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  5. Scalp Acne: Types, Causes, Treatments & Prevention

That pain when you unknowingly pop a pimple on your scalp while combing your hair is inexplicable! Isn’t it? So how do you treat it?

The ancient science of Ayurveda helps you manage this condition by targeting the root causes internally as well as externally.

In this article, we look at the different types of scalp acne, its causes, and some of the effective treatments to prevent it.

What Is Scalp Acne?

In simple terms, scalp acne is nothing but the blemishes or pimples developed on your scalp skin tissues due to the build-up of dead skin cells and sebum [1] in your hair follicles.

What Does Scalp Acne Look Like?

acne on scalp

Scalp acne appears as small pimples or zits on the scalp skin tissues or back of the head. These pimples are often itchy, pus-filled and painful.

Types Of Scalp Acne

  1. Mild Scalp Acne (Non-inflamed): Blackheads and whiteheads
  2. Moderate Scalp Acne (Inflamed): Papules and pustules
  3. Severe Scalp Acne (Inflamed, Deep & Hardened): Cysts and nodules

“Moderate and severe types of scalp acne can be accompanied by pus formation, itchiness, and soreness,” says Dr. Zeel Gandhi , Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix.

What Causes Scalp Acne/Painful Pimples On The Scalp?

As per Ayurveda, scalp acne can be linked to the vitiation of all three doshas in your body. However, it is primarily triggered by vitiated Pitta dosha. Based on the dominant doshas, the type of scalp acne varies. For example, if the pimples are oozing pus, then it is dominant in Pitta and Kapha. Similarly, if your scalp acne has no inflammation as in the case of blackheads or whiteheads, then it is majorly caused by elevated Kapha and Vata doshas.

The imbalance of doshas results in over production of sebum and dead cell accumulation in your hair follicles. When it is accompanied by a bacterial and fungal infection, it leads to the inflammation of your hair follicles [2], causing pimples on your scalp.

Staphylococcus epidermidis and propionibacterium acnes are two common types of bacteria that infect your hair follicles, resulting in scalp acne [3].

Different factors that contribute to the vitiation of your bodily doshas, thus triggering scalp acne include:

  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Excessive intake of caffeine
  • Alcohol or tobacco consumption
  • Stress
  • Inadequate sleep and irregular sleeping patterns
  • Irritant hair products
  • Improper scalp and hair cleansing regimen
  • Overconsumption of junk, fatty and fried foods that have excess starch
  • Insufficient water intake
  • Unbalanced diets with nutritional deficiencies
  • Constipation
  • Lack of physical activity or over physical exhaustion, etc.

How Do You Get Rid Of Scalp Acne?

1. Ayurvedic Herbal Treatments

Before proceeding with Ayurvedic herbal treatments to treat your scalp acne, you need to understand which of your doshas are in aggravated levels. This will help you choose specific dosha-pacifying herbal treatments for your scalp.

A. Methika (Fenugreek)

It balances Kapha and Vata doshas. Soak half cup of fenugreek seeds in 2-3 cups of water overnight. In the morning, strain the water and use it to rinse your scalp after a head bath.

B. Nimba (Neem)

It balances Kapha and Pitta doshas. Boil a handful of neem leaves in two cups of water for 10-15 minutes. Strain the decoction and let it cool down. Wash your hair with this neem decoction at least thrice a week after a head bath.

C. Kumari (Aloe vera)

It balances all three doshas. Take some fresh aloe vera gel and apply it directly to the acne spots on your scalp. Wash it off after half an hour.

aloe vera cut into pieces

D. Amalaki (Indian Gooseberry)

It balances all the three doshas, especially Pitta dosha. Add a spoonful of amla powder to 2 cups of coconut oil. Heat the oil in low flame until it turns brown. Strain the oil in a glass bottle and use it to massage your hair roots regularly. Use it at least half an hour before your hair wash.

E. Lodhra (Symplocos racemosa)

It balances Kapha and Pitta doshas. Make a fine paste by adding 1-2 spoons of water to 1 ½ spoon of dry lodhra powder. Apply it to your scalp roots and wash it off after half an hour.

F. Haridra (Turmeric)

It balances Kapha and Pitta doshas. Add a pinch of turmeric powder [4] to a cup of olive, jojoba or coconut oil. Warm-up the oil and massage your scalp with it for a few minutes. Wait for half an hour and then wash your hair with an Ayurvedic cleanser.

Vedix Tip: Consume a spoon of Triphala churna every morning. Triphala has natural laxative properties that keep your bowel movement regular, thus maintaining the dosha balance.

2. Ayurvedic Internal Medications

Some of the most common internal herbal medications prescribed to treat scalp acne are:

  • Arogyavardhini vati
  • Mahamanjishtadi quath
  • Raktapachak gana dravya
  • Sukshmatriphala

Your Ayurvedic doctor will prescribe the internal herbal medicines with the right dosage based on your dominant doshas and the severity of scalp acne.

3. Home Remedies

A. Tea Tree Oil

Add a few drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo and conditioner. You can also add a few drops to a cup of carrier oil such as almond or argan oil and massage your scalp regularly before hair wash.

B. Garlic

Mince a few garlic cloves and apply them directly to the pimples on your scalp. Wait for half an hour and then wash it off.

C. Lemon

Dilute a spoon of lemon juice with a cup of water and pour the solution over your scalp. Wait for half an hour before washing it off.

D. Onion

Rub your scalp acne with an onion slice directly. Wait for half an hour and wash it off using a mild cleanser.

E. Yogurt

Apply yogurt on your scalp acne using a cotton ball. Leave it for half an hour and clean it using a mild cleanser.

greek yogurt mask for face and hair

4. Chemical Based Products

To treat scalp acne, you need to ensure that your hair care products, especially shampoos and conditioners are non-comedogenic. Here are some reliable chemical ingredients that you can look for in your shampoo and conditioner to manage scalp acne:

Salicylic Acid:

It provides effective exfoliation of the dead skin cells on your scalp and prevents clogging of your follicles.

Glycolic Acid:

Besides helping with exfoliation, it fights against the microbial growth in your hair follicles.

Ketoconazole Or Ciclopirox:

It is one of the most effective antifungal agents used in shampoos.

5. Other Medications

In case of severe and stubborn scalp acne conditions, your doctor may recommend the following medications to help reduce inflammation, microbial infection, and scarring:

  • Steroid creams or antibiotics (topical)
  • Steroid injections
  • Oral antibiotics or antihistamines
  • Isotretinoin in cases of severe acne [5]
  • Physical extractions by professionals
  • Light therapy

In case you notice any side effects such as allergy, nausea, dizziness, etc, immediately discontinue with the medications.

Can You Squeeze Out The Pimples On The Scalp?

“Squeezing out the pimples on your scalp leads to the spread of bacterial infection to the surrounding hair follicles along with scarring. This can further worsen your scalp condition and result in other hair problems including smelly scalp, scalp folliculitis, and hair loss,” says Dr. Zeel.

How To Prevent Pimples On Scalp?

Regular scalp hygiene practice and hair care routines are pivotal to achieve a clear and healthy scalp. Some of the other preventive tips for scalp acne include:

1. Schedule your hair wash with a gentle Ayurvedic shampoo every 2-3 days.

2. Wash your hair properly every time you sweat after your workout.

3. Always let your scalp breathe. Do not wear tight-fitting headgears.

4. Make sure that your hair products are suitable for your hair type. It is always advisable to choose products that are formulated with natural ingredients.

5. Stay away from silicon-based hair gels and sprays that can clog your follicles.

6. Do not use heavy oils for your scalp massage. Also, avoid using products made of waxes, parabens, and sulfates on your hair.

7. Eat a healthy and balanced diet based on your Ayurvedic doshas. This will help to supply essential vitamins and minerals to your body in sufficient amounts.

8. Stay away from oily, spicy, fried, hot, and over salty foods. Also, avoid eating processed foods and artificial sugar.

9. Do not share your personal hair care items such as combs, towels, etc. with others.

10. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco consumption.

11. Keep yourself hydrated and get enough sleep. Follow a regular sleep schedule.

12. Relieve your stress through regular exercise, yoga, pranayama, and meditation.

How Long Does Scalp Acne Last?

It may take around 4-8 weeks for your scalp acne to resolve completely. Severe acne conditions such as cysts and nodules may take longer to heal. We advise you to consult your doctor if your scalp acne condition does not seem to reduce despite regular Ayurvedic and home-based treatments.

Does Scalp Acne Cause Hair Loss?

Yes. Scalp acne may cause hair loss in regions surrounding the pimple if it is not treated on time. However, if your scalp acne does not respond to treatments for a longer time, it may indicate other severe concerns such as seborrheic dermatitis, deep infection or even skin cancer, which may also be associated with hair loss.

Important Note:

Consult your doctor before using any Ayurvedic herbal treatments and medical drugs mentioned in this article to cure scalp acne.

The Last Word

Just like any other part of your body, pimples can appear on your scalp too. The condition is triggered by dosha imbalances in your body. Your scalp tissues get restored and rejuvenated naturally once your bodily doshas are in equilibrium. Besides, maintaining scalp hygiene is a must. Make sure to practice healthy habits, follow a regular regimen, and eat a nutritious diet to achieve healthy and clear scalp.

At Vedix, we customize an Ayurvedic hair care regimen for your unique scalp and hair needs by evaluating your current doshas.

Know Your Dosha Now

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