Acne on the head: causes and treatment

The appearance of inflammation in the scalp sometimes becomes noticeable only when they are accompanied by itching or pain. That is why it is more difficult to cope with them, since a person does not notice the initial stage of skin disease. You should be attentive to any inflammatory elements in the hair and promptly engage in prevention and treatment. Otherwise, they can lead to deep abscesses, seborrhea, or alopecia areata (baldness) in areas of large acne.

Causes of acne on the head

A large number of sebaceous and sweat glands are located under the hair. It is their blockage and inflammation that most often causes acne. However, this can happen due to the influence of various factors.


The appearance of acne often indicates a malfunction in the body. So deterioration in health or disruption in the work of certain systems leads to increased production of sebum, expansion and clogging of pores and the formation of acne due to the multiplication of pathogens.

Endogenous causes include:

  • Failure of the endocrine system when the body produces large amounts of sex hormones. For example, during puberty or during pregnancy.
  • Improper diet , abuse of sweets or foods high in unsaturated fat.
  • Dehydration , which causes the sebum to thicken and the sweat contains large amounts of irritating salts and metabolites.
  • Bad habits such as smoking and frequent alcohol consumption.
  • Stress , which is associated not only with the production of large amounts of the hormone cortisol, which affects the secretion of the sebaceous and sweat glands, but also with the nervous scratching of the skin. Microbes from under the nails penetrate the epidermis and multiply there, which provokes the appearance of pustules.
  • Decreased immunity , which becomes unable to cope with pathogens.
  • Insufficient blood and lymph circulation in the upper dermis of the scalp. The reason may be vascular disease or congestion, injury, wearing tight hairstyles and even poor posture. 
  • An allergic reaction to food, vitamins, medications, or care products. 


In cases where human health is normal, and acne under the hair still appears, you should pay close attention to external factors affecting the scalp.

These include:

  • Shampoos, masks, balms and other care products that dry out the epidermis excessively and make the sebaceous glands work even more intensely. 
  • The cold season , when more sebum is released. This process is driven by evolution and is needed to protect hair from damage and loss.
  • Excessive or insufficient hygiene. Too frequent washing dries the epidermis, insufficient washing leaves excess sebum and dead skin particles on the surface, which leads to clogged pores and the formation of comedones . 
  • Head contact with synthetic headgear that does not absorb sweat and grease. Too dirty hats or pillowcases also contribute to acne.
  • The habit of fiddling with hair, scratching the scalp, too sharp a comb or hairpins that leave micro-trauma. 

All these internal and external causes are equally common in people of both sexes at completely different ages. However, there are some that are most typical only for men, women or children.

Acne on the head in women

Hair acne can appear for reasons that only women experience. This is due to a wider variety of care and cosmetic procedures, lifestyle and physiology.

Ladies may find painful pustules on their heads due to:

  • Staining with aggressive pigments. The fact is that ammonia or hydrogen peroxide, which are part of the hair dye, negatively affect the epidermis. They dry it, and in case of violation of coloring technologies , they burn it. As a result, the stratum corneum thickens, the pores are clogged.
  • During pregnancy, during which the production of progesterone increases, the skin becomes oily, including under the hair.
  • Abuse of electric curlers, hair dryers, curling irons and irons. All of these styling devices work by heating. The skin sweats more and produces more sebum to protect the hair from drying out .
  • Scalp injection. In pursuit of luxurious hair, women resort to invasive procedures. Cosmetologists inject various vitamins and amino acids with a syringe, and sometimes the patient’s own blood plasma. Painful infiltrates may form at the injection site. Unfortunately, this is a fairly common side effect of any injections, and even performing the procedure under sterile conditions does not guarantee quick healing without consequences.

Hair inflammation in men

If women are sometimes characterized by excessive attention to beauty and hair care, then men often neglect this. On the other hand, shorter haircuts reduce the risk of scalp inflammation by providing contact with air. However, there are acne in this part of the body that is typical only for men.

They are associated with:

  • Wearing tight protection or uniform headgear. Helmets, helmets, caps are rarely cleaned and washed from the inside; moreover, they close off the air and create the so-called “greenhouse effect”. The head sweats, and microorganisms multiply faster in a favorable environment.
  • Shaving the head with a machine, as a result of which the hair follicles are injured, irritations appear, which serve as the gateway to infection.
  • Harmful working conditions associated with dust or exposure to aggressive chemicals such as coal dust, chlorine and other halogens, paper dust, fine wood particles.

Important! If a man wears long hair or exotic hairstyles, such as dreadlocks, more careful approach to hair and scalp care is needed. Due to the activity of male sex hormones, the skin secretes more sebum than women do. Men’s hairstyles get dirty faster, and the epidermis is more sensitive to dryness . 

Pimples on the head of a child

Before puberty, children’s skin is more prone to dryness. The appearance of inflammation on the head is a serious reason to take care of the baby’s health.

They can testify:

  • About an allergic reaction. Transparent small blisters with a red areola are the most obvious symptom of food intolerance. Babies can get unwanted substances in their mother’s milk. 
  • An infectious disease such as measles or chickenpox. In this case, the rash is not only under the hair, but also on other parts of the body.
  • About prickly heat – a condition associated with irritation of delicate skin by sweat. If it is hot in the room where the child constantly lives, or if the parents dress him too warmly for a walk, sweat has a long-term effect on the epidermis, corroding the pores, into which infection easily penetrates. 

Need to know! At the age of about 2-6 weeks, the processes of launching its own immune system occur in the newborn’s body. Those hormones and protective proteins that he received from his mother are excreted from the body, including through the skin. At this time, small red pimples may appear on the baby’s cheeks and forehead . On the nose there are white comedones – milia , and the scalp is covered with a dense white seborrheic crust. This is a natural process that will take place on its own within a month. These pimples should not be squeezed out, but the crusts should not be picked. Thin skin is extremely easy to get infected, which spreads quickly, causing dermatitis and eczema. 


It is necessary to approach the treatment of acne of the scalp as comprehensively and systemically as to rashes on other parts of the body.

As a rule, in order to finally forget about the problem of acne in your hair, you need:

  • Adjust your diet and drink more clean water to prevent allergies and dehydration. 
  • Change pillowcases more often and wash hats. 
  • Do not abuse care products , wash your hair no more than 1-2 times a week, avoid exposure to aggressive paints and traumatic procedures, regularly clean and disinfect the comb.
  • If the rashes are profuse and appear frequently, seek help from a specialist : trichologist , dermatologist, endocrinologist. 
  • Together with the treatment prescribed by the doctor, use proven folk remedies : a decoction of nettle, calendula, sage, hop cones or string. 

The problem should be approached not only comprehensively, but also individually. Before starting treatment, you need to carefully analyze what preceded the appearance of acne, when they more often make themselves felt. From time to time it is worth examining the scalp, noting the appearance of a large number of dead particles of the epidermis – dandruff, comedones , redness, scratches.


Regardless of gender and age, people face acne on the scalp. The causes of their occurrence, as a rule, lie in the hypersecretion of the sebaceous glands and the reproduction of pathogens. In addition, there are specific triggers that trigger scalp acne. It is on the basis of an analysis of the prerequisites that care and treatment should be chosen. It is worth remembering that it is easier to prevent any problem than to deal with the consequences later. The scalp deserves as much attention as the face, hands or other visible areas. 

event_note November 6, 2020

account_box Dr. Peter B Milburn

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