Best Shampoos for Scalp Acne

Scalp acne can occur due to several different reasons.

However, one of the most common ones tends to be a condition called malassezia folliculitis, commonly known as fungal acne.

Fungal acne is an inflammatory condition caused by an overgrowth of an oil-loving yeast on the skin.

The main issue with this overgrowth is that it can lead to itchy pimples that can become resistant to regular shampoos and treatments.

Which is why you have to use a shampoo that is specifically designed to treat scalp acne and contains active ingredients that neutralize the yeast by cutting off its food supply instead of just masking the symptoms for some time.

Additionally, and because the scalp is likely inflamed, itchy, and sensitive during this time, you also have to consider opting for something that’s gentle, non-irritating, and contains additional ingredients that will soothe and nourish the scalp instead of making the issue worse and leading to issues such as excessive dandruff and flaking.

Therefore, in this article, I’ve rounded up the nine best shampoos for scalp acne that are gentle enough for sensitive and reactive scalps and pack a powerful punch when it comes to getting rid of this malicious yeast.

How I Reviewed Each Product

To ensure that the products on this list are as effective as possible, I considered several key factors.

First and foremost, I only considered shampoos containing active ingredients that have been proven effective against the overgrowth of yeast on the skin, such as ketoconazole, salicylic acid, and zinc pyrithione.

Additionally, I also made sure to include products that are gentle enough for sensitive scalps and won’t cause any additional irritation, redness, itchiness, or allergic reactions.

Finally, I also considered what other people had to say about each product by reading the reviews on various websites to make sure that they actually work and aren’t just a waste of money.

And with that said, let’s get into the list.

Best Shampoos for Scalp Acne Summary

BestFace Wash
Jump to Review
Dead Sea Spa Magik – Mineral Shampoo (Amazon)
On a Budget
Jump to Review
The Body Shop – Tea Tree Purifying & Balancing Shampoo (Amazon)
For Sensitive Skin
Jump to Review
dpHUE – ACV Soothing Shampoo (Amazon)
Best For Oily Skin
Jump to Review
Mielle Organics – Rosemary Mint Strengthening Shampoo (Amazon)
For Dandruff
Jump to Review
Nizoral – Anti-Dandruff Shampoo (Amazon)
Jump to Review
DHS – Clear Shampoo (Amazon)
Jump to Review
Christophe Robin – Purifying Shampoo With Jujube Bark Extract (Amazon)
Jump to Review
John Masters Organics – Zinc & Sage Shampoo (Amazon)
For Exfoliating
Jump to Review
Briogeo – Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo (Amazon)
For Thinning Hair
Jump to Review
Alpecin – C1 Caffeine Shampoo (Amazon)
For Curly Hair
Jump to Review
Melanin Haircare – African Black Soap Reviving Shampoo (Amazon)
For Color Treated Hair
Jump to Review
K18 – Peptide Prep Clarifying Detox Shampoo (Amazon)

Best Overall
Dead Sea Spa Magik – Mineral Shampoo

This product is formulated with gentle surfactants usually used in cleansers, gels, and shampoos intended for baby skin, meaning they are non-irritating and won’t leave your scalp feeling like it’s on fire in order to treat acne.

GoodGlow Score

4.7 /5 5/5 Product Rating

Suitable for use on all hair types

Particularly good for those suffering from a dry, itchy, or psoriasis/eczema-prone scalp or dandruff.



Blended with active Salicylic Acid, Panthenol, and Organic Seaweed.


Free from:

Dairy, gluten, gmos, parabens, pegs, petrochemicals, silicones


Certified organic ingredients

100% vegan and cruelty-free

Aqua (Water), Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Decyl Glucoside, Panthenol (Pro Vitamin B5), Salicylic Acid, Sodium Chloride, Coco-Glucoside, Parfum (Fragrance)*, Piroctone Olamine, Glycol Distearate, Glycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Benzoate, Citric Acid, Maris Sal (Dead Sea Salt), Polyquaternium-7, Sodium Phytate, Sorbic Acid, Ascophyllum Nodosum (Kelp) Extract†, Aspalathus Linearis (Rooibos) Leaf Extract† Chamomilla Recutita (Chamomile) Flower Extract†, Fucus Vesiculosus (Bladderwrack) Extract†, Laminaria Digitata (Horsetail Kelp) Extract†, Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm) Leaf Extract†, Tilia Cordata (Linden Blossom) Flower Extract†, Potassium Sorbate, Benzyl Alcohol.

The Mineral Shampoo by Dead Sea Spa Magic is an excellent option for someone dealing with an excessively oily scalp, dandruff, and scalp acne.

In addition to gentle surfactants that make the shampoo lather nicely and spread across the hair easily, the product also contains beeswax soap, an ingredient that acts as both a soothing agent and cleanser.

Furthermore, beeswax has antiviral and antibacterial properties that can help neutralize bacteria overgrowth in problematic areas such as the scalp.

But the main active ingredients in this shampoo are zinc pyrithione and salicylic acid, which will essentially soothe and get rid of scalp acne.

Zinc pyrithione is a gentle, well-tolerated, antifungal agent typically found in anti-dandruff shampoos and used primarily to treat mild cases of seborrheic dermatitis.

Salicylic acid, on the other hand, is used in shampoos, cleansers, toners, and serums mainly for its keratolytic effect, which causes the dead skin cells on the skin’s surface to shed rapidly and prevent the buildup of cellular debris inside the pores.

Once the skin is free from this buildup, the acne-causing bacteria (or yeast) will lose its primary food source and eventually die off.

Salicylic acid and zinc pyrithione complement each other well because salicylic acid can soften the existing buildup on your scalp and help the zinc pyrithione penetrate the scalp more effectively.

Which is why the Mineral Shampoo by Dead Sea Spa Magik is our top pick for the best shampoo for scalp acne.

Dead Sea Spa Magik – Mineral Shampoo Pros:

  • Gentle surfactants used in the formulation won’t irritate the scalp.
  • Beeswax has soothing, antiviral, antibacterial, and cleansing properties.
  • Contains zinc pyrithione and salicylic acid, which are effective against scalp acne.

Dead Sea Spa Magik – Mineral Shampoo Cons:

  • It might be challenging to buy if you live outside the US.

Best on a Budget
The Body Shop – Tea Tree Purifying & Balancing Shampoo

This shampoo is made with over 90% natural ingredients, including tea tree oil that instantly leaves the scalp feeling cleansed, purified, and invigorated.

GoodGlow Score

4.5 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating

Visibly repairs hair

Made with Vegan Silk Protein, use this refreshing conditioner to help repair hair from the inside out.

Clinically Proven

Best budget option

For oily scalp and acne


Natural ingredients

Made with 97% ingredients of natural origin

Vegan - Clean Ingredients

Registered by The Vegan Society

Including organically-grown Community Fair Trade tea tree oil from Kenya and Community Fair Trade organic aloe vera from Mexico

Aqua/Water/Eau, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetrimonium Chloride, Phenoxyethanol, Melaleuca Alternifolia Leaf Oil/Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Panthenol, Lecithin, Propanediol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder, Menthol, sr-Spider Polypeptide-1, Limonene, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.

The Tea Tree Purifying & Balancing Shampoo is an excellent budget option for anyone dealing with scalp acne, intense buildup, and dandruff but doesn’t want to try a medicated product or something that contains exfoliating ingredients.

But besides this, the Tea Tree Purifying & Balancing Shampoo is excellent for the entire strand and not just the scalp, as it contains nourishing silk protein that’s 100% vegan and works to hydrate and protect the hair from environmental aggressors.

Additionally, the shampoo has a pleasant scent that lingers for a long time after washing and leaves the hair smelling clean and fresh.

The Body Shop – Tea Tree Purifying & Balancing Shampoo Pros:

  • Made with over 90% natural ingredients.
  • Contains tea tree oil, which is excellent for an acne-ridden scalp.
  • Nourishing silk protein hydrates and protects the hair.

The Body Shop – Tea Tree Purifying & Balancing Shampoo Cons:

  • It’s an all-natural shampoo, so it might not be effective immediately, but it will definitely help soothe acne and inflammation over time.

Best For Sensitive Skin
dpHUE – ACV Soothing Shampoo

The dpHUE ACV Soothing Shampoo is an excellent choice for anyone dealing with acne but also skin that’s ultra-sensitive and reactive to traditional or medicated shampoos. Additionally, the shampoo is specifically formulated for treated and colored hair as it helps protect the color from washing out and looking faded and dull after a short time.

GoodGlow Score

4.5 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating
Clinically Proven

Formulated for all hair colors and types

Best for sensitive and reactive scalp


Hydrating Shampoo

Seals the hair’s cuticle and rebalances pH to reduce frizz and increase shine and vitality


Soothing and moisturizing

Does not strip natural oils essential to scalp and hair health


Formulated without:

Parabens, Sulfates, Phthalates, Gluten, Silicone; Animal-friendly and made in the USA

Water (Aqua), Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium C14 – 16 Olefin Sulfonate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Glycerin, Apple Cider Vinegar, Cocamide Mipa, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Water, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Peg-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Polyquaternium-10, Peg-150 Distearate, Polyquaternium-7, Acetic Acid, Panthenol, Maltodextrin, Peg-150 Distearate, Polyquaternium-7, Acetic Acid, Panthenol, Maltodextrin, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance (Parfum)

The dpHUE ACV Soothing Shampoo also contains apple cider vinegar, which has long been used as a folk remedy for treating acne and other skin conditions.

This is because ACV contains acetic acid, which has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe the skin, reduce redness, and even neutralize acne-causing bacteria and yeast overgrowth.

Additionally, the shampoo also contains ginger root water, an ingredient with antioxidant properties that can help protect the skin from environmental aggressors, pollution, and free radicals, as well as soothing and skin-repairing panthenol.

dpHUE – ACV Soothing Shampoo Pros:

dpHUE – ACV Soothing Shampoo Cons:

  • Pricey.

Best For Oily Skin:
Mielle Organics – Rosemary Mint Strengthening Shampoo

GoodGlow Score

4.6 /5 5/5 Product Rating

Strengthening Formula

Excellent for thick, curly, or coily hair that’s also dry and damaged

Infused with Biotin

To reduce thinning hair


Rosemary and Mint

Constains soothing rosemary and purifying mint to soothe redness and inflammation

Clinically Proven


Boosts hair growth

Water (Aqua, Eau), Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Polyquaternium-7, Cocamide MIPA, Glycol Stearate, Polyquaternium-10, Panthenol, Propylene Glycol, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Disodium EDTA, Phytantriol, *Orbignya Oleifera (Babassu) Seed Oil, *Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Oil, *Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail Grass) Extract, Lawsonia Inermis (Henna) Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaves Extract, Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile) Flower Extract, Symphytum Officinale (Comfrey) Leaves Extract, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Extract, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Extract, Honey, Biotin, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Benzoic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Glycereth-2 Cocoate, Fragrance (Parfum) *Certified Organic Ingredient

Mielle’s Rosemary Mint Strengthening Shampoo is an excellent option for anyone with scalp acne and an excessively oily scalp.

Oily skin is one of the most common causes of scalp acne; therefore, combating this issue first can result in the inflammatory condition reducing in severity and perhaps completely clearing up.

And one of the best ways to do this is to introduce a product that contains soothing and redness-relieving ingredients that can cleanse without irritating and drying out the scalp.

The Rosemary Mint Strengthening Shampoo by Mielle Organics is exactly that type of product, as it contains gentle ingredients like rosemary and babassu seed oil, an antioxidant-rich oil that helps keep the scalp free of bacterial and fungal overgrowth.

Additionally, mint not only makes up for the beautiful and fresh scent, but it can also provide antibacterial benefits that neutralize the overgrowth of bacteria on the scalp and reduce the presence of acne.

Finally, the addition of biotin, which is a component that helps improve hair density, can help reduce breakage and promote fuller and healthier hair.

Mielle Organics Rosemary Mint Strengthening Shampoo Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Contains antibacterial ingredients that help reduce bacterial-induced inflammation.
  • Contains soothing ingredients that help relieve the itching caused by excess oil and acne.

Mielle Organics Rosemary Mint Strengthening Shampoo Cons:

  • Might not be that great for excessively dry hair.

Best For Dandruff
Nizoral – Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

The Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is a classic when it comes to relieving conditions such as excess dandruff, itchy scalp, as well as scalp acne, or, more particularly, fungal acne caused by an overgrowth of yeast in areas where the skin tends to get excessively oily.

GoodGlow Score

4.6 /5 5/5 Product Rating

10X More Effective

Antifungal active ingredient helps reduce the severity of fungal acne.

Protecting Skin

Controls Scalp Fungus

Provides quick results with visibly reduced symptoms after a single use.


Gentle on Hair

Helps balance excess oil production.

Clinically Proven

Clinically Proven

Reduces symptoms of itching and redness.

Active Ingredient: Ketoconazole 1% Inactive Ingredients: Acrylic acid polymer (carbomer 1342), butylated hydroxytoluene, cocamide MEA, FD&C Blue #1, fragrance, glycol distearate, polyquaternium-7, quaternium-15, sodium chloride, sodium cocoyl sarcosinate, sodium hydroxide and/or hydrochloric acid, sodium laureth sulfate, tetrasodium EDTA, water

The Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is also excellent for anyone struggling with seborrheic dermatitis, as it contains ketoconazole, a powerful antifungal agent that effectively reduces yeast growth on the scalp and controls flaking, scaling, and itching associated with dandruff.

Lastly, the shampoo is also incredibly gentle and suitable for color-treated and chemically processed hair as well as gray or weak hair.

The best way to use the Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is to massage it into the wet scalp and hair, leave it on for 3-5 minutes, and then rinse off.

It also pairs excellently with the Nizoral Shampoo Brush, which has a soft silicone head to provide a gentle scalp massage and deposit the shampoo evenly across the entire area.

Nizoral – Anti-Dandruff Shampoo Pros:

  • Reduces yeast growth on the scalp.
  • Controls flaking, scaling, and itching associated with dandruff.
  • Gentle enough for color-treated and chemically processed hair.
  • Can also be used as a face mask to prevent fungal acne.

Nizoral – Anti-Dandruff Shampoo Cons:

  • None.

Best Fragrance-Free
DHS – Clear Shampoo

The DHS Clear Shampoo is the ideal product for those dealing with scalp acne but is also struggling with fragrance sensitivities as it’s completely unscented and features a very simple, minimalist formula.

GoodGlow Score

4.7 /5 5/5 Product Rating

Suitable for sensitive and irritated scalp

Helps maintain your skin’s natural PH balance while giving you clean and conditioned hair.


Gentle everyday shampoo

Leaves your hair and scalp feeling fresh, soft, and clean. No stinging. No flaky buildup. No inflammation.


Free from:

Fragrances and dyes for sensitive skin users

Clinically Proven

Quality formulations for decades

Family owned since 1941. Based in California, USA.

Purified Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-8 Distearate, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Benzyl Alcohol, Polyquaternium-22

The consistency of DHS Clear Shampoo is a clear gel, and as such, it doesn’t contain any colorants, and due to not containing any fragrance or fragrant components, the shampoo also doesn’t have any scent.

It pretty much resembles and acts much like a plain soap, just without that harsh soapy scent.

The shampoo suds quite easily into a white, opaque foam, leaving the scalp feeling fresh and cleansed and the hair looking glossy and healthy.

However, due to not containing many nourishing ingredients either, the DHS Clear Shampoo has the potential to make the hair dry and brittle over time or if you use a lot of products on the strands, which is why following it up with a good conditioner or a deeply moisturizing mask at least once a week is recommended.

DHS – Clear Shampoo Pros:

  • Unscented and thus ideal for those with fragrance sensitivities.
  • Cleanses the scalp and hair without irritating the skin and making the scalp feel itchy and inflamed.

DHS – Clear Shampoo Cons:

  • Can dry out the hair if you use a lot of product on your strands.

Best Plant-Based
Christophe Robin – Purifying Shampoo With Jujube Bark Extract

The Christophe Robin Purifying Shampoo is an excellent plant-based option for those dealing with scalp acne alongside inflammation, itchiness, and flakiness due to seborrheic dermatitis and yeast overgrowth.

GoodGlow Score

4.3 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating

Best for:

Itchy scalp, seborrheic dermatitis, and dandruff



Regulates excess of sebum


Makes hair light and shiny

Calms itchiness and is alcohol-free

Clinically Proven

Permanently eliminates dandruff

Nourishing ingredients strengthen and repair the hair

Water, Sodium Myreth Sulfate, Peg-18 Glyceryl Oleate/ Cocoate, Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Peg-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Glycerin, Propanediol, Parfum (Fragrance), Polysorbate 20, Citric Acid, Polyquaternium-10, Zizyphus Joazeiro Bark Extract, Prunus Serrulata Flower Extract, Disodium Edta, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Acetate, Isopropyl Alcohol, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Benzoate, Benzyl Salicylate, Linalool, Limonene, Hexyl Cinnamal, Citronellol, Butylphenyl Methylpropional.

This high-end product is a real treat in the complete sense of the word. It smells divine, its gel texture helps it spread easily on the hair, and it feels amazing on the scalp.

Additionally, once it’s rinsed off, you will see an immediate difference in your scalp and hair texture – the scalp will feel soothed and less itchy, and your hair will feel incredibly clean, soft, and silky.

The Purifying Shampoo contains jujube bark extract as a main active ingredient, a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that helps soothe the skin and relieve any redness, itchiness, or irritation.

Other key ingredients include hydrating and moisture-retaining glycerin, as well as soothing and moisturizing propanediol that helps create a barrier on the scalp to prevent further irritation.

Christophe Robin – Purifying Shampoo With Jujube Bark Extract Pros:

  • Soothes the scalp and relieves irritation, redness, and itchiness.
  • Moisturizes and hydrates the scalp.

Christophe Robin – Purifying Shampoo With Jujube Bark Extract Cons:

  • Contains fragrance and several fragrant components such as essential oils.

Best Cruelty-Free
John Masters Organics – Zinc & Sage Shampoo

John Masters Organics is an organic beauty brand that exclusively carries products free of harsh chemicals, synthetics, artificial colorants, and other potentially irritating components. They are also cruelty-free and aim to provide a luxurious experience at a fairly reasonable price.

GoodGlow Score

4.3 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating

Protective zinc and purifying sage

help alleviate irritating conditions for a soothed scalp while strengthening wheat amino acids leave hair shiny, manageable and soft


Excellent for sensitive and reactive scalp

Exfoliates dry scalp and reduces sebum build-up


Clean ingredients

Sulfate Free, Paraben Free, and Silicone Free

Vegan - Clean Ingredients

70% or more organic content

Vegan and cruelty free

Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (Aloe Vera)*, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Water (Aqua), Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Glycerin, Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, Disodium Coco-Glucoside Citrate, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Citrus Reticulata (Tangerine) Peel Oil, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Peel Oil, Lavandula Hybrida Oil, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Oil (Lemongrass), Cananga Odorata Flower Oil (Ylang Ylang), Coriandrum Sativum (Coriander) Fruit Oil, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil (Geranium), Panthenol (Vitamin B-5), Allantoin, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract*, Commiphora Myrrha Oil (Myrrh), Zinc Gluconate, Zinc Pyrithione, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract*, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract*, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract*, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Leaf Extract*, Equisetum Arvense Extract (Horsetail)*, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Wheat Amino Acids, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glyceryl Stearate SE, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Caramel, Sodium Phytate, Sodium Levulinate, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Limonene†

*Organic ingredient

†A natural component of essential oils

The Zinc & Sage Shampoo specifically is an excellent option for those who are dealing with scalp acne, as it’s formulated with zinc – an ingredient that’s known for its sebum-regulating and anti-inflammatory properties.

This shampoo also contains sage oil, a potent antimicrobial agent that helps keep the scalp clean and free of any buildup that can clog the pores and lead to further breakouts.

Other key ingredients include aloe vera juice, which soothes and calms the skin, as well as wheat amino acids, a blend of conditioning agents to coat the strands in a protective barrier and provide an effortless brush-through, which strengthens the hair and prevents breakage.

To top that off, the Zinc & Sage Shampoo also has a beautiful honey and coconut scent that will make your hair smell divine all day long, alongside neutralizing any scalp buildup and bacteria.

John Masters Organics – Zinc & Sage Shampoo Pros:

  • Contains anti-inflammatory zinc and antibacterial sage to help clear scalp acne.
  • Wheat amino acids help create a protective barrier around the follicle.
  • Has a lovely, sweet scent.

John Masters Organics – Zinc & Sage Shampoo Cons:

  • None.

Best Exfoliating
Briogeo – Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo

Briogeo’s Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Shampoo is an excellent option for those looking for a shampoo that’s also a physical exfoliant to help remove flakes and buildup that’s causing clogs, inflammation, and scalp acne.

This micro-exfoliating shampoo is infused with Binchotan charcoal, which is why it has a dark grey color and a clay-like texture.

GoodGlow Score

4.5 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating

Suited for:

Those with a dry, itchy, and flaky scalp or product buildup



An exfoliating, sulfate-free scalp scrub shampoo treatment that lifts away impurities and buildup


Nutrient-rich blend

Coconut oil, panthenol, and tea tree oil moisturizes and soothes a dry, flaky scalp


Purifying Binchotan charcoal detoxifies and cleanses to help diminish scalp and hair buildup


Safe for:

Color treated, keratin treated, chemically-treated, and relaxed hair

Vegan - Clean Ingredients

Clean ingredients

Vegan, cruelty & gluten free

Water/Aqua/Eau, Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Glyceryl Stearate, Glycerin, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Methyl Oleoyl Taurate, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Lithium Magnesium Sodium Silicate, Panthenol, Xylitylglucoside, Charcoal Powder, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Oil, Mentha Viridis (Spearmint) Leaf Oil, Anhydroxylitol, Bisabolol, Menthyl Lactate, Xylitol, Polyquaternium-7, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-di-t-butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Dehydroacetic Acid, Benzyl Alcohol, Fragrance (Parfum), Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide. Coconut, vegetable, or plant derived.

The activated charcoal acts like a magnet to help draw out impurities, toxins, and dirt from the scalp, while the added coconut oil and glycerin work to moisturize, soften, and nourish the skin.

Another interesting thing about the Charcoal + Coconut Oil Shampoo is that it doesn’t lather at all. This is because of the lack of harsh surfactants, sulfates, and other detergents that can further irritate and dry out the skin.

Additionally, a cooling blend of peppermint and spearmint oils reduces scalp itchiness and gives the shampoo a refreshing scent, while the added tea tree oil helps reduce scalp irritation with its anti-septic and healing properties.

And although this is definitely a more high-end product, the Charcoal + Coconut Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo is worth trying if you want a good manual exfoliation of the scalp.

Briogeo – Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo Pros:

  • Has a lovely scent that’s a mix between peppermint and coconut.
  • Provides an excellent physical exfoliation of the scalp.
  • Removes buildup and acne-causing clogs.

Briogeo – Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo Cons:

  • Pricey.

Best For Thinning Hair:
Alpecin – C1 Caffeine Shampoo

GoodGlow Score

4.3 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating

Boosts Circulation

Helps decrease hair thinning and reverse hair loss


Skin-soothing Ingredients

That relieve scalp irritation and discomfort

Barrier-Repairing Components

Help the skin on the scalp fight pathogenic bacteria more efficiently.


Sensitive Scalp Support

Excellent for sensitive scalp

Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Laureth-2, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Lauroyl Glutamate, Caffeine, Panthenol, PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Propylene Glycol, Menthol, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Polyquaternium- 7, Disodium EDTA, Zinc PCA, Niacinamide, Tocopherol, Vegetable Oil, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol, Fragance, Limonene, Blue 1, Ext. Violet 2.

Specifically formulated for those dealing with conditions like alopecia and excessive hair loss, the C1 Caffeine Shampoo by Alpecin is a product that can help reduce active inflammation on the scalp while also improving hair density and growth, and preventing the hair from becoming thin and brittle.

The medicated shampoo contains a blend of caffeine, which is a natural compound with anti-inflammatory properties that helps reduce the redness, itching, and flaking caused by scalp acne while also stimulating the blood vessels on the scalp to improve oxygenation and promote healthy hair growth.

The absence of harsh cleansing agents also helps reduce irritation, while the addition of zinc and niacin helps to unclog the pores and reduce inflammation while also providing the hair with that extra boost of nourishment it needs to become thicker and stronger.

Alpecin C1, Caffeine Shampoo Pros:

  • Has a successful track record in helping those with hair loss and alopecia improve their hair density.
  • Contains anti-inflammatory ingredients to soothe the scalp and relieve inflammatory conditions such as acne.
  • Improves the blood circulation of the scalp to promote healthy hair growth.

Alpecin C1, Caffeine Shampoo Cons:

  • None.

Best For Curly Hair
Melanin Haircare – African Black Soap Reviving Shampoo

The African Black Soap Reviving Shampoo by Melanin Haircare is an excellent option for those with wavy or curly hair who are struggling with scalp acne alongside buildup, dryness, and flakes.

GoodGlow Score

4.6 /5 5/5 Product Rating

Best for curly hair, oily scalp, and scalp acne

Natural, clarifying shampoo with an instant lather, helps to soothe and calm the scalp


Clean ingredients

Infused with mineral-rich, nourishing and anti-inflammatory oils and butters.

Vegan - Clean Ingredients

Non-toxic and naturally-derived.

Vegan and fragrance free

Clinically Proven

Unisex oil

For men, women and children.

  • Tea Tree: Antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal; helps to visibly remove buildup.
  • Peppermint: Anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal; soothes and stimulates scalp.
  • Black Cumin Seed: Anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal; conditions and soothes scalp.

Water (Aqua, Eau), Decyl Glucoside, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Sodium Cocoate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Glycerin, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Panthenol (Pro Vitamin B5), Lavandula Angustifolia(Lavender) Oil, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf, Argania Spinosa Kernel (Argan) Oil, Nigella Sativa (Black Cumin) Seed Oil, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Charcoal Powder.

The clarifying shampoo has a rich amber color and a thick gel consistency that’s chock-full of skin-loving ingredients like soothing African black soap, aloe vera, and shea butter.

Due to the thickness of the gel, the shampoo is best applied with a shampoo brush, as this will help evenly distribute the product and ensure that every nook and cranny of your scalp is thoroughly cleansed.

Additionally, the African Black Soap Reviving Shampoo also contains a blend of anti-inflammatory and antibacterial oils, including tea tree, black cumin seed, rosemary, and peppermint, which give this product an amazing smell but also help soothe and relieve inflammatory conditions on the scalp.

And last but not least, the inclusion of charcoal powder helps detoxify the scalp and gently exfoliate for a deep cleanse that’s also effective at helping to clear away scalp acne.

Melanin Haircare – African Black Soap Reviving Shampoo Pros:

  • Sulfate-free, clarifying formula.
  • Gentle exfoliation with charcoal powder.
  • Healing and anti-inflammatory oils help soothe inflammation and acne.

Melanin Haircare – African Black Soap Reviving Shampoo Cons:

  • None.

Best For Color Treated Hair:
K18 – Peptide Prep Clarifying Detox Shampoo

GoodGlow Score

4.6 /5 5/5 Product Rating

Hair-Softening Formula

Minimizes frizz and repairs breakage

Exfoliating Salicylic Acid

Dissolves acne-causing gunk inside hair follicles

Cleansing Charcoal

Reduces hair and scalp damage caused by buildup


Does not Fade Color

Nourishes chemically-treated hair without fading color

Water (Aqua) (Eau), Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Salicylic Acid, Charcoal Powder, sh-Oligopeptide-78, Panthenol, Glycerin, Sodium Phytate, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Caprylyl Glycol, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Citric Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Sodium Hydroxide, Fragrance (Parfum), Benzyl Salicylate, Limonene.

The Peptide Prep Clarifying Detox Shampoo by K18 is a gentle and nourishing shampoo that protects color-treated hair from damage while keeping scalp buildup at bay by gently exfoliating the skin.

Infused with salicylic acid, a component that travels deep into the pores to dissolve cellular debris and bacteria that causes acne, as well as activated charcoal as a natural alternative to harsh surfactants that cleanses the scalp and removes impurities that might be weighing your hair down, this shampoo is perfect for anyone looking to get rid of scalp acne without damaging their color-treated hair.

The addition of the brand’s proprietary peptide complex helps protect the hair from bleaching, damage, and breakage while also reducing inflammation and redness of the skin and promoting healthy hair growth.

K18 Peptide Prep Clarifying Detox Shampoo Pros:

  • Won’t damage or bleach color-treated hair.
  • Excellent for scalp acne thanks to the antibacterial and gentle cleansing ingredients.
  • Leaves the hair bouncy and nourished.

K18 Peptide Prep Clarifying Detox Shampoo Cons:

  • Pricey.

Best Ingredients For Treating Scalp Acne

Just like you look for skincare products containing ingredients that will help fight acne on the face and body, you should also look for the same ingredients that can help reduce inflammation and bacteria on the scalp in hair products.

Here are some of the best ingredients for treating scalp acne:

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble ingredient, which means, it can cut through the superficial oil on the skin’s surface and travel deeper into the pores, where it will dissolve the plugs made from excess oil and cellular debris that are clogging the pores and causing inflammation and acne.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is another excellent exfoliating component that dissolves the bonds that hold the dead skin cells tightly packed on the skin’s surface, thus encouraging them to shed and make room for newer, healthier cells from underneath.

This action will help prevent scalp buildup that attracts bacteria and minimize inflammatory conditions such as scalp acne.


Ketoconazole is an antifungal ingredient commonly used to treat fungal infections on the scalp that can worsen existing acne.

It works by disrupting the cell membranes of fungi, allowing them to die off and reducing the risk of further infection, making it an excellent addition to shampoos and other scalp treatments specifically designed for treating scalp acne.

Zinc Pyrithione

Similarly to ketoconazole, zinc pyrithione is an antifungal agent that helps clear the scalp of fungal infections by disrupting the cell membranes of fungi and preventing their overgrowth.

Additionally, zinc pyrithione also has fantastic anti-inflammatory properties, which can help relieve itching, redness, and irritations on the scalp caused by irregularities such as bacterial and fungal overgrowth.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is an excellent natural alternative to harsh sulfates that cleanses the scalp and removes buildup from natural oils produced by the sebaceous glands and hair products that have accumulated on the scalp and are weighing the hair down while also potentially causing bacterial overgrowth that triggers acne.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is an antibacterial component that soothes the scalp and relieves itching and irritation caused by acne.

However, while tea tree oil can help reduce scalp acne when formulated in shampoos, using it on its own can irritate the skin due to its potency.

Worst Ingredients For Treating Scalp Acne

Just like some ingredients can treat scalp acne, others that can trigger or exacerbate this inflammatory condition in various ways.

Therefore, if you are dealing with scalp acne, here are some ingredients frequently found in shampoos you should avoid:


Sulfates are added to shampoos because they can cleanse the scalp and remove buildup. And while efficient at doing this, they can be highly irritating to the skin, which can cause conditions such as dandruff, irritation, redness, and itching.

Additionally, sulfates can be drying to the skin, which can sometimes trigger the sebaceous glands to produce more oil to compensate for the dryness; however, this reaction can lead to oil accumulating inside the hair follicles, causing scalp acne.


Drying alcohol such as alcohol denat, ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, and SD-alcohol can strip the hair of its natural oils, leaving it dry and brittle.

Additionally, and similarly to sulfates, alcohol can irritate the skin, leading to scalp dryness and the overproduction of oil that can potentially cause acne.


Silicones are frequently added to shampoos to improve the viscosity of the formula; however, they are notoriously difficult to wash off and can build up on the scalp, clogging the hair follicles and leading to bacterial infections and scalp breakouts.

Heavy Oils

Heavy oils such as coconut, almond, argan, and jojoba oil can be beneficial to the scalp in small amounts; however, when used in excess, such as applied directly to the scalp to soften the hair, they can also build up in the long term and can clog the hair follicles, exacerbating existing scalp acne.


Petrolatum is an ingredient that’s rarely added to shampoos but frequently found in conditioners and hair masks, and as it’s an occlusive material, meaning it creates a barrier on the skin to prevent water loss, it can potentially cause scalp acne by clogging the hair follicles and trapping bacteria in the skin.

Therefore, avoid using products that contain these clogging ingredients, or at least steer clear from applying them directly to the scalp.

What Causes Scalp Acne?

Scalp acne can be a painful and uncomfortable condition to deal with and can last for a long time if not addressed correctly, which is why identifying the root cause of your scalp acne is crucial to finding an effective solution.

Common causes of scalp acne include:

Clogged Follicles

Clogged hair follicles are the main cause of scalp acne, as this is what has led to the overgrowth of the acne-causing bacteria and subsequently triggered the immune system’s reaction, leading to red, swollen, and painful pimples.

A number of factors can cause the hair follicles to become clogged, such as overactive sebaceous glands, hormonal imbalance, the accumulation of oil on the scalp, unshed dead skin cells, and buildup of external debris, such as pollution from the environment and hair products.


Hyperkeratosis is a condition in which the follicles become clogged with too many dead skin cells, leading to a buildup of keratin proteins. This excess of keratin can cause inflammation and block the hair follicles, leading to scalp acne.

Bacterial Conditions

Bacterial conditions such as folliculitis, a mild infection in the hair follicles caused by the overgrowth of bacteria on the skin, can also lead to scalp acne and hair loss if not addressed in time.

Fungal Overgrowth

Fungal overgrowth is another common cause of scalp acne, and it is usually caused by the presence of yeast on the skin’s surface that feeds off our natural skin oil, leading to inflammation and rash-like pimples.

Is It Safe To Pop Scalp Acne?

It is never safe to pop any pimple, and scalp acne is no different.

Popping scalp acne can lead to the spillage of the infected cellular debris onto other areas, potentially finding its way inside hair follicles and infecting them as well.

Additionally, popping a pimple will leave the tip of the skin ruptured, making it easy for more bacteria to enter and aggravate the infection.

That said, treating scalp acne is a much more effective and long-term solution to reducing the severity of the condition instead of risking more serious infections.

How Frequently Should You Wash Your Hair if You Have Scalp Acne?

Dealing with scalp acne means you should wash your hair regularly to prevent scalp buildup, but overwashing is not recommended, as this can damage the hair and potentially exacerbate the condition in the long run.

Therefore, while the general rule is to wash your hair once to two times a week, everyone’s skin and hair are different, so the best way to find your ideal washing frequency is to experiment and find what works best for you.

How To Keep Your Scalp Hydrated Without Clogging Pores?

Suffering from a dry, flaky, and irritated scalp can be an annoying inconvenience on its own, but it becomes even worse when you know you can’t just drizzle oil all over it to soothe it because doing this will exacerbate your scalp acne.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep your scalp hydrated and soothed, and here’s how to do it without clogging your pores:

Use Lukewarm Water

Washing your hair with hot water can overdry the scalp and irritate the skin. Additionally, constant overdrying can sometimes lead to scalp acne, so use lukewarm water to cleanse your hair and provide the skin with enough hydration without irritating your scalp and potentially triggering acne in the long run.

Avoid Harsh Ingredients in Hair Products

Shampoos are not the only products responsible for scalp irritation, buildup, and acne, so make sure to check the ingredient list of all your hair care products for potentially harsh ingredients that could be causing your scalp to be dry and irritated, such as drying alcohol, irritating fragrance, and clogging components.

Apply Hair Serums

Applying lightweight, hydrating serums that don’t contain heavy oils that could build up on the scalp but are packed with humectants, antioxidants, and soothing components that can give your hair plenty of hydration without clogging the follicles instead is another great way to keep the scalp hydrated and healthy.

Use a Water Filter

Hard water loaded with metals, chemicals, minerals, and other impurities can be very harsh on the skin, leading to irritation and dryness. Therefore, to make sure you are only cleansing your hair and scalp with the purest water, consider investing in a water filter that will prevent these irritating components from affecting your skin health.

Mind Your Environment

The winter months bring dry, flaky, and irritated skin for many, and the scalp isn’t exempt from this either. The cold, dry air can leave the skin on the scalp feeling tight and uncomfortable, so using a humidifier at home to keep your environment moist while also using appropriate protection, such as hats when heading outside, can help keep your scalp healthy and hydrated.

Other Hair Products That Should be Avoided When Dealing With Scalp Acne

When treating scalp acne, you have to become very picky when it comes to the products you will use on your hair, as many of these may be responsible for triggering and exacerbating this inflammatory condition.

Here are a few products you should avoid using when dealing with scalp acne:

  • Hair oils.
  • Hair masks.
  • Heavy conditioners.
  • Styling gels.
  • Dry shampoos.

All these products can build up on the scalp when applied directly to it, leading to clogged pores, inflammation, and an increase in the presence of bacteria.


Can Acne Conglobata Form on The Scalp?

Acne conglobata is a serious inflammatory condition that manifests as severe and often disfiguring nodules that usually form on the face and back. It can also appear, to a lesser extent, on the shoulders, buttocks, and thighs; however, it has not been reported to develop on the scalp.

Can The Food I Eat Cause Scalp Acne Breakouts?

Your diet can cause acne breakouts on the face, body, and scalp, as some inflammatory foods can trigger hormonal imbalances, which can then lead to overactive oil glands, leading to an increase in the risk of developing scalp acne due to clogged pores and bacterial overgrowth.

Are Shampoos With Sulfates Good for Scalp Acne?

Shampoos with sulfates are effective at cleansing the scalp and removing buildup, but they don’t necessarily help reduce scalp acne. There are better and far less irritating ingredients that reduce active inflammation and help treat scalp acne in the long run.

Does Scalp Acne Cause Thinning Hair?

Scalp acne can lead to thinning hair and hair loss because the inflammation can cause the follicles to become unable to produce healthy, new hair, which is why it’s so important to treat scalp acne as soon as possible.

Originally Published: June 11, 2022

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Analyzed by Simone Sydel

Hi, I’m Simone Sydel, a licensed esthetician and acne expert dedicated to helping others solve their skin issues including acne, eczema, and UV damage. I specialize in testing and reviewing the latest acne treatments and beauty products, offering honest, practical advice for skincare. I’ve helped hundreds of clients clear their skin and my skincare product reviews have been read by several hundred thousand people. Thanks for visiting!

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