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Pimples on the Scalp: Causes and Treatment

Sonia Nair
Pimples are most often seen on the face and neck, but they may develop on the scalp too. Here is a brief overview about the causes and treatment for scalp pimples.
Fenugreek leaves can be an effective remedy for scalp pimples. Make a paste of fresh leaves and apply it on the pimples. Rinse after ten minutes.
Usually, pimples on the scalp go unnoticed due to the hair cover. Sometimes, they may get infected, thereby causing symptoms like pain. While occasional scalp pimples are not a cause of concern, they can be persistent and severe in some cases.
When compared to locations like the face, neck, and back; scalp is less prone to develop pimples. However, scalp pimples are not uncommon. Irrespective of the location, the basic cause for pimples remain the same - clogged skin pores.
Pimples are mostly seen in locations with a high concentration of sebaceous glands. These glands produce the oily sebum, which finds its way out of the hair follicles, through small pores. These pores get clogged due to various reasons, thereby blocking the outward passage of the oil. The oil gets accumulated in the hair follicle, resulting in inflammation.
The clogged skin pore may get infected, thereby producing pus. The immune system of the body reacts to this infection by sending more white blood cells to the site. The action of WBCs results in accumulation of dead bacteria and other chemicals. In some severe cases, the infection may also spread to the surrounding areas.

What Causes Scalp Pimples?

As mentioned above, the basic cause of pimples on the scalp is clogged hair follicles; which can be caused by various factors, like poor scalp hygiene, hormonal imbalance, inadequate intake of nutrients, high stress levels, seasonal changes, reactions to some drugs, excess intake of caffeine, and use of some hair care products.
Excessive head sweating can also contribute to the condition, as it creates a humid environment for the bacteria to thrive. Though it is said that intake of certain foods worsens acne, there is no conclusive evidence to prove the same. Harsh chemicals or other ingredients in hair care products may irritate the follicles and cause pimples.
Clogged follicles transform to whiteheads and blackheads, which are the mildest forms of scalp pimples. Sometimes, microorganisms like bacteria and yeast may infect the clogged follicles, thereby causing redness and inflammation. Such papules and pustules may subside on their own.
In some cases, the condition may get severe and lead to cysts and nodules. Occasional scalp pimples are common, and are often found to subside without any treatment.
However, severe and persistent ones need to be treated. Folliculitis is a medical condition, in which damaged hair follicles get infected and inflamed. The condition may affect one or more hair follicles and appear like pimples.

How to Get Rid of Pimples on the Scalp

Usually, scalp pimples resolve on their own and disappear within a few days, but severe ones require treatment. If the painful pimples on the scalp are persistent, you have to take immediate measures to control the condition. While medical attention is required for severe and persistent pimples, home remedies may prove sufficient for milder conditions.

Salicylic Acid

The most common treatment for mild, itchy pimples on the scalp is application of over-the-counter products containing salicylic acid. Regular use of a shampoo with salicylic acid may prove beneficial for reducing scalp pimples. It is also good for preventing future breakouts.
While salicylic acid is considered safe for use on the scalp, products with benzoyl peroxide may cause hair loss, bleaching, and other such irreparable side effects. Even sulfur products can be harmful, when used for scalp acne.

Anti-dandruff Shampoo

In some cases, an anti-dandruff shampoo may work wonders in eliminating pimples on the scalp. This remedy is found to be useful for mild scalp acne. If you want to use a conditioner, keep it away from the scalp. It will be better to apply the conditioner from the hair tips.

Prescription Medicines

Consult your health care provider, if you have severe and persistent scalp pimples. He may prescribe some oral or topical antibiotics, antifungals, anti-acne medication, or steroids. Hormonal therapy is recommended for some people, whereas surgical drainage may be needed in case of chronic pimples.

Home Remedies

  • Apple cider vinegar is a versatile product that is used as a remedy for various health problems. Mix equal amounts of vinegar and water, and use it for rinsing hair. Apart from disinfecting the scalp, this solution is also good for maintaining the pH balance of the scalp.
  • Lemon juice may also prove beneficial for alleviating the condition. Mix lemon juice with an equal amount of water, and use the solution for rinsing hair. You may also rosewater instead of water, as it soothes the scalp.
  • Tea tree oil has antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. In diluted form, it can be used for rinsing hair. Mix a few drops of this essential oil in water. Otherwise mix four parts tea tree oil with one part each of lavender oil and olive oil. Apply it on the scalp and wash off using an anti-dandruff shampoo.
These are some of the popular home remedies for scalp pimples. Others include mashed papaya pulp, fresh tomato puree, ground neem leaves, etc. Apply the paste on the scalp and rinse after 20 to 30 minutes. If you are allergic to any of the items mentioned above, refrain from using them.
Pimples on the scalp is not a cause of worry; provided, they are not severe, persistent, or recurrent. While mild forms of scalp acne may subside on their own, you have to treat severe ones as soon as you notice them. Proper scalp hygiene, however, can prevent such pimples to a certain extent. Avoid excess oiling and use oil-free hair care products. Go for a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Disclaimer: This story is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.