The Main Causes Of Pimples On The Scalp And How To Deal With Them

Reviewed by Dr. Soma Sarkar

MBBS, MD - Dermatology

Written by Urvi DalalSep 16, 2023
The main causes of pimples on the scalp and how to deal with them

Acne is a very annoying problem to deal with, but it becomes a lot worse when it is on your scalp. Brushing, washing and styling your hair becomes really difficult. If not cared for, this situation can become a lot worse and lead to problems such as bleeding, scarring, hair loss, etc.

As stressful as this problem is, if cared for at the right time, it can be cured and controlled quite easily with the right knowledge, precautions and care. And to make this problem simpler for you, we spoke to a dermatologist, Dr. Soma Sarkar, to help us understand the problem of pimples on the scalp better. In this article, we discuss everything – from the causes and precautions, to what exactly one should do to heal pimples on the scalp effectively.


1. Causes of pimples on the scalp

Frequently asked questions about pimples on the scalp

Finding out about the various causes of pimples on the scalp gives you a better understanding of this condition and makes treating it a lot simpler. The main reason behind the occurrence of scalp acne is the clogging of follicles, which can be caused by dirt, bacteria or oil. Let’s look at these causes in detail -

i) Hair oiling –

“This is the most common cause of pimples on the scalp,” says Dr. Soma Sarkar. “The scalp is rich in sebaceous glands and the natural sebum secretion is enough to lubricate scalp and hair. Oily hair becomes a rich medium for dandruff to grow in that area and this gives rise to acne on the scalp,” she concludes.

ii) Scalp folliculitis –

This is a condition where there is inflammation of the hair follicles and the natural host bacteria feed on the excess sebum. This can also give rise to pustular lesions on the scalp,” explains Dr. Sarkar

iii) Seborrheic dermatitis

This is another common cause of pimples on the scalp according to Dr. Sarkar. In this condition, you’d notice greasy, scaling skin and acne-like eruptions on the scalp. More commonly known as dandruff, the white or yellow-ish flakes on your scalp can end up clogging your pores, resulting in breakouts and pimples on the scalp.

iv) Lack of personal hygiene

If you are someone who is lazy about washing your hair and avoid shampooing for a long time, then this could be the reason behind the cause of scalp acne. The sweat, oil, dirt and pollutants, all end up settling on your scalp, and end up clogging your pores over time. This could give rise to scalp acne.

v) Product build-up –

A lot of times, there is a build-up of hair care products on your scalp, which clogs follicles and irritates your scalp, giving rise to pimples on the scalp. It is important to rinse away your hair care products thoroughly, as well as use a clarifying shampoo once in two weeks to get rid of product and dead skin build-up thoroughly.

vi) Acne keloidalis nuchae –

Dr. Sarkar says, “This is a rare condition that causes pimples, usually on the hairline and nape of the neck, and is another rare but definite cause of pimples on the scalp.”


2. Are there any at-home hair care steps that help to prevent scalp acne?

Frequently asked questions about pimples on the scalp

Pimples on the scalp can easily be treated as well as prevented at home with a little precaution, lifestyle changes and home remedies. “It is really important to keep the scalp clean by washing it regularly. Wash your hair using shampoos with antifungal and salicylic acid-based components. Avoid oiling your hair and using too many styling products if you are already prone to this condition or have an oily scalp. Do not use heat styling tools very frequently.” warns Dr. Sarkar. Apart from the above, following these simple home remedies for scalp acne will make a huge difference –


- Tomato juice

Frequently asked questions about pimples on the scalp

A great way to treat pimples on the scalp is to balance and maintain the pH levels of your scalp. And since tomatoes have excellent pH balancing abilities and also salicylic acid, it works really well to reduce pimples on the scalp in no time.

How to – Simply squeeze out some fresh tomato juice and apply it all over your scalp using a cotton pad. Leave it on for about an hour and wash it off with a gentle SLS-free shampoo and conditioner for best results.


- Apple cider vinegar

Frequently asked questions about pimples on the scalp

Known for its excellent antimicrobial properties, apple cider vinegar inhibits acne-causing bacteria from your scalp and reduces the chances of scalp acne. Additionally, it also possesses pH balancing properties to prevent your scalp from getting too dry or oily.

How to – In a tumbler full of water, add two to three teaspoons of ACV and mix well. Post shampooing and conditioning, rinse your scalp with this mixture. Leave it on for about a minute and then wash it off the water.


- Garlic

Frequently asked questions about pimples on the scalp

Garlic is a rich source of salicylic acid, which is an excellent remedy to reduce and prevent pimples on the scalp. A rich source of antioxidants, antifungal and antiviral properties, garlic is an amazing natural hair care remedy to deal with scalp acne.

How to – Boil about 4-5 cloves of garlic in three to four cups of water until the water slightly reduces. Rinse your scalp with this brew once a week for amazing results. Use this as the first step in your hair wash routine so that your shampoo and conditioner can wash away the smell of garlic.


- Tea tree oil

Frequently asked questions about pimples on the scalp

The anti-inflammatory properties of tea tree oil work as an excellent remedy to treat pimples on the scalp. It is a great way to unclog pores and reduce follicular inflammation, thereby ensuring a marked reduction in scalp acne in just a few uses. By reducing inflammation, tea tree oil also works as an excellent remedy to reduce hair fall and promote hair growth.

How to – Mix about two-three drops of tea tree essential oil with a lightweight carrier oil such as jojoba or almond oil (avoid coconut oil if you have an oily scalp). Massage this mixture onto your scalp very gently and wash it off after about an hour.


3. Frequently asked questions about pimples on the scalp

Frequently asked questions about pimples on the scalp

Q. Does your diet have anything to do with pimples on the scalp?

A. Dr. Sarkar says, “Diet definitely plays an important role when it comes to aggravating scalp acne. One has to cut down on refined sugar, refined flour, dairy products and fizzy drinks. Sugar influences the growth of inflammation, which leads to acne and can worsen existing scalp acne.”

Q. How long does it take for scalp acne to heal?

A. “Scalp acne takes at least three to four weeks to start showing any signs of improvement. But this is just the start. For this condition to completely be resolved, it may take a while, depending on a number of factors such as the type of scalp, severity of the condition, response to treatment, etc.,” explains Dr. Sarkar.

Q. Can scalp acne cause hair loss?

A. If yes, how do I combat it?] If you have observed hair fall due to existing scalp acne and are super worried, then Dr. Sarkar has the answer to this. She says, “Yes, scalp acne may aggravate hair fall due to the inflammation caused at the hair follicle. But if treated in time, this condition is not at all permanent and can be easily reversed. All you need to do is visit a doctor, take proper care and medication, and your hair won’t be affected at all.”

Urvi Dalal

Written by

Writer, avid reader and hardcore beauty enthusiast is the best way to describe Urvi Dalal. With over 5 years of writing experience in the beauty industry, you can trust her to have the latest skin, hair and makeup tidbits on her fingertips. In her time working as a beauty writer, she has had the opportunity to interact and work closely with a string of dermatologists, makeup artists and hairstylists. All that knowledge exchange, coupled with her flair and love for writing make it possible for her to bring you some authentic yet fun beauty content. When Urvi isn’t working, you’d usually catch her curled up with a big, fat book, drinking a cup of tea or practising her makeup skills; there is no in-between!


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