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Can Hair Products Cause Acne and Breakouts?

Your hair care choices may be the key to clearing up your acne.
December 08, 2023

If you have acne-prone skin, you’ve likely tried making every adjustment in the book to your skin care routine to prevent and manage breakouts — from switching to a cleanser for oily skin to trying spot treatments formulated with acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid. If it seems as though you’re doing everything right, only for your acne to persist, there could be another culprit in the mix. 

You may have heard the rumors that your hair causes breakouts — more specifically, oily, greasy hair, but there’s still a lot of speculation around the subject. Hair products causing acne are a common reason for the blemishes showing up on your face, especially around the forehead area. Keep reading to discover whether or not this is a myth and to learn more about the effect your hair has on your skin, plus tips to prevent acne caused by hair products. 

Does Hair Cause Acne?

A study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) states that greasy hair hanging over the face does not have any effect on acne. That said, there is anecdotal research, and many people believe greasy hair touching the skin can lead to acne.


Can Hair Products Cause Acne?

As it turns out, the hair care and styling products you use could be the factor behind your breakouts. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) states that shampoos, conditioners and styling products can cause whiteheads and other types of acne along your hairline, the upper part of your forehead and along the back of your neck. Of course, not every product is to blame, there are certain formulations and ingredients you should be cautious of to avoid coating your hair in acne-causing oils. 

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Which Hair Ingredients Can Cause Acne?

Hair products that contain oil — like coconut oil, castor oil, jojoba oil — can often be the culprit for the acne near your hairline. Per the AAD, these oils can make their way to your skin and in turn clog your pores, which can result in acne. You may immediately look to your hair serums and pomades since these are more obvious offenders, but other styling products like styling gels, pastes and sprays contain oil, too. 

That doesn’t mean you have to stop using these products altogether. It’s all about how you apply these hair care products, how much you use and being mindful of where the hair interacts with the skin. More tips below.

5 Tips to Prevent Acne Caused By Hair Products

As you can imagine, there are a few tips you can follow to clean up your hair care and styling routine and clear up your skin. Here are six tips to keep in mind.


1. Check the Ingredient Label

When it comes to your hair care and styling products, there are a few things you should look for on the label. The AAD recommends searching for options that claim they won’t clog your pores and are oil-free and non-acnegenic. These products will be specifically formulated for those who are prone to breakouts.

2. Use a Clarifying Shampoo

To remove product buildup, it’s a good idea to use a clarifying shampoo weekly if you have greasy hair, curly or coily hair or any hair type that deals with a lot of product buildup. Thin hair and those with dry scalps can also use a purifying shampoo every other week or as needed. This will prevent any residue from acne-causing hair products from leading to future breakouts.

Try L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Clarifying Shampoo with Antioxidants, which instantly purifies oily roots with a sulfate-free formula that won’t strip hair of the natural oils it needs. The formulation of antioxidants, vitamin C and glycine keeps hair nourished and moisturized while ridding the scalp and hair of product buildup and hard water coating the hair. You want your shampoo to rid your hair of all the bad stuff that might transfer to your skin. 

Pair your shampoo with the coordinating conditioner for the best hair results. For the above shampoo, add L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Restoring Conditioner with Antioxidants, which locks in nourishment for brighter strands, replenishing hair with hydrating nutrients. 

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3. Sleep With Hair Wrapped in a Scarf

By now, you probably know that wrapping your tresses (regardless of hair type) in a silk scarf before hitting the hay is beneficial to your strands. But have you considered how it’s also helpful for your skin? By sleeping with your hair in a silk scarf, you can prevent strands of hair from rubbing on your face and spreading product residue onto your skin. 

4. Clip Up Your Hair When Using Hair Masks

If your in-shower routine includes hair treatments outside of your shampoo and conditioner, be cautious of the hair that’s sticking to your skin in the process. When you apply your hair mask, glossing treatments or scalp treatments the product sits on the hair for a while as the formulation does its job. These products are good for your hair's health, but consider pulling your strands up with a claw clip while you have the treatments on to avoid having your mask-coated hair lay on your back and cause bacne, or on your face and cause blemishes.

5. Wash Everything – Clothes, Bedding and Skin

Speaking of residue, over time, buildup from your hair care and styling products can layer on different household and clothing items, which can result in breakouts. To prevent future breakouts, the AAD recommends that you wash anything your head likely came into contact with, including pillowcases and sheets, hats, headbands, and visors. And as always, wash your face. 

Use a gentle cleanser like L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Radiant Smoothing Cream Cleanser, which won’t dehydrate your skin while it rids skin of impurities like dirt, sweat, oil, makeup and buildup from hair care that’s made its way onto your face.

Next: What Causes Clogged Pores and How Do You Get Rid of Them?

Photo: iStock

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