How To Deal With Acne Along The Hairline

by Gio
how to deal with acne on the hairline

Is your hair care routine giving you acne?

Pimples can pop up anywhere – when you least expect it. They’re annoying like that. But when they spring up really close to your hairline, it’s often a sign you need to change your conditioner.

Or mask. Or give up on your pre-shampoo treatment. You get the point. Something may be working for your hair, but not for your skin. And you want a routine that works for both.

Cos what’s the point of having shiny locks if they’re crowning a bunch of red, angry pimples?

What Causes Acne Along The Hairline?

Acne always starts with a clogged pore.

It works like this: your sebaceous glands pump up more oil than your skin needs. Unable to flow out, the excess gets stuck in the pores, where it mixes with dead skin cells and all the gunk in there.

This goo is P. Acne’s fave food. It munches on it, proliferating all over the place. When bacteria proliferate too much, the pore gets infected and bursts. Hello, pimples!

In the case of acne on the hairline, there’s another culprit: the haircare products you use. Some shampoos, conditioners, and co may contain comedogenic ingredients that get stuck in the pores, clogging them up.

FYI, they’re more “dangerous” when you apply them. But if you’ve used too much and your hair are coated with them, they can still clog pores as they brush against your skin.

Related: Adult Acne: Why It Happens And How To Treat It


Want a cheap skincare routine for acne that works? Subscribe to my newsletter below and receive The Ordinary Acne Skincare Routine Cheatsheet:


How Do You Prevent Acne On The Hairline?

You can prevent acne on the hairline with a few tweaks to your haircare routine:

  • Avoid forehead: When you apply your haircare products, be careful not to let anything drop on your forehead. It may clog pores.
  • Hair first: When you’re in the shower, make sure you wash and condition your hair first, and then wash your face. That way, your cleanser will get rid of any residue your haircare products may have left on your forehead.
  • Use only what you need: Apply only the amount of conditioner you need (excess conditioner doesn’t do anything for your hair anyway), and only on the length of the hair, avoiding the roots and scalp.
  • Avoid comedogenic ingredients. Look at the ingredient list of your hair care products to see if your can figure out what ingredient is giving you problems, so you can avoid it in the future. Most people blame silicones, but natural oils are more likely to be the culprit.

Related: What Ingredients Are Comedogenic?

How Do You Treat Acne On The Hairline?

Acne is acne, no matter if it’s on your chin, back, or forehead. That means you treat acne on the hairline just like any other type of acne. Here’s how:

Step 1: Exfoliate With Salicylic Acid

Acne happens when your pores are clogged. Unclogging them is a job for salicylic acid.

Unlike other exfoliants (hello, glycolic acid and scrubs!), salicylic acid gets deep inside the pores, removing all the gunk that’s stuck in there and giving you pimples.

While it’s at it, it uses its anti-inflammatory properties to reduce the redness and inflammation that always comes along with pimples.

Best Picks:

Related: Why Salicylic Acid Is Key To Spot-Free Skin

Step 2: Use A Spot Treatment

Salicylic acid can help you prevent acne. But what if you already have it? That’s where you need a spot treatment that can kill P.Acnes, the bacteria responsible for acne.

You have two options here: Benzoyl Peroxide or Sulfur. Here’s all you need to know about them:

  • Benzoyl Peroxide: It kills P.Acnes by generating free radicals (yep, the nasty molecules that speed up the aging process). Plus, it’s harsh on the skin. Use it on pimples ONLY.
  • Sulfur: It kills P.Acnes, dries out blemishes, and helps reduce excess oil. In my experience, it works faster than BP, but it’s harsh and drying. Again, use it on pimples only.

Best Picks:

Related: Sulfur: Good For Acne, Bad For Skin?

The Bottom Line

If you’ve got on the hairline, chances are your haircare products are to blame. But the treatment is the same: avoid comedogenic ingredients, exfoliate those pores, and spot treat those angry pimples.

How do you deal with acne along your hairline? Let me know in the comments below.

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9 comments

Janessa April 21, 2012 - 4:24 am

I didn’t know it was due to hair products, well I never thought much about it actually. I just thought oily skin + oily hairstyle that touches the face = breakouts. I have bangs and I don’t break out at all though I do have drier skin and non-greasy hair haha. 😀 I usually put some product (texturizing paste) on my hair including my bangs and I haven’t broken out though I’m really careful (can’t think of a better word and don’t want to… wrote a HUGE essay last night) about cleaning my face.
I always look forward to your posts! I check my email soo much and I always look for ‘beautifulwithbrains’

beautifulwithbrains April 22, 2012 - 6:56 pm

Janessa, aww that’s really sweet.

Some hair products contain ingredients that can cause breakouts in some people, especially those with oily or acne-prone skin. If your is dry, then I don’t think you should worry that much about your hair care products, but being careful when you apply them and washing your hair first and your face last in the showers are always good habits to have. You never know after all.. 🙂

Janessa April 23, 2012 - 1:42 am

___ this is supposed to be a giant smiley. :]
O |
O |
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Janessa April 23, 2012 - 1:43 am

Aw, didn’t actually turn out haha!

beautifulwithbrains April 23, 2012 - 5:50 am

Aw, shame! I appreciate the thought though, *hugs*

Makeup Morsels April 21, 2012 - 6:38 am

ahh such a useful article! It took me forever to figure out that my breakouts were from shampoo, particularly shampoos with dimethicone. I never thought about applying shampoo further back from the hairline and pre-cleanser though, even though it seems like it would be the obvious thing to do. Thanks for the tip! Maybe I’ll try that w/ some of my dimethicone-laden shampoos because they do work really well.

beautifulwithbrains April 22, 2012 - 6:57 pm

Makeup Morsels, I’m glad you found this post useful. And I’m sorry to hear shampoos with dimethicone break you out, but by following these simple tips you should be able to use them without problems. 🙂

Kt April 14, 2017 - 11:39 pm

I dont think my breakouts are associated with hair products. I rarely use them and I use shampoos that are supposed to be sulfate free and gentle. My hairline acne really bothers me on the back of my head and neck areas although I will develop some spots on my forehead. It is really quite annoying and sometimes painful. Wish I knew how to prevent these from forming.

Gio April 21, 2017 - 8:00 pm

Kt, what about your conditioners? Do they have any of the ingredients I mentioned in this post?

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