Is Your Hair Causing Your Acne: 15 Ways Your Hair Could Be Making You Break Out

Haircare is important, but surprisingly, how you treat your hair can also have a big impact on acne. Many popular styles, products and hair habits can actually wreak havoc on your skin. So, if you’re prone to breakouts, you may want to start paying attention to what’s in the formulas making up your hair routine.

woman with long curly hair facing into the sun.

However, you can rid yourself of those pesky hairline blemishes just by changing a few of your habits. With some careful consideration about what you use around your hairline and knowing how to treat breakouts if they show up, you can proudly show off a good hair day without it causing you to break out.

How to know if your hair is causing your breakout

The best way to determine if a hair product is breaking you out is to pay attention to where your breakouts are occurring.  Since your skin can tell you so much about your health, it’s always a good idea to pay attention to what the location of your acne means, as well as what type of acne it is.

Areas that tend to be affected by residue from hair products are the hairline, neck, and upper back or shoulders. The hair’s natural oils, sweat build-up, and even certain hair products can cause an excess amount of oil to accumulate at the hairline.  This excess oil or sebum combined with the oils from your hair, can often mix with bacteria or dead skin and clog your pores to cause whiteheads, blackheads and even blemishes.

Suggested Article: Stop Common Hair Myths from Harming Your Locks

What is Hairline Acne?

When the oil and dead skin cells clog the hair follicles, the bacteria have the opportunity to develop. This is what leads to breakouts.

Additionally, the constant contact between your hair and your skin may be the cause of your blemishes. This is because when your hair touches your face, the natural hair oils and dead skin cells from the scalp will be accumulated, covering the surface of your skin.  This contact and transfer of dirt and oils can cause your pores to become clogged, leading to the breakouts, which is called hairline acne or pomade acne.

Hair habits that could be causing your Acne

Wearing Bangs 

causes of acne can be fringes: woman with a curled fringe holding a leaf over her face.

If you notice a breakout on your forehead, the culprit could be your bangs.

Oil and skin do not make for the best combination. Known as hairline acne or pomade acne, it happens when your fringe is in constant contact with your skin, leading to irritation. Since the forehead is part of the T-zone, it generally produces more oil than the rest of your face. 

When you have bangs that lay directly on the forehead, it can trap oil and bacteria. In addition, the oil from your scalp can transfer to your skin, adding to the sebum overload. 

However, if you don’t want to grow out your fringe, just pin it back during hot, sweaty days to let your pores breathe. Additionally, if you can’t wash the rest of your hair, try and shampoo your bangs to keep it fresh.

Having the Wrong Haircut

While bangs may be the cause to your forehead acne, having the wrong haircut can cause blemishes to appear on other areas of your face too. 

If your haircut allows your hair to come on your forehead or cheeks all the time, the pores on your skin are then blocked by those strands, thus encouraging breakouts. 

So, it’s better to choose a haircut that keeps all the hair off your face.

Leaving Your Hair Down While You Sleep

woman sleeping in bed, lying face down between pillows.

Even if you are good about keeping your hair away from your sensitive skin during the day, you won’t be able to control your movements while you are sleeping, so make sure it is up and out of the way.

When you sleep, your hair can rub on your face and bedding making you more susceptible to breakouts. If you sleep with your hair down, your face will quite literally be pressed against oily strands all night, which could bring on breakouts.

So before going to sleep, pull your hair into a loose ponytail or braid. You should secure it with a silk scrunchie, which is gentle on the hair.

Using Too Many Hair Products

If you’ve noticed breakouts along your hairline, neck, and back, there’s a chance it could be from your products.

Many thick, greasy hair products like pomades and gels are chock-full of ingredients that can drip onto your skin and clog pores. So, try and limit the number of products you use on your hair. 

Try and find multi-functional products that will do many jobs in one. But, if you simply have to use many products because of your hair type, try and wash your hair more frequently to clean out the products from your hair. 

Another option is wrapping your hair in silk fabric while you sleep to prevent the products from transferring to your pillow, or from dripping down onto your skin. 

Hair Myths: Woman brushing her hair whilst sitting on her bed.

Not Washing Your Hair Enough

Washing your hair daily can be damaging to the hair strands, however if you don’t wash your hair often then the accumulated oil and product may cause pimples.

Much like your face, the scalp produces sebum, and if not cleaned properly can cause a build-up that can lead to clogged pores on your head and hairline. Oil is not necessarily a terrible thing as it protects your hair follicles and provides moisture to your scalp. But, everything in moderation. 

An excess of oil causes greasiness and allows fungi and bacteria to grow. This oil will be transferred onto your pillowcase when you sleep, which will then be rubbed off on your skin and clog up your pores.

So, wash your hair regularly or whenever it feels greasy. Furthermore, use a good shampoo that will rid the excess oils in your hair, so your locks are less likely to cause a breakout.

Suggested Article: Clogged Pores: How to Prevent and Minimise Congested Pores for Smooth Skin.

Not Washing Hair Products Out Properly

While you may be washing your hair regularly, you may not be washing out your products quickly enough. 

A product may not cause a breakout when applied and removed within a day or so. However, if you skip several days between shampoos, it could compound with the oil in your scalp and cause problems. 

So, be sure to keep your scalp and hair clean by washing out any hair products properly with a good shampoo and conditioner. 

woman washing her curly hair with shampoo suds.

Suggested Article: DIY Natural Hydrating Body Wash for Dry Skin.

Not Showering After Exercising

Any exercise routine will make you sweat a lot.

Sweating can cause excess hair product to run off onto your forehead and face. This leaves oil residue, which can cause acne.  So, to promote your personal hygiene, you should shower after exercising to prevent this from happening.

Spraying Hair Products on Your Face

Hair products that are used for styling often tend to leave residue on the skin. So, be careful when applying hair products to avoid your forehead area. Furthermore, hair products such as hairspray, mousse, oils, and gels can contribute to an excess of oil and skin reactions in the hairline. Luckily, this is easy to avoid. Instead of spraying product directly on the hair, spray on a comb and then style. Doing so will minimise the chances of unwanted chemicals touching the skin.

Wearing Hats

hair myths: woman smiling at the camera, wearing a hat.

Hats that cover your forehead can collect a lot of skin particles, dirt, dust, sweat, and other things that will most likely end up getting on your forehead and cause acne. So, try and stay away from hats that cover your forehead. As it can cause a build-up of sweat and oil that may cause acne or pimples in the hairline. 

If you have to wear hats, make sure you clean them, so oil and other impurities won’t build up onto the hat and transfer to your forehead.

Using the Wrong Products on Your Hair

If you’re getting acne around your hairline, on your shoulders or upper back, hair products may be the culprit. Where ingredients in shampoos/conditioners are meant to make hair feel soft and healthy, they aren’t the best for skin. 

Although some hair products have rich ingredients may revive dry and damaged hair, they might clog your pores. So, to prevent this, pay attention to the ingredients in your hair products. You should try cutting out common harmful ingredients such as sulphates, silicones, and fragrances.

Suggested article: Determine what is causing your Adult Acne

Showering in the Wrong Order

If acne won’t stop appearing on your face, chest and shoulders try changing the order of how you clean in the shower.

Wash and condition your hair before washing your face and body. Doing so will remove any residue the hair products tend to leave on your skin.  After rinsing your shampoo and conditioner, wash well with a gentle cleanser so it’s the last thing that touches your skin. That way, your cleanser will get rid of any residue your hair care products may have left on your forehead. This order will prevent leftover hair products from staying on your skin.

the back of someones back and head in the shower, washing their hair, with a tiled white background.

Touching Your Face after Styling Your Hair

Throughout the day, it’s natural to touch your face. However, it’s important to be aware that your hands come in contact with many objects that have acne-causing bacteria. Essentially, you don’t want to accidentally transfer the products from your hands to your face so, try and avoid touching your hair, then your face. 

Style your hair before you apply your makeup and then wash hands thoroughly to remove all hair products before you touch your skin.  Or use a damp washcloth or an alcohol-free toner to remove any excess product that may have gotten on your skin.

Hiding Your Acne with Your Hair

One of the simplest ways to keep your skin safe from your hair products is to keep your hair off of your face. In fact, covering breakouts with hairstyles that cover your face doesn’t help and can even make breakouts worse.

Try to keep your hair away from your face and choose a hairstyle to minimise contact with your forehead or cheek area.

Choosing Hair Products that won’t lead to Acne breakouts

Avoid Pore-Clogging Ingredients

Oil-based products tend to trap the most bacteria and create a breeding ground for acne. So, make sure you read the labels! Steer clear of products that contain petroleum, silicones, jojoba oil, mineral oil and shea butter.

Additionally, another ingredient to avoid is panthenol. It is a popular ingredient for providing strength to the hair, but it needs to be combined with heavy oil-soluble ingredients that, in turn, can clog your pores to cause acne. Instead, try and opt for water-based products or shampoos that contain salicylic acid, which help balance oils on the face and scalp.

woman with her hair in a towel, touching her cheek.

Use a Gentle Shampoo

Try and find shampoos that don’t include sulphates or phosphates, as these ingredients strip your hair and skin, leading to acne. So, try looking for organic hair products or ones that include tea tree oil. 

Organic products obviously don’t include sulphates or phosphates, and tea tree has so many benefits. In fact, tea tree oil has many antibacterial properties. It can be used to treat acne and cleanse both the skin and hair.

Suggested Article: Tea Tree Oil: 10 Ways to Use it to Combat Blemishes and Breakouts

Skin habits to prevent/treat acne caused by your hair

Cleanse Your Face Daily

Washing your face twice a day can get rid of any dirt/oils that may transfer onto your skin from your hair. 

Apply a gentle foam cleanser to the face, then rinse with warm water and gently pat dry.  But, make sure you don’t scrub as rubbing can make acne worse.

Exfoliate Your Skin Regularly 

When excess build-up manages to get deep into pores, acne-promoting bacteria quickly follows. This can be hard to remove by cleansing alone. In fact, exfoliation is an essential step in having a clear complexion and being free from blackheads and acne. 

A good scrub will remove the top layer of dead skin cells, encouraging the production of new, healthy cells.  Additionally, it also unblocks clogged skin pores and removes oil and dirt.

woman exfoliating her face, which helps to prevent acne.

Moisturise Your Skin 

Moisturising your skin is just as important as washing it. 

When you wash your face, you strip it out of oils and moisture. This causes your skin to produce more oil and sebum to compensate for the dryness. So, falling to moisturise your skin can lead to over-drying. In turn, this results in the cause of excess oil production.

Keeping your skin hydrated with an oil-free moisturiser designed for acne-prone skin is an important step toward clear skin.

Stay Hydrated

If you’re dehydrated, your body may signal your skin’s oil glands to produce more oil.

Hydrated skin is healthy skin, and when the skin is healthy it can fight breakouts. Furthermore, it can prevent bacteria growth and heal skin faster and better. So, make sure you drink plenty of water to keep your skin healthy and hydrated. 

Suggested Article: Hydration Hacks: 12 Easy Ways to Drink More Water

Try and follow these tips and see if your acne improves! If you’re still suffering from breakouts after changing your hygiene habits, it may be best to visit a dermatologist. They will give you tailored advice to what may be causing your acne. 

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