Hair Care

The Essential Guide To Best Shampoo For Scalp Acne!

Clear scalp, clear mind: Get rid of your scalp acne with the right shampoo!

Written by Samara S

Medically Reviewed by Shikha Sanghvi

On May 2, 2023 – 13 minutes read

The Essential Guide to Best Shampoo for Scalp Acne - Feature

Did you ever itch your scalp and come across a small bump? And your gut reaction told you to pop this bad boy up only to realize its bloody and flaky texture. Does this sound familiar to you? Well, you’re not alone. Wonder which is the best shampoo for scalp acne?

Scalp acne is more common than you think. However, it’s less normal than acne in other areas of your body. Scalp acne can be as painful as facial acne, if not worse. Clinical studies have demonstrated that at least one in five individuals in India suffer from scalp acne. Globally, acne impacts more than 50 million people in the US. This whopping number makes acne the most widespread form of skin condition. Unfortunately, acne is not limited to the neck, back, arms, buttocks, or face. Scalp acne can occur at any age. However, it is common in young adults between the ages of 18 to 30.

Best Shampoo For Scalp Acne: What Is Scalp Acne?

We all know what acne looks like. However, now imagine acne scattered across your hairline or all over your scalp. Yep, that’s scalp acne for you, however using Best Shampoo For Scalp Acne can help. On a more scientific note, Deanne Mraz Robinson, a board-licensed dermatologist in Connecticut defines scalp acne as a form of folliculitis or inflammation of the hair follicles. In simple terms, scalp acne is when breakouts and pimples occur on your scalp or hairline. You are prone to scalp acne if you are an individual who suffers from facial or body acne. 

Best Shampoo For Scalp Acne: What Is Scalp Acne?

Best Shampoo For Scalp Acne: What Causes Scalp Acne?

So far, we have understood that clogged hair follicles trigger zits in your scalp popularly called scalp acne. Your hair follicles are the canals where your hair grows from your pores and skin. They are generally caused due to the following reasons.

  • Excess sebum production can result in an oily scalp and scalp acne. Sebum is the natural oily, waxy substance secreted by the sebaceous glands connected to hair follicles through follicular ducts. However, adequate sebum secretion is important to have a moisturizing and protecting layer on the scalp. Using the best shampoo for scalp acne that can get rid of that excess sebum.
  • You don’t wash your hair properly. Certain shampoos, styling gels, and hairsprays leave residues on your scalp and clog your pores. 
  • Dandruff or dead skin cells are built up on your scalp. They can clog your pores, causing acne outbreaks. 
  • You skip washing your hair regularly. If you are outdoors during the day or in the gym working out regularly, the excess sweat accumulation can clog your pores which subsequently leads to scalp acne.

Why Use Best Shampoo For Scalp Acne?

Some Additional reasons that causing scalp acne could also be

  • Hormonal fluctuations could be the number one culprit that often causes acne and dead skin buildup on your scalp. Androgen hormones, especially testosterone cause your skin to make more oil in your scalp. Some of the hormonal changes can occur due to the following reasons. 
  1. Puberty
  2. Pregnancy
  3. Menopause
  4. Menstruation
  5. Overuse of steroids
  6. Endocrine gland malfunctions
  7. Certain medical conditions
  • Stress or hypertension is known to trigger hormonal imbalance and set a chain reaction for negative mood swings. Such unwanted reactions can cause inflammation and lead to acne breakouts.
  • Friction from wearing hats, helmets, or headbands
  • using the best shampoo for scalp acne and still no results, Genetics also plays a major role in causing scalp acne. If your close family member has acne, you’re more likely to develop it too.
  • A diet loaded with fats and sugar will spike up the body’s sebum production. Avoid eating processed food such as sausages, bacon, and canned foods. Deep-fried foods like chips and French fries should also be consumed moderately.
  • Allergic reactions to certain drugs such as lithium, estrogens, androgen, or corticosteroids may additionally cause side effects that could affect your scalp to form acne. You should talk to your trichologist if such extreme conditions arise. 
  • Dirty environments such as working in polluted factories, and construction sites can result in the scalp breaking out. You must wash your scalp daily if you work or live in such locations. Scalp hygiene plays a role not just in your hair health, but it can also extends to your face, causing forehead acne. 

Best Shampoo For Scalp Acne: What Are The Symptoms Of Scalp Acne? 

If you’re confused about having scalp acne, here are some signs you should look for.

  • Pus-stuffed bumps with a white top (whiteheads)
  • Swollen or Inflamed bumps (zits papules)
  • Pain, itchiness, or soreness
  • Pimples on your scalp or hairline
  • Pimples formed in a cluster or a small portion of your scalp 
  • Pus-stuffed cysts deep inside your pores and skin (acne cysts)
  • Hair will start to dry and mattify 
  • Those who use oil-based hair products can suffer from Pomade acne. It is specifically visible across the hairline (brow and temples).
  • A thick band-like scar can appear on the hairline behind the scalp. This scar occurs after scalp acne known as acne keloid. Selecting the best shampoo for scalp acne may help in this acne.

Your symptoms of scalp acne can be mild or severe. In the most serious cases, you may experience hair loss or scabbing around the affected area. You should immediately see your dermatologist if that happens.

Best Shampoo For Scalp Acne: 3 Types Of Scalp Acne

Scalp acne is common, and it can affect both males and females. Let’s understand the three main forms of scalp acne: 

  • Comedonal Acne: This type of acne is a result of the accumulation of clogged pores and dead skin cells and oil in hair follicles, which eventually leads to whiteheads and blackheads.
  • Papular Acne: When small pinkish bumps appear on the scalp, it’s usually a sign of popular acne. They can be painful and irritating on your scalp. This is caused because of the inflammation of the hair follicles. 
  • Cystic Acne: They are characterized when pus-filled cysts are seen on the surface of the scalp. Cystic pimples/acne are also seen in the most severe cases of scalp acne.  This occurs due to the excess production of oil and bacteria. It may also leave scarring if left untreated. 

How To Treat Scalp Acne Using The Best Shampoo For Scalp Acne

A big nightmare is dealing with acne on your face, but what happens when it attacks your scalp? Many factors cause scalp acne but thankfully we also have an equal number of solutions to tackle this dreadful condition. 

You can treat acne on your scalp at home if you face mild symptoms.

  • You should not use hair care products that contain oil since they are hard to wash off and may leave a residue on your scalp. They also make your scalp greasy. 
  • Washing your hair more often can significantly improve your scalp health, especially after your workout or after being in the sun for too long.
  • You should also avoid wearing a tight scarf around your head.  Tight-fitted hats and headbands should be a big no if you suffer from scalp acne. 
  • If you are someone who wears helmets, always go for the ones with ventilation as it will prevent the scalp from excessive sweating.

For severe cases, many individuals suffering from scalp acne require prescription-based treatment. Some potent ingredients and chemical exfoliation methods work best and are usually safe for people with scalp acne. 

  • Tea Tree Oil – treats scalp acne naturally and helps balance the scalp’s microbiome.
  • Oral antibiotics – You can get prescription-based drugs from a certified dermatologist to cope with certain types of scalp acne & infections.
  • Ciclopirox – is used for treating skin infections caused by fungus. 
  • Benzoyl peroxide(1)– gets rid of the microorganism found in acne. 
  • Glycolic acid – eliminates unwanted oils, bacteria, and dead skin cells developed in scalp acne.
  • Salicylic acid – is a widely used potent active drug used for treating facial, body, and scalp acne. It helps to break down dead skin cells and control sebum production.
  • Zinc Pyrithione – has anti-fungal properties and helps manage excessive oil production on your scalp.

Best Shampoo For Scalp Acne: 10 Top Products

Choosing a shampoo to apply to your oily scalp can feel like a double-edged sword. On one hand, you need a product that will provide your scalp with the right ingredients to clean clogged hair follicles caused by hair products such as hairstyle gels, hair wax, oil, and sweat build-up. And, on the other hand, you also don’t want to be too harsh as that will further irritate your itchy scalp. 

We have listed the 10 best shampoo for scalp acne to relieve you from the uncomfortable side effect of scalp acne.

1. PHARMBANNER Folliculitis, Seborrheic Dermatitis Shampoo

dermatitis shampoo for scalp

Looking for the best shampoo for scalp acne with an active ingredient?

This shampoo Mixed with Piroctone Olamine, other effective ingredients and herb exacts.

Pros: Effective in reducing scalp acne and scalp irritation.

Cons: Expensive.

Price: $25.99 (8.4 fl oz)

2. Neutrogena T/Sal Shampoo

Neutrogena T/Sal Shampoo

Looking for the best shampoo for scalp acne with an active ingredient?

This shampoo contains salicylic acid which helps to exfoliate the scalp and reduce scalp acne. It is suitable for oily hair and has a refreshing fragrance.

Pros: Effective in reducing scalp acne, affordable.

Cons: Can cause dryness in some individuals, not suitable for daily use.

Price: $10 (4.5 fl oz)

3. WOW, Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo

WOW, Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo

The apple cider vinegar present in this shampoo helps to balance the pH level of the scalp and reduces scalp acne. Best shampoo for scalp acne that is enriched with natural ingredients like tea tree oil and argan oil and promotes healthy hair growth.

Pros: Natural ingredients, suitable for all hair types.

Cons: Can be harsh on sensitive scalps, strong smell.

Price: $17.95 (16 fl oz)

4. Tea Tree Special Shampoo

Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo

This shampoo contains tea tree oil that helps soothe and calm the scalp, also the best shampoo for scalp acne which helps in reducing acne and itchiness. It is also suitable for individuals with dandruff.

Pros: Suitable for all hair types, refreshing fragrance.

Cons: Expensive and may cause dryness in some individuals.

Price: $45 (33.8 fl oz)

5. Head & Shoulders Clinical Dandruff Defense Intensive Itch Shampoo

Best shampoo for scalp acne with antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties. This shampoo contains pyrithione zinc(2) which helps to fight scalp acne and dandruff. It is suitable for individuals with oily hair and scalp.

Pros: Effective itch relief associated with dandruff, easily available in the market.

Cons: May cause dryness in some individuals, strong fragrance.

Price: $ 19.68 for pack of 2 (13.5 fl oz each)

6. Biotique Bio Margosa Anti-Dandruff Shampoo & Conditioner

 Biotique Bio Margosa Anti-Dandruff Shampoo & Conditioner

Infused with neem and margosa, the best shampoo for scalp acne that helps to control scalp acne and dandruff. It also has conditioning properties that make hair soft and frizz-free.

Pros: Natural ingredients, affordable.

Cons: May not be effective for severe cases of scalp acne, strong herbal scent.

Price: $9.95 (6.08 fl oz)

7. L’Oreal Paris Extraordinary Clay Shampoo

L'Oreal Paris Extraordinary Clay Shampoo

Best shampoo for scalp acne for those people who have frizzy hair dandruff and oily hair. This shampoo is enriched with three effective forms of clay that absorb excess oil and impurities from the scalp. It also reduces dandruff & helps to get rid of frizzy hair. It is suitable for oily hair and has a refreshing fragrance.

Pros: Effective in reducing scalp acne and dandruff, affordable.

Cons: Can potentially cause dryness in some individuals, not suitable for people with frizzy and dry hair

Price: $17.99 for pack of 2 (12.5 fl oz each)

8. Dove Derma Care Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo And Conditioner Set

 Dove Derma Care Scalp Invigorating Mint Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

When it comes to the best shampoo for scalp acne we can’t say no to peppermint oil. Infused with peppermint oil, dove shampoo helps to soothe and refresh the scalp, reducing acne and dandruff. It is suitable for all hair types and has a pleasant fragrance.

Pros: Gentle on the scalp, refreshing scent.

Cons: It may not be effective for severe cases of scalp acne and can cause itchiness in some cases.

Price: $ 20.98 (12 fl oz)

9. TAGRID Dry Scalp Shampoo

tagrid dry scalp shampoo

This shampoo contains tea tree oil and aloe vera which help to control scalp acne and dandruff. It is suitable for all hair types and has a herbal fragrance. No wonder why this is one of the best shampoo for scalp acne.

Pros: Suitable for daily use.

Cons: It may not be effective for severe cases of scalp acne and can cause frizz in some people.

Price: $22.99 (8.5 fl oz)

10. The Body Shop Tea Tree Special Conditioner

This one is a conditioner but infused with tea tree oil which helps to reduce scalp inflammation and oiliness, making it suitable for individuals with acne-prone scalps.

Pros: Natural ingredients, gentle on the scalp.

Cons: Expensive, not suitable for extremely dry hair.

Price: $ 15 (8.4 Fl Oz)

What Is Physical Exfoliation For The Scalp? How Does It Help Scalp Acne?

it’s now understandable about the best shampoo for scalp acne and how to use them now let’s understand what physical exfoliation is.

Physical exfoliation or hair scrubs involve substances that create friction against the scalp. Dermatologists recommend this method if you are allergic to certain chemical ingredients. Hair scrubs are also safe and may boost hair growth. Certain ingredients like coffee can prevent dandruff and inflammation in the scalp and help to unclog the hair follicles. Scrubbing combs are one of the tools that helps remove the product’s residue, dead skin cells, excess oils, and other unwanted impurities from the scalp. 

How Is Physical Exfoliation Different From Chemical Exfoliation?

Potent and active ingredients like Ketoconazole, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid help break down dead and flaky skin on the scalp. This process is called chemical exfoliation which is also recommended by most dermatologists in moderate to severe scalp acne conditions. It also targets clogged pores commonly seen in scalp acne. Whereas physical exfoliation is a manual process and requires an expert to do the job.  Debris, flaky skin, and small bumps are removed using this method.

Now we know which are the best shampoo for scalp acne now let’s find out the products for physical exfoliation

5 Best Products For Physical Exfoliation For Scalp Acne:

The best shampoo for scalp acne has been listed, but there are certain things compared when it comes to physical exfoliation.

If you are allergic to the ingredients involved in chemical exfoliation like AHAs and BHAs, you must opt for physical exfoliation or scrubs. Here are the best 5 products that you can use today to improve your scalp acne.

5 Best Products For Physical Exfoliation For Scalp Acne:
  • Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Scalp Scrub Shampoo: – This shampoo contains natural exfoliants like charcoal and peppermint oil to gently cleanse and detoxify the scalp.
  • The Body Shop Ginger Scalp Care Shampoo: It contains ginger extract, birch bark extract, and white willow bark extract to exfoliate and soothe the scalp.
  • R+Co Crown Scalp Scrub: – this scrub uses sugar cane and coconut extract to gently cleanse the scalp and remove buildup, while white mulberry bark detoxifies and stimulates certification.
  • Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt:- this scrub contains sea salt to exfoliate the scalp, remove buildup, and balance oil production.
  • Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo:- this shampoo contains coal tar to exfoliate and reduce inflammation, making it a great option for those with scalp psoriasis or eczema.

Remember to be gentle when using physical exfoliants on the scalp, as it can be sensitive. Always follow up with a gentle, hydrating conditioner to avoid drying out the scalp.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the best shampoo for scalp acne?

Shampoos with salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or tea tree oil can help treat acne on the scalp.

2. How can I stop the acne on my hair?

Wash hair frequently, avoid using oily hair products, and use a gentle, pH-balanced shampoo.

3. Can shampoo treat acne?

Yes, shampoos with acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid or tea tree oil can help treat scalp acne.

4. Which shampoo is best for scalp acne in India?

Some good options for scalp acne in India are Wow Skin Science Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo, Khadi Natural Amla and Bhringraj Hair Cleanser, and Mamaearth Tea Tree Oil Shampoo.

Conclusion On Best Shampoo For Scalp Acne

To conclude, scalp acne is a frustrating skin condition that affects people of all ages and genders due to various factors such as excess sebum production, hormonal fluctuations, stress, and medication. To treat and prevent it, using the right shampoo is crucial. Shampoos with salicylic acid, tea tree oil, or benzoyl peroxide help unclog hair follicles and reduce inflammation. Avoid using harsh hair products that can irritate the scalp and clog hair follicles. Keep your hair and scalp clean and moisturized to prevent scalp acne. You must consult a board-certified dermatologist or trichologist if you are facing a severe form of scalp acne. They may recommend prescription medications or procedures to clear up your scalp acne. Prevention is always better than cure. Adopt healthy hair care habits and use the right shampoo to prevent scalp acne and maintain a healthy scalp and hair. Don’t let scalp acne affect your confidence. Act today to start your journey towards a clear and healthy scalp.

  1. Europe PMC.(1980).Benzoyl peroxide. Available at:
  2. Informa UK Limited.(2023).Zinc in dermatology. Available at:

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Samara is an expert in skincare and beauty products, offering valuable advice on skincare routines and product selections tailored to every woman’s individual needs.

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