teenage daughterís hair has become oily over the past couple
of months, and itís causing a lot of small pimples in her
hairline and on her forehead. What could cause this change in
her hair ó it was always on the dry side until recently ó
and whatís the best way to treat acne on the scalp?
During the teenage years, itís common to have more oil on
the skin, including the scalp. As a result of hormone changes
that happen during puberty, children that never had oily skin
or hair before can begin to develop it as teens.
Over-the-counter remedies usually can control breakouts on the
scalp. But if the problem persists, see your daughterís
primary care provider for further evaluation and treatment.
areas of the body typically affected by acne are those that
have the most oil glands ó also called "sebaceous
glands." They include the face, forehead, chest, upper
back and shoulders. The hair follicles are susceptible to acne
because they are connected to oil glands.
puberty, hormones called "androgens" increase
throughout the body. That causes the sebaceous glands to
enlarge and make more oil, or sebum. But excess oil alone
doesnít cause acne. Itís typically a combination of the
oil and dead skin cells, along with bacteria called
Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes. Those bacteria grow on
the skin all the time. When oil production increases during
puberty, however, the Propionibacterium acnes have a more
readily available food source, so they grow and multiply more
blackheads and pimples develop when oil, dead skin cells and
bacteria clog hair follicles. This combination of factors ó
clogged follicles or pores, sebum production and
Propionibacterium acnes ó is the reason multiple medications
often are needed to treat acne successfully.
excess oil and acne affect the hair and scalp, a good first
step is to try an over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoo.
These shampoos reduce the amount of oil on the scalp.
Different brands have different active ingredients, such as
pyrithione zinc, salicylic acid or selenium sulfide. Choosing
two anti-dandruff shampoos with active ingredients that are
not the same, and then switching back and forth between them,
provides the best results for reducing oil on the scalp over
time. For the most effective oil control, encourage your
daughter to shampoo every other day to daily.
anti-bacterial soap also can help treat pimples on the scalp
if there are not many of them or if they are confined to a
small area. As the number of pimples on the scalp increases,
it can be difficult to use anti-bacterial soaps in this
fashion, as they donít work well over large areas of the
acne on her forehead, a wash that contains benzoyl peroxide,
in combination with a topical retinoid such as adapalene, can
be useful. These medications are available over the counter.
to popular myth, acne is not caused by eating greasy food or
chocolate, although diets with a high glycemic index may raise
the risk for developing acne. Dirty skin isnít the problem,
either. Scrubbing skin thatís affected by acne too hard, or
cleaning it with harsh chemicals or soaps can worsen the
problem. If your daughter wears cosmetics, that wonít
necessarily affect acne, especially if she uses oil-free
makeup that doesnít clog pores and she removes her makeup
before going to bed.
persists despite treatment with over-the-counter products,
make an appointment for your daughter to see her primary care
provider. Sometimes prescription shampoos can help reduce oil
on the scalp. And pimples that appear on the scalp may be
eliminated using a prescription-strength topical antibiotic.
Acne can be stubborn, so itís common for a combination of
medications to be prescribed to treat it effectively.