Those gross hairline pimples have an easy cure: use the best shampoo for scalp acne. It will wash away the residue, oil, and bacterial build up clogging your pores. And you don’t have to choose a smelly medicinal shampoo – lots of everyday men’s shampoos can defeat acne while giving you handsome, nice-smelling hair.
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Kenkoderm Therapeutic Shampoo (Our Top Pick)
You’ll notice that lots of the shampoos on this list contain salicylic acid. That’s the secret ingredient for curing acne in the long run. Your scalp might initially feel drier than usual, and it’ll flake up to get rid of dead skin, but it’s all part of the process. Salicylic acid goes deep into your skin to dissolve oil-causing acne and bacteria.
Kenkoderm’s therapeutic shampoo is arguably the most effective salicylic acid treatment for your scalp. It really shines when it comes to treating psoriasis and eczema, but it’s just as good with acne. Better yet, it’s a hair-softening shampoo. Use it with a conditioner, and you’ll look and feel great.
• Uses salicylic acid to treat scalp acne. It’s a long-term solution.
• Softens your hair.
• Relieves acne, psoriasis, and eczema.
• Subtle scent. Much better than most acne shampoos.
• Tiny bottle. Use sparingly.
• Don’t go without conditioner.
Acne is itchy. And uncomfortable. And gross. If you’re more worried about the feeling of scalp acne than the appearance, then American Crew is a great option for you. Their itchy scalp anti-dandruff shampoo targets those painful side effects of acne, prioritizing your comfort.
Of course, it does get rid of dandruff and pimples too. But what really sets it apart from the other shampoos on this list is how quickly it gets rid of acne side effects. You’ll feel cleaner and fresher after a couple washes.
It has a nice earthy scent, and the travel-sized bottle is great if you need to get it through TSA or pack it for a gym trip.
• Prioritizes your comfort. Gets rid of acne itches first.
• Subtle earthy scent.
• Convenient travel-sized bottle.
• One of the best men’s dandruff shampoos
• Some purchasers don’t realize it’s travel size. Don’t be fooled! It’s made to get through TSA.
Neutrogena is probably one of the top brands you think of when you hear “acne treatment.” Their shampoo comes with some benefits and drawbacks, but what really sells it is the brand reliability. After all, the company was founded in 1930 – there are so few cosmetics on the market with as much history and credibility as Neutrogena.
One of the biggest shampoo benefits you’ll notice is how well it delivers long-term results. It’s a treatment that you’ll have to use consistently for a few weeks, but the fun part is watching your acne slowly recede and your flakes wash away.
The downside is the chemical smell. Use a fragrant men’s conditioner to cover it up.
• Treats acne, psoriasis, dandruff, and other flaky scalp conditions.
• Long-term acne fighter. Keep using it, and you’ll see results over time.
• One of skin care’s most trusted brands.
• It may initially dry out your scalp. It’s one of those “gets worse before it gets better” solutions.
• Smells chemically.
CLn makes doctor-recommended skin and hair products. In fact, over 10,000 doctors worldwide advocate for CLn soaps and shampoos. If you’re thinking about going to a dermatologist for scalp help, there’s a decent chance they’ll refer you to CLn shampoo.
It’s one of the best scalp acne products for fast results. You’ll notice a difference in as little as 1-2 washes. The catch is that it uses synthetic ingredients and has a medicinal smell. But, hey, that’s not too hard to cover up. Just pair it with a good conditioner.
You can use CLn daily if you need to, but I prefer sticking to 1-3 times per week. You can use a nicer-smelling shampoo in between, and it should still have all the same benefits.
• FAST results. You’ll know in 1-2 washes whether it works for your scalp.
• Bottle is long-lasting, only use it 1-3 times a week.
• Also one of the best shampoos for folliculitis.
• Has that medicinal smell that most guys try to avoid.
Allow me a quick tangent – some forms of scalp acne are known as acne cosmetica, caused by skin and hair products. There’s a solid chance that if you’re suffering from scalp acne right now, your current shampoo or conditioner caused it. You don’t necessarily need acne shampoo, you just need something better than what you’re currently using.
Cue Every Man Jack! Their products are plant-based with gentle ingredients. The vitamin E and eucalyptus in this shampoo is anti-inflammatory, and it repairs scalp and hair damage. The cherry on top? It’s a genuine men’s product, and it has an awesome peppermint scent.
Every Man Jack’s isn’t made for scalp acne…but it is made for every man, and it’d be a shame not to include their all-natural, eco-friendly 2-in-1 shampoo on this list.
• Cool peppermint scent.
• Great lather, gentle plant-based ingredients.
• 2-for-1 AND 2-in-1, a great deal.
• Bottle is made of 50% recycled plastic. Save the earth!
• Not actually an acne shampoo.
Why Am I Getting Pimples In My Scalp?
Scalp pimples are often a sign that you haven’t been washing your hair thoroughly or often enough. Your natural oils, dead skin, and other debris are building up at your roots, which in turn clogs your pores and causes acne.
You may also be getting acne (or something similar to acne) from your shampoo and conditioner. If the product is packed with oils or butters, it can clog your pores just like your natural oils. That’s why cleansing shampoos and conditioners with just a few carefully selected hydrating ingredients are better for your scalp.
We’ve written about the best shampoo and conditioner sets for acne-prone guys before, but in rare cases, it might be better to skip the conditioner and choose a shampoo from this list.
On the whole, I strongly recommend using conditioners. But if you already have short, fine, soft, and greasy hair, you can get away without it. It may be the conditioner that’s causing your scalp acne.
On the other hand, if you have long, thick, and textured hair, conditioner is a must-have for avoiding tangles and protecting your hair from split ends. Just don’t scrub it into the roots of your hair. Focus on the tips and ends to avoid clogging your pores.
What Shampoo Ingredients Cause Scalp Acne?
Thick ingredients in hair products, like oils, butters, and waxes, cause scalp acne. Some common ones include shea butter, jojoba oil, coconut oil, botanicals, and petroleum.
It’s a catch 22 because those thick ingredients are awesome for your hair. They soften the texture and enhance your curls. Some even protect your hair from heat damage and split ends. But at the same time, they clog the pores along your scalp and hair line.
That’s why those ingredients are best in conditioner. You’re not really supposed to lather conditioner into your scalp. It’s only for the tips and ends of your hair. Shampoos get down into your scalp to wash away acne-causing oils and dead skin.
If you’re already using a cleansing shampoo with a thick conditioner, and you’re still getting scalp acne, it could be that you’re having an allergic reaction to the product, or you need to see a dermatologist for more help.
What Helps With Scalp Acne?
Regularly using a shampoo that’s designed to help with scalp acne is one of the best ways to get rid of pimples along your hairline.
Avoid hair products that contain oils and butters, or be prepared to shampoo more often to cleanse your scalp of oil buildup.
For a heavier do-it-yourself treatment, you can also rinse your hair with apple cider vinegar. It balances the acidity of your scalp, and it’s antimicrobial, so it washes away acne-causing bacteria. Apple cider vinegar is even good for your hair. It’s packed with vitamins and minerals that minimize hair breakage and give you a glossier finish.