15 Over-the-Counter Hair Products That Are Good for Scalp Acne

Linda White

Some people seem to be more prone to acne than others. We don’t often think about breakouts on the scalp, but they do happen. In fact, they can be quite irritating for those who experience them. That’s why hair products for acne prone skin are extremely important.

Acne on the scalp is similar to acne anywhere else. It can cause breakouts of pimples to occur. Oftentimes, using the wrong products can cause flare-ups and make these breakouts even worse. Thankfully, because it is finally being recognized as a common problem, there are more non-comedogenic hair products on the market than ever before.scr

Many times we don’t realize that we’re aggravating acne with the hair products we use. It could be a shampoo or conditioner, or a gel or styling product.

The worst part about acne on the scalp is that it’s often harder to treat than elsewhere on the skin. Not because it’s any different, but because it’s usually covered with hair. However, it can also be one of the most painful types of acne when you scratch your scalp, use a brush, or even wash your hair. Using acne-safe hair products is a great way to reduce your risk of breakouts.

What Causes Breakouts on the Scalp?

Acne doesn’t occur on the scalp overnight. But, using the wrong OTC products and making certain lifestyle choices can allow it to show up fairly quickly. Breakouts typically occur due to an abundance of oils and dead skin cells. This type of debris can quickly clog hair follicles and get stuck.

Once there is enough of a build up, the oil and skin cells act as food for the bacteria that causes acne. The more debris there is, the more likely it is to have severe breakouts and experience a lot of pimples all over the head.

While people with oily scalps or people who sweat a lot tend to be more prone to it, no one is immune to experiencing acne on the scalp. Again, using the wrong products or making certain lifestyle choices can make all the difference.

Washing your hair with just water, or even most cosmetic shampoos aren’t always enough. You need products that will bind to the oil on your hair and scalp, so it rinses away and lessens the likelihood of a breakout. Let’s take a closer look at some of these tried-and-tested styling products that you can use safely, even if you’re prone to painful conditions of the scalp.

OTC Hair Care Products for Getting Rid of Acne of the Scalp

This article will focus on quality over-the-counter hair products for acne prone skin. From shampoo and conditioner that won’t cause breakouts, to hair gel that doesn’t cause acne, there are positive solutions.

It’s important to know what to look for and what not to look for in the right products. So, we’ll also cover possible causes of scalp acne in the first place. We’ll also touch on ingredients that should be avoided.

Some ingredients can be beneficial to those prone to breakouts. Others can do more harm than good. Finally, we’ll take the guess work out of choosing the right products by offering the best products available to prevent acne breakouts.

  1. Neutrogena T/Sal Shampoo

Neutrogena is a trusted brand in skin care, and its shampoo is no different in taking care of the skin on your scalp. The Neutrogena T/Sal Shampoo is a dermatologist-recommended solution. It helps to control build up from occurring on the scalp itself while relieving symptoms like itching and flaking.

The main active ingredient in this shampoo is salicylic acid. This is often used to treat acne and psoriasis of the scalp, so it works well in this shampoo to prevent irritating breakouts. It’s completely fragrance-free, so you don’t have to worry about clogging up your pores with synthetics.

This shampoo is meant to be used on even the toughest cases of scalp build up. If you’ve been using the wrong products and have an extremely oily scalp, you could have thick, crusty scales on the head. Not only does that lead to dandruff, but could be irritating. Of course, the clogged pores can also cause a breakout.

Neutrogena suggests using the product around three times a week for best results. You can use your regular shampoo in between washes if necessary. If you have a severe scalp build up causing acne, you can feel safe talking to your dermatologist about this product. They may recommend using it more frequently to help break down the scaly build up of oil and skin on the scalp.

This particular Neutrogena T/Sal Shampoo is one of the most powerful on the market. If you have an extreme scalp build up, this is a formula you can trust.

  1. ANTI-b Antibacterial Shampoo

The ANTI-b Antibacterial Shampoo uses natural ingredients to break down clogged pores on the scalp. Not only is it meant to clear scalp acne, but it fights of fungus, other bacteria, and inflammation. If you have a lot of oil and dead skin under your hair, chances are it’s going to start itching. Unfortunately, scratching can lead to bigger problems like bleeding and infection. This product can help to soothe those symptoms.

It’s hard to go wrong with a shampoo that contains quality natural ingredients. The formula for ANTI-b includes:

Not only will these ingredients (and the rest of the formula) soothe an irritated scalp, but they are gentle enough to wash away oil and dead cells. That will leave your skin refreshed and renewed to reduce the likelihood of acne. The sooner your pores can become clear again, the less likely it is you’ll experience a breakout. Some people suggest that they can tell a difference in the overall health of their scalp after just two or three uses of ANTI-b Antibacterial Shampoo.

  1. Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat Shampoo

This shampoo may have a tongue twister of a name, but it delivers serious results. The Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat Shampoo uses the power of tea tree oil to fight back against scalp acne. This is a completely natural formula that contains ingredients like:

  • Aloe vera
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Peppermint extract
  • Sage extract
  • Grapefruit seed extract

The specialized formula is meant to rejuvenate your skin (and hair) while breaking down the cells, oil, and debris that can clog up hair follicles and cause dandruff or acne.

The key ingredient is tea tree oil. This is used in many natural hair products because it contains antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, and antiseptic properties. It is also an anti-inflammatory agent, which can reduce redness and irritation of the skin.

The other ingredients add an invigorating sensation with each wash. The company describes the product as being able to leave you with a ‘clean, pure’ feeling. If you struggle with clogged pores on the scalp, being able to wash away that kind of debris truly can give you the cleanliness you’re looking for. Using natural ingredients, this Giovanni shampoo promises to do just that.

Because it is a natural formula, you can safely use Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat Shampoo every day without the risk of potential side effects if you aren’t allergic to any of the ingredients. It is gentle enough to cleanse the scalp without stripping it of its natural nutrients and oils.

  1. Imperial Barber Grade Matte Pomade Paste

Styling products are often one of the worst culprits for causing breakouts. This is because many of them are thick, heavy, and oil-based. While those characteristics are great for keeping your hair in place, they aren’t always good for your skin or hair follicles. Choosing a water-based styling agent like Imperial’s Barber Grade Matte Pomade Paste is an excellent alternative.

This particular pomade offers a medium hold without weighing your hair down or making it greasy. Some oil-based pomades can be hard to rinse away in the shower. This causes the oil to stay on the scalp, and start to clog up your pores. Not only does this encourage the chance of scalp acne, but it can discourage healthy hair growth.

An added bonus is that it contains all-natural ingredients, including green tea leaf extract. Green tea leaf is often used to stimulate hair follicles. Instead of clogging them up, your follicles can feel rejuvenated. This can lead to thicker, healthier hair overall.

It also contains sunflower seed extract. This extract is known to stop breakage, strengthen strands of hair, and stimulate healthy growth. As you can see, this product is all about growing healthy hair, not clogging the follicles that make that growth happen.

While Imperial’s Barber Grade Matte Pomade Paste doesn’t necessarily advertise this particular pomade as a way to reduce breakouts, the ingredients speak for themselves. Water-based solutions like this will rinse out cleaner and won’t leave a greasy residue behind. If you have to use styling products at all, consider one that isn’t based on heavy creams or oils.

  1. Klorane Dry Shampoo

If you’ve never used dry shampoo, it’s a great alternative to washing your hair every day. Daily washing in hot water with traditional shampoos can strip your hair of its natural oils. This can lead to a dry scalp and damaged hair. But, many people who don’t wash their hair each day are prone to a build up of oils. Unfortunately, that build up can lead to more than greasy-looking hair. It can lead to break outs.

Not all dry shampoos are created equally. Klorane Dry Shampoo is specifically designed for oily hair. It helps to regulate sebum production on the scalp. If your scalp produces too much oil, it can work to make sure it doesn’t weigh down the hair or cause your pores to clog.

The key ingredient in Klorane Dry Shampoo is Nettle extract. Nettle is used in many different hair products. It is known to promote healthy hair overall and prevent hair loss.

One of the biggest benefits of this dry shampoo is that it doesn’t contain any parabens, sulfates, or colorants. These are components that can sometimes stay on the scalp and increase the chances of your follicles getting clogged up. Again, not all dry shampoos are created equally. Many formulas contain preservatives and other ingredients that will cause a ‘gunk’ to form. Klorane does just the opposite.

By focusing on plant-based ingredients, this dry shampoo is one of the best you can use to help prevent breakouts on the scalp and forehead.

  1. Tea Tree Peppermint Moisturizing Shampoo

You may not think a moisturizing shampoo would actually help to reduce oil buildup. But, it all depends on the moisturizing ingredients. This Tea Tree Peppermint Moisturizing Shampoo uses natural, gentle ingredients to hydrate the hair without weighing it down.

A tea tree oil shampoo is making another appearance on this list because of how effective it is. With additional ingredients like rosemary and peppermint, this shampoo is designed to invigorate your scalp and encourage healthy hair growth.

With regular use, you can also experience relief from the following scalp/hair conditions:

  • Dandruff
  • Dry scalp
  • Head lice
  • Dry hair
  • Frizzy, broken hair

This formula contains no sulfates or parabens. It is safe for all hair types, including color-treated hair. The formula is even gentle enough for children and teens. Unlike many other natural products, its formula also offers a pleasant fragrance. All of these beneficial factors make this a shampoo you can use confidently every day. You’ll love the way it makes your hair look and feel, and there are no negative side effects to worry about.

Most importantly, it won’t plug up the follicles on your scalp. In fact, it will help to ‘wake’ them up with rejuvenating ingredients like peppermint oil. Any type of debris that has started to build up will quickly break away. What’s the best part? The company offers a money-back, satisfaction guarantee. If you don’t see results quickly, you can receive a refund with no questions asked. It’s a great way to try a natural product for your scalp without any risk.

  1. SAL3 Salicylic Bar Soap

We don’t often think about using a bar of soap on our scalp. But, scalp acne affects more than just the top of the head. If you sweat a lot or use chemically-laden shampoos, a build up of oils can occur anywhere on your scalp, including the forehead or just at the hair line. This SAL3 Salicylic Bar Soap is designed for skin anywhere on your body – including the scalp.

This powerful bar of soap can help to clear up acne and eliminate itch anywhere. As you might have expected, the key ingredient that makes it so powerful is salicylic acid. The bar contains strong antifungal properties, and can specifically be used on the scalp for seborrheic dermatitis. This is a condition that creates scaly, red patches on the skin. It can lead to itching and dandruff.

The antifungal properties are also important because the build up of debris on the scalp could cause different types of fungal infections. Dandruff is often associated with an overproduction of yeast. A product that is able to ‘scrape’ down a residue of any kind will help to prevent nasty breakouts from occurring. This particular soap will also protect your scalp from many other possible skin conditions.

The one drawback to this bar of soap is the smell. It is made with pure sulfur, and while it has mostly a pleasant, natural scent, some people can be sensitive to the sulfur smell. However, it does wash away, and shouldn’t be noticeable once the soap is rinsed off.

  1. BC Bud Hemp & Omega 3 Botanical Shampoo

You might be noticing a theme here, but using natural ingredients tends to be best for oily hair. This Hemp & Omega 3 Botanical Shampoo is another great example of why. People who have a build up of oils can sometimes have sensitive, itchy skin as a result. In those cases, a formula is needed that’s strong enough to get rid of debris but gentle on skin.

Because this shampoo is derived from natural ingredients, it won’t irritate your skin further, and you can use it every day. The Omega 3 fatty acids actually help to strengthen your scalp and hair follicles. This makes them less prone to irritation and becoming clogged. The ingredients include:

  • Hemp seed oil
  • Aloe vera leaf juice
  • Chamomile flower extract
  • Red clover extract
  • White willow bark

The best part about this shampoo is that it is designed to work like many ‘typical’ cosmetic formulas. It gives shine and volume to your hair. However, it doesn’t contain any sulfates, SLS, or harmful chemicals that can clog up your skin. Instead, it simply leaves your hair feeling clean and refreshed. It won’t leave behind any greasy residue. This shampoo is designed to fully cleanse your hair and scalp, not just clean it.

The company itself suggests that you compare it to regular use with your traditional shampoo. While it may be more expensive than other over-the-counter cosmetic shampoos, it’s worth it for those with sensitive skin or a naturally oily scalp.

  1. Tree to Tub Soapberry for Hair

If you have acne-prone skin, there’s a good chance you also have sensitive skin. This organic shampoo by Tree to Tub is formulated to help with just about any skin condition of the scalp. This includes:Tree to Tub is formulated to help with just about any skin condition of the scalp. This includes:

  • Dry scalp
  • Oily scalp
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Dandruff

It is a dermatologist-recommended shampoo that helps to balance out the pH levels of your scalp. When pH levels are off, it can either cause a build up of oil, or a dry, itchy scalp. With ingredients like aloe vera and unique soapberry, it cleanses your scalp without leaving any residue behind.

This product is hypoallergenic, 100% organic, and safe and gentle on even the most sensitive skin. Because of that gentleness, you can use it every day without having to worry about clogging your pores in the process. In fact, it will help to remove blockages created by other shampoos or hair products.

If your acne is caused by too much sweat, you may not be able to use other shampoos each day because they contain irritating chemicals. If you’re one of those people who needs to clean their hair each day to prevent acne, this is a great way to safely do it. Not only will you be cleaning away oil and dirt, but you’ll be giving your hair essential nutrients in the process. These natural ingredients will leave your hair soft, shiny, and full of volume without feeling heavy.

How to keep the scalp healthy and free from acne

  1. Maple Holistics Degrease

As the name suggests, Degrease is designed to combat against an oily, greasy scalp and hair. Maple Holistics Degrease is a safe, gentle, clarifying treatment designed to restore the hair’s pH balance. In this process, it can get rid of dandruff and a buildup of oils.

This shampoo encourages your hair to produce a normal, healthy amount of sebum. Overproduction of sebum can be a huge culprit for people who have clogged pores on the scalp. Being able to balance out that production can be a great first step in fighting against acne.

While this is a clarifying shampoo, it also won’t dry out your hair. It hydrates the hair follicles from the inside out. But, it also protects them from environmental elements, including overuse of other products with chemicals.

There are no sulfates or irritants to worry about, so it’s gentle enough to use every day on sensitive skin. The antioxidants and vitamin-rich formula will leave your hair feeling full and shiny, without being greasy. It will even help to encourage hair growth – something that can be difficult when the follicles have been clogged.

If you suffer from dandruff as well as acne on the scalp, this is a great solution to introduce into your routine each day. Not only is it safe to use with a low risk of irritation, but it will pull the oil from your hair and scalp to reduce the chance of a breakout quickly. You can expect to see results after just a few uses.

Best of all? Maple Holistics offers a money-back guarantee on this product. If it doesn’t remove the excess oil and grease from your hair and strengthen it, you can return the product with no questions asked for a refund. Being able to take confidence in the shampoo you’re using is important. There is no risk when it comes to trying this natural solution for a greasy scalp.

  1. L’Oreal EverStrong Sulfate Free Shampoo & Conditioner

L’Oreal is a trusted and popular brand in the world of cosmetic shampoos and conditioners. Their EverStrong Sulfate Free Shampoo & Conditioner set is great for those dealing with excessively oily scalps and hair.

The formula is silicone and sulfate-free, so it will leave no chemical residue after you rinse it out. This will help to keep your pores clean and clear, while still giving you the benefits of a cosmetic shampoo. If you have dry hair, this is also a great solution. It contains hydrating ingredients that won’t weigh your hair down or leave a chemical coating on your strands. This gives the other ingredients a chance to penetrate into the hair to do their job.

If you’ve noticed that your hair has become heavy or flat due to a build up of products and oil, this shampoo and conditioner can help to lighten it up again almost instantly. With regular use, debris will be rinsed away. You’ll experience a clean, fully-cleansed scalp and healthy hair that doesn’t hold onto grease as easily.

With all of the natural and smaller companies in this list, it’s easy to forget about big brand names. Don’t automatically assume that all cosmetic shampoos will cause damage or breakouts. Knowing the ingredients and how they work is the important factor. This set by L’Oreal combines a name you probably know, with a formula that breaks tradition for cosmetic hair care products.

  1. Stila Crème Bouquet Hair Refresher

Many dry shampoos are spray formulas. That’s another reason that many of them contain harmful chemicals. Not only can they damage your hair, they can damage the environment. These factors leave many people looking for alternatives.

The Stila Crème Bouquet Hair Refresher is a great way to get the benefit of a dry shampoo without clogging up your pores in the process with chemicals and preservatives. It is a powder formula that you simply sprinkle onto your hair and scalp between regular washings. This keeps your hair from drying out by using regular shampoo and hot water each day.

The effectiveness of the dry powder rests in the fact that it can really seep down onto your scalp. This helps to collect oil on the scalp and follicles and keep it from filling your pores. It contains well-known ingredients like cornstarch and tapioca starch. These are natural ways to remove oil.

Another great aspect to this dry shampoo is that it won’t leave any residue behind. With many hair refreshers, you can notice a white film or powdery flakes. This can become especially apparent on hair that is already quite oily. Because this powder is able to penetrate directly to the scalp, you won’t see any film, powder, or residue left behind.

When you’re ready to wash your hair again, this refresher is still working for you. It will rinse out with the oil and grease it’s collected, cleansing it from your hair and scalp. If you already know washing your hair every day can cause problems, make sure you’re using a dry shampoo that won’t create even bigger ones.

  1. H-S-I Thermal Protector Hair Spray

If you use heat styling tools at all, a quality heat protectant spray is necessary. It will keep your hair from becoming dry, frizzy, and brittle. Unfortunately, these sprays are often filled with chemicals that can leave behind residue and create product residue.

This Thermal Protector Hair Spray offers the protection you need from styling tools. However, it hydrates and nourishes your hair in a natural way, with argan oil.

Argan oil is considered to be ‘liquid gold’ for your hair and scalp. In this particular formula, it penetrates all the way to the hair shaft to protect every strand from heat. However, argan oil won’t leave any type of film behind. In fact, it will seep into your scalp and provide hydration. The moisture that comes from argan oil won’t weigh your hair down or leave it feeling/looking greasy.

The company itself suggests that the argan oil in this formula will leave your hair looking glossy and shiny without the use of artificial moisturizers. It is so light, it even works on fine or thin hair without causing a blockage within the pores.

While this isn’t a completely natural formula, it’s one of the best heat protectant sprays to include natural ingredients. The fewer chemicals involved, the less likely it will be for you to experience clogged follicles.

  1. Free & Clear Shampoo and Conditioner

Just as the name suggests, this set is free of the chemicals and preservatives that can cause a harmful build up on your hair and scalp. Free & Clear Shampoo and Conditioner are made to be a part of your daily hair care routine. It is free of dyes and parabens, and even harsh fragrances that can leave a filmy residue on your head.

This formula is also sulfate-free, which tends to be one of the leading causes of product build up. It is gentle enough to use on even sensitive skin during every wash. The shampoo will help to fully cleanse your hair. It won’t leave a greasy residue behind, and can actually help to reduce an overproduction of oils.

The conditioner will help to add moisture and hydration. But, it doesn’t weigh down your hair and doesn’t leave any thick creams or oil-based solutions behind in the process. If you have dandruff, it’s strong enough to break down the scaly residue that typically occurs. This will reduce flaking, and eventually can get rid of dandruff altogether with consistent use.

While this set is a shampoo and conditioner designed for healthier hair, it also really benefits your scalp by balancing out the pH levels. Not only will you notice stronger, shinier hair that isn’t heavy, but you should notice less scalp irritation overall. If you do have scalp acne already, finding relief from itching and redness is a great way to avoid touching it and scratching it during an outbreak.

  1. Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo

This shampoo uses the power of tea tree oil to get rid of dandruff, and the oil build up that can contribute to it. The reviews suggest that this Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo is the only thing that helps to break down the scales on their scalp and cleanse it completely of dandruff.

Dandruff and scalp acne don’t depend on one another. You can have one without the other. However, their causes have a lot in common. If you have naturally oily skin or are prone to acne, you might also find that you’re more prone to flaking and scaling of the scalp.

This shampoo is safe for all hair types. That includes color-treated hair. It helps to wash away impurities and other product buildups. Plus, it’s gentle enough for regular use. It helps to invigorate and ‘wake up’ hair follicles. That burst of vitality is due to ingredients like peppermint. You’ll also find relief from scalp irritation thanks to soothing ingredients like lavender.

Paul Mitchell is a trusted name for salon products. But, that name combined with the potent effects of tea tree oil truly make this a shampoo you can trust to use without damaging your hair or scalp.

How to get rid of scalp acne

Which Ingredients in Hair Products Cause Acne?

It may be an unlikely ingredient or two in your typical hair product triggering your breakouts. If you notice that you frequently get acne on the scalp, check the labels on the products you frequently use. If they contain some of these ingredients, it could be the reason for your acne.

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) – This is typically added to hair products to give them a foaming action. However, research has proven that this particular chemical can actually cause acne when used in high concentrations. Unfortunately, most cosmetic shampoos contain sodium lauryl sulfate to give them a rich lather. If you’re prone to acne elsewhere on your body, it’s probably best to avoid products with this ingredient altogether.
  • Oils – Oil-based products are popular with people who have dry, damaged hair. Unfortunately, if you’re acne-prone, oils can do more harm than good. Your scalp naturally produces an oil called sebum. An overproduction of this oil can cause a build up to form. If you add to that natural oil with something like jojoba or coconut oil, it can make the scaling worse. On their own, these ingredients aren’t harmful. They can actually be very helpful for people who struggle with a dry scalp. But, if you have naturally-oily skin, they’re more likely to ‘stick’ and create thick scaling that can cause dandruff and acne.
  • Petroleum byproducts – These are found in more hair care products than you might expect. They are used as moisturizers. But, they often stick to the strands and don’t allow the hair to breathe. They are also extremely difficult to wash out completely. So, they stay on your hair (and scalp), and can eventually block your hair follicles. Not only does this encourage acne, but it can limit hair growth.

What Are the Best Ingredients for Acne on the Scalp?

Just like there are ingredients you should avoid, there are some that can actually help with acne-prone skin. Look for products that contain the following ingredients to help with breakouts.

  • Salicylic acid – This is the most popular and one of the most effective ingredients in getting rid of scalp acne. Salicylic acid will help to exfoliate your skin. That includes dead skin cells. So, they won’t have a chance to clog your pores.
  • Glycolic acid – This acid also helps to exfoliate the skin to prevent heavy scaling by products or cells. It also kills certain types of bacteria so other scalp conditions are less likely to occur.
  • Ketoconazole – This is often found in antifungal treatments. You’ll usually find Ketoconazole in anti-dandruff shampoos, and it can help to reduce flaking caused by fungus.
  • Tea tree oil – Used in several of the products on this list, tea tree oil works in multiple ways to fight acne. The biggest benefit is that it is an antibacterial agent. It will actually help to kill the bacteria causing breakouts.

Can Scalp Acne Be Prevented?

Some people are more prone to breakouts than others. This is usually because of their skin type. It can also be from lifestyle choices. When it comes to the scalp, those who are prone to acne can make it worse with certain hair products. While breakouts may not be 100% preventable if you’re prone to them, there are products you can use to decrease your risk.

Choosing the right products for your scalp is all about knowing which ingredients to use. Some ingredients are likely to trigger acne. Others can help to prevent it. Stay away from oil-based products and heavy moisturizing creams. Instead, go for water-based solutions when choosing a styling agent.

Additionally, avoid shampoos and conditioners with sulfate (SLS). It’s one of the biggest contributors to scalp acne.

It’s best to avoid picking or trying to pop a pimple on your scalp. It can lead to itching and irritation. That can open your scalp up to other skin conditions or cause infection. Instead, use one of the products listed in this article. Many of them can easily replace your current styling products, and you’re bound to notice a difference in the nature of your scalp and hair. If you do find yourself suffering from breakouts frequently, we hope the products listed here can offer you some relief.

Copyright 2018 by DryScalpGone.