, or external agents like specific hair care products clogging hair follicles.

Symptoms: on the scalp, appears as tiny red pimples, pustules, or cysts. It may cause inflammation and be tender and itchy.

Long-Term Effects: In general, scalp acne is not as severe and is not usually linked to permanent hair loss. It frequently reacts favorably to appropriate care and cleanliness.

Folliculitis Decalvans:

Cause: A more severe and chronic form of folliculitis called folliculitis decalvans occurs when the immune system targets the hair follicles, causing inflammation and eventual follicle destruction.

Symptoms: characterized by the growth of tufted hair follicles, scales, and pustules. Scarring and permanent hair loss are frequent outcomes.

Long-Term Effects: Significant hair loss, scarring, and in certain situations total baldness can result from folliculitis decalvans in the affected areas. It typically needs to be managed continuously because it is a chronic condition.


Having a healthy scalp is achievable with the appropriate information and habits. You can take the first steps toward having a clear and confident scalp by learning about the causes, symptoms, and efficient treatments for scalp acne. Take control of the health of your scalp in 2024 and beyond.

Can scalp acne be a result of a poor diet?

While diet plays a role in overall skin health, there’s no direct link between specific foods and scalp acne. However, maintaining a balanced diet can contribute to healthier skin overall.

How often should I wash my hair to prevent scalp acne

Regular hair washing is essential to prevent the buildup of oil and debris on the scalp. Aim for at least two to three times a week, adjusting based on your hair type and lifestyle

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