Just like the skin on your face and body, your scalp has pores that can get clogged and result in acne. These bumps can make even simple tasks like washing and combing your hair excruciatingly painful. There’s even a term for it: scalpne (scalp + acne).
Don’t have scalpne? Read on anyway because according to the expert we spoke to, there are a few causes, and you’ll want to know what to do in case you get one at some point in time (*touches wood*).
What causes scalp acne?
According to Kate Lim, Trainer at Kerastase Paris, scalpne can be caused by an imbalance of hormones or hormonal changes as well as overactive oil glands. It’s similar to how your skin gets oilier a few days before your period. The hair follicles get blocked with oil, dead skin or bacteria and get inflamed—and that’s likely to cause a pimple on your face.
If you’re on oral contraceptive, it could also be the reason why you’re breaking out on your scalp. Oral contraceptives sometimes cause your hormones to trigger an increase in oil production and as you’d know, more oil = pimples.
Other causes include not shampooing often enough (washing your hair with just water doesn’t count and honestly, why would you?), eating too much dairy and—surprise—too much stress. Now, excuse us for a second while we tell our boss that work in general is making us have pimples on our scalp.
How to tackle scalp acne
“It is important to keep the scalp clean as we sweat and also produce sebum, and there is also a build up of dirt and pollution,” explains Kate.
Washing your hair regularly with a gentle shampoo that doesn’t strip your hair of the natural oils will help tackle the build-up of dirt and pollution, while incorporating products which have salicylic acid will help tackle the problem of excess sebum, hence reducing the chances of you getting acne.
It’s also important to work in a hydrating mask that will help keep the scalp moisturised. Just like your skin, stripping the scalp of its natural oils will cause it to produce more oil to compensate for the loss, which can lead to more pimples on the scalp. You can also use the Kérastase Paris Cure Pelliculaire—a leave-in treatment which, according to Kate, has antibacterial properties and helps fight infection too.
What you should not do
While waiting for your pimples to subside, make sure you don’t pick at them because this could cause the bacteria to spread and cause more breakouts. It could also cause scabbing which could hamper hair growth. Also, it’s a good idea to avoid using styling products close to the scalp as it could make matters worse. More importantly, be gentle when brushing your hair so as not to scratch or irritate the pimples.
Now that you’ve got that sorted, here are some products you can try to keep your scalp clean and healthy, which will minimise your chances of getting scalpne.