- When to See a Doctor
What are pimples on the scalp?
Scalp pimples aren't usually dangerous. However, they can be painful and hard to treat if they're hiding under hair. If you're not careful about taking care of them, they can get worse and lead to scarring.
The good news is, treating scalp pimples might be as easy as changing your shampoo. Learn about what causes scalp pimples, how to treat them, and prevent them in the future.
Symptoms of pimples on the scalp
All pimples, including the ones on your scalp, pop up because of clogged pores. When oil, dead skin cells, or hair care products block a pore on your head, it can get irritated and develop into a pimple.
Scalp pimples are easy to identify. Like pimples anywhere on your body, they appear as raised bumps that may be tender to touch. For some people, they may pop up in clusters.
Pimples on your scalp may show up around the hairline or further under your hair. Some are simply raised patches that you can feel with your fingers.
The pimples might cause discomfort or pain when you wash, brush, or style your hair.
Types of pimples on the scalp
Pimples on your scalp are similar to pimples on any other part of your skin. Recognizing them helps understand how to treat them. There are three types of pimples:
1. Whiteheads and blackheads
These are small bumps that you can feel when you touch your scalp. They may be whitish or flesh-colored bumps called whiteheads. Blackheads are red bumps with a dark spot on top.
2. Papules and pustules
3. Nodules and cysts
These pimples are the most severe. Nodules are raised bumps that are firm to the touch. Cysts feel softer because they are filled with fluid.
- Scalp psoriasis: Psoriasis is a common condition. It causes the skin to grow too quickly and form bumpy red patches. Psoriasis occurs anywhere on your body, including the scalp. It can be itchy or painful.
- Atopic dermatitis: This is a type of eczema and can appear on your scalp. It can cause dry skin, blisters, or an itching or burning sensation.
- Scalp folliculitis: If hair follicles become clogged and inflamed, it causes folliculitis. Certain hair care products or shaving your head can cause scalp folliculitis.
- Seborrheic dermatitis: This condition is known as cradle cap when it happens to babies. However, it can occur at any age. In adults, it causes greasy-looking flakes and redness.
A doctor can tell the difference between these conditions and help you figure out the best treatment.
Causes of pimples on the scalp
Scalp pimples are caused by clogged pores. The build-up of skin oils and dead skin cells can be the reason for acne. Pore-clogging hair care products are another culprit.
Hair care products that contain heavy ingredients like oils are a trigger for breakouts on your scalp. Certain gels, styling waxes, pomades, or creams are also a cause of pimples. Even some shampoos and conditioners can clog pores.
You can prevent scalp breakouts by looking for washing and styling products that are labeled as oil-free or non-comedogenic.
When to see the doctor for pimples on the scalp
Most of the time, you can treat scalp pimples at home with over-the-counter acne treatments. You might want to switch to a shampoo with anti-acne ingredients. If that doesn't work or you are worried that you may have an infection due to pimples, you should call your doctor.
You should also see your doctor if your acne hasn’t cleared in 6 weeks.
Latest Skin News
Daily Health News
Diagnosis for pimples on the scalp
When you visit a dermatologist about scalp pimples, they should just need to take a look at your skin to understand the problem.
Treatments for pimples on the scalp
If you think your scalp breakout is caused by your hair care routine, stop using the products that you suspect are the problem. Make sure to wash your hair at least every other day to prevent build-up that can clog pores.
If you have determined that your hair care products have caused your scalp pimples, thoroughly wash anything that might have picked up residue from the products. This includes headbands, caps, and pillowcases.
Look for these ingredients to help with scalp breakouts:
- Salicylic acid
- Azelaic acid
- Benzoyl peroxide
If you have severe scalp acne, your doctor might give you prescription-strength shampoo or a topical cream. You might also need a prescription-strength antibiotic or antifungal medication if your doctor recommends it.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Academy of Dermatology: "ARE YOUR HAIR CARE PRODUCTS CAUSING BREAKOUTS?"
American Academy of Dermatology: "SCALP PSORIASIS: CAUSES."
American Academy of Dermatology: "SEBORRHEIC DERMATITIS: OVERVIEW."
American Academy of Dermatology: "WHAT KIDS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT KINDS OF PIMPLES."
American Family Physician: "Topical Therapy for Acne."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Acne."
National Eczema Association: "Atopic Dermatitis."
Top Why Am I Getting Pimples on My Scalp Related Articles
How to Get Clear Skin: 15 Proven Tips for Fighting AcneAcne is the most common skin problem that affects more than 80% of people at some point in their life. If not treated properly, it can lead to scars and dark marks on the skin which might take longer to go away.
Acne (Pimples)Acne is a localized skin inflammation as a result of overactivity of oil glands at the base of hair follicles. This inflammation, depending on its location, can take the form of a superficial pustule (contains pus), a pimple, a deeper cyst, congested pores, whiteheads, or blackheads. Treatments vary depending on the severity of the acne.
Acne QuizAcne is the most common skin disorder in the world. If you suffer from acne, you are not alone and many treatment options are available. Learn more about pimples, blackheads, and comedones with the Acne Quiz.
Dealing with Adult AcneAdult acne causes include hormones, medications, makeup, and other things. Adult acne is treated with medications, products, face washes, and home remedies. Use a skin care regimen provided by your dermatologist to treat adult acne.
What Is the Difference Between Acne Blackheads and Whiteheads?Learn the difference between acne whiteheads and blackheads and how to treat each condition.
Your Hair & Your HealthIs your hair or scalp trying to tell you something about your health? Learn more about dandruff, scalp psoriasis, ringworm on the scalp, folliculitis, scalp pimples, and medications and conditions that affect your hair and body.
How Do You Get Rid of a Pimple Under the Skin Without Damaging Your SkinLearn what pimples that occur under the skin are called, and what you can do about them
How Do You Get Rid of Pimples Overnight?Pimples or acne vulgaris is a common skin condition affecting teens and even some adults. The cause of acne is mainly hormonal. In the case of acne, prevention is the best cure. Hence, maintaining good skin health, avoiding cosmetics, washing face before going to sleep, and checking for hormonal issues are paramount.
How Do You Make Pimples Go Away Fast?Learn what medical treatments can help ease your pimples symptoms and speed up your pimple recovery.
How to Get Rid of Pimples Fast: 11 WaysAcne is a common skin condition that affects the hair follicles and oil glands on the surface of the skin. The skin has several tiny hair follicles at the base of which the hair starts growing. These hair follicles are connected with small oil glands called sebaceous glands, which secrete an oily substance called sebum.
Acne and FoodHow can you get rid of acne breakouts with nutrition? Does this food cause acne? Milk, chocolate, and seaweed are all considered by some to promote acne. Find healthy foods that promote acne treatment. What can diet changes do to improve acne care?
Skin Problems: Rosacea, Acne, Shingles, Covid-19 RashesLearn to spot and treat skin conditions commonly found in adults such as acne, Covid-19 rashes, eczema, shingles, psoriasis, rosacea, hives, cold sores, razor bumps, athlete's foot, and more dermatology details.
Skin QuizWhat's that all over you? Skin, of course! Test your knowledge of your most amazing organ with the Skin Quiz!
What Actually Gets Rid of Acne?We all love surprises, but not all surprises are pleasant. One such surprise being acne or pimple that may appear like an uninvited guest on our face. Often, this may happen right before an important event, such as a function or a presentation. Acne is one of the commonest skin conditions affecting almost everyone at some point in their life.