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Pimples on the Head, Symptoms, and Treatment

Pimples are small pus-filled bumps usually caused by clogged pores and are common among adolescents. It appears mostly on the face, chest, and back. However, it has recently been discovered along the hairline and is known as pimples on the head or scalp acne and is equally disturbing. S

So, are you wondering how to address them? In this article, we’ll tell you all you need to know.

Types of Pimples on the Head

Different types of scalp acne are often characterized by small and itchy pimples and may become crusted or sore. They include whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts.


Whiteheads are caused by clogged pores, excessive oil secretion, and sometimes, hormonal imbalances. They are non-inflammatory and can be cured by OTC (over-the-counter) prescription.


As the name implies, it appears as a blackhead and not closed like the whiteheads.


This is another form of acne. It lacks pus but is caused by excessive oil production that results in clogged pores and dead skin cells. They are inflammatory and often in the form of red bumps.


This is very much like Papules but contains pus (a yellowish fluid).


Nodules are inflammatory red bumps that go beneath the surface of the skin. Bacteria cause it.


Cysts are the worst form of acne and are a result of an infection in the body. They appear softer and can easily be squeezed out, which can cause scarring.

Causes of Pimples on the Head

Generally, pimples are caused when the skin pores or hair follicles are clogged. Clogged pores are usually a result of poor hair hygiene and maintenance, excess oil secretion from the glands, and tight or irritating clothing on the head, e.g., a hat. This may fill the pores with mites, yeast, or bacteria.

Certain organisms cause reactions and result in scalp acne. They are yeasts, staphylococcus epidermis, cutibacterium, Propionibacterium acnes, Demodex folliculorum, and staphylococcus aureus.

Another cause of scalp acne is poor nutrition. Increase intake of sugar in carbohydrates triggers acne.


The signs and symptoms of scalp acne are no different from acne occurring in other parts of the body. They include:

  • Clusters of small red bumps on the scalp with a whitehead
  • Pimples may appear as whiteheads or blackheads.
  • Sore or crusted pimples
  • pus-filled bump
  • Itching
  • Burning sensation
  • Pain


Acne treatments are tailored towards the cause of the breakouts. They are majorly topical treatments that you can buy over the counter. Common ones are salicylic acid and Benzoyl peroxide.

Also, prescriptions could be given by a doctor, especially when the acne is severe. These drugs seek to balance the hormones (e.g., Androgens) in the body. Otherwise, they help to decrease oil production in the body.

For scalp acne, there is not much difference. Often, the doctor recommends a scalp treatment using a particular shampoo product. Shampoos cleanse the scalp and eliminate dirt and excess oil that may lead to a clogged pore. Although they are medicated, they can be gotten over the counter. However, it is important to look out for the following ingredients.

Tea Tree Oil

For many years, tea tree oil has topped the list of effective home remedies for acne. Hence, it is present in most skincare products. This essential oil contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and therefore great for any acne.

Salicylic Acid

It works as a treatment option and also as a preventive measure. It is an active ingredient that penetrates the skin and eliminates dead skin cells by acting as an exfoliator.

Glycolic Acid

This acid is derived from sugarcane and common in skincare products because of its antibacterial and antioxidant elements. It eradicates dead skin cells by breaking the barrier between the skin’s surface and the cell layer that follows. It does not dry the skin and improves the skin texture and appearance.


Ciclopirox is an antifungal medication that is used to treat mild and moderate acne. It is used with other ingredients and often present in dandruff shampoos.


This ingredient reduces the inflammation and irritation that other topical products may cause. It is effective for treating fungus or yeast and generally improves the skin appearance.

Benzoyl Peroxide

This ingredient, together with salicylic acid, is the most known type of acne-fighting ingredient. It has an antibacterial element effective for fighting Propionibacterium acnes which are associated with severe scalp acne.

Apart from shampoos, the doctor may also recommend oral and topical antibiotics, antifungal creams, steroids, injections, and antihistamines for allergies, retinoids, and light therapy (phototherapy).

An individual should take each treatment at a time or as ordered by a doctor. Only through this can one effectively determine each product’s potency and whether it causes any allergy.

Furthermore, it is best to prevent such a breakout. Preventive measures include

  • Wash your hair as often as possible to avoid excess oil production and consequently clogged pores
  • Avoid putting on tight headgears or irritating scarves or hats
  • Wash hair after a workout
  • Use organic hair care products only
  • Stick to a specific hair care routine with limited effective product
  • Taking supplements that are rich in Vitamins, particularly A, D and E. They may be gotten over the counter
  • Observe your food eating habit to determine which you react to

Home Remedies

Furthermore, certain home remedies can also help in eliminating scalp acne, and they are:

Apple Cider Vinegar

ACV is an acne-fighting ingredient with antimicrobial properties which help to reduce acne symptoms through pH balancing.


  • Mix 2-3 apple cider vinegar in water
  • Shampoo and condition your hair
  • Massage the mixture to your scalp gently
  • Wait a few minutes before rinsing it out

Tea Tree Oil

Although it is used in many skincare products, you may apply it topically. It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that unclog hair follicles and minimizes inflammation, and eliminate dandruff.


  • Dilute 1-2 drops of tea tree oil in a carrier oil such as jojoba oil or coconut oil
  • Massage the mixture into the scalp evenly and gently.
  • Wait a few minutes before rinsing out.

Final Thoughts

Pimples on the head or otherwise known as scalp acne, are treated similarly to acne on the face or other parts of the body. Nonetheless, the symptoms are different in individuals, and it is advisable to consult a doctor.


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