Shampoos for scalp acne

6 Best Shampoo To Treat Scalp Acne In 2023

Here are the reviews of the best shampoo to treat scalp acne. These contain ingredients like tea tree oil, ketoconazole, etc. that help control acne. Check out which medicated shampoo is best!

Acne on your face is bad enough. But acne on the scalp? Disastrous! So I set out to find the best shampoo to treat scalp acne. 

It’s very easy to get pimples on your scalp. The sebum, dirt, and product build-up can get clogged in your hair follicles, leading to acne.

Related: Best Shampoo For Psoriasis

Related: Best Shampoo For Dry Itchy Scalp

The chances of these are more, especially if you have a problem with excess oiliness or wear wigs, hats, or headgears for a longer time.  

Sometimes, bacteria or fungal infections can also occur inside these clogged pores, worsening acne.  

Shampoos For Scalp AcneBest ForChief Ingredients
Neutrogena T/Sal ShampooSevere Scalp Acne3% Salicylic Acid
Tree To Tub Soapberry For HairColor-treated HairSoapberry, Tea Tree Oil, Saw Palmetto
Phyto Apaisant Botanical Soothing Treatment ShampooDry ScalpsPassion Flower, Salicylic Acid, Vitamin E
Christophe Robin Purifying ShampooOily ScalpsJujube Extracts, Salicylic Acid
Vanicream Free & Clear ShampooSensitive Skin, AllergiesGlucoside, Glycerin, Panthenol

Top Shampoo To Treat Scalp Acne 2023

What is the best medicated shampoo for scalp acne? Well, I asked our medical reviewer Dr Bhavika Shah to tell us more about these products.

  • She says that “Scalp acne can be relentless and irritating, making it difficult to find an effective solution. Thankfully, there are some medicated shampoos on the market that are known to help eradicate scalp acne quickly and efficiently.
  • According to Dr Bhavika, “One of the most popular medicated shampoos for scalp acne is the Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo. This potent formula contains 0.5% coal tar, which is a common dermatologist–recommended ingredient that helps to combat scalp blemishes.”
  • It also contains zinc pyrithione, which has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties that make it extra–effective in attacking scalp acne.”
  • She adds that, “Another gentle but effective shampoo for scalp acne is the Selsun Blue Medicated Treatment Shampoo. Boasting natural antifungal properties, this particular formula is ideal for eliminating stubborn scalp acne. An added benefit of using this medicated shampoo“, she continues, “…is that it will also help reduce itching and flaking with its nourishing yet powerful blend of salicylic acid, aloe, and pyrithione zinc.
  • Finally, the WOW Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo is another excellent choice for people dealing with scalp acne. It is made with organic raw apple cider vinegar, which helps to naturally exfoliate the scalp and wash away dirt, bacteria, and excess sebum.”
  • She says that “Fortunately, it is also free of harsh detergents and sulfates, so it won’t irritate the skin or strip away essential nutrients.
  • So, in conclusion, there are a variety of medicated shampoos on the market that can help combat scalp acne. All of the products mentioned above contain active ingredients that are gentle yet powerful enough to help quickly and effectively eradicate acne flare-ups. Ultimately, these shampoos can provide effective relief and restore scalp health.

How to select a shampoo for scalp acne?

If you’re setting out to buy a shampoo to treat scalp acne, I suggest looking for a product that contains:

Tea tree oil: It’s a fantastic anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antibacterial agent. It helps reduce infection and calms redness and itching. 

Salicylic acid: Also known as BHA, this is chemical exfoliant that unclogs pores and removes impurities from deep within the skin.

Sulfate free: Sulfates are great for clarifying pores, but they can worsen irritation. So I suggest looking for shampoos with milder surfactants like ‘sulfonates’.

Fragrance and dye-free: A lot of shampoos for scalp acne are unscented or smell bad. But trust me, having perfume or artificial colors in there is worse. It can cause irritation and dry out your hair. So better avoid it. 

What Ingredients to Look For and Avoid When Buying Shampoo for Scalp Acne

As if facial acne is not bad enough, there’s scalp acne as well! Doesn’t get any better right? Or does it? Let me tell you how!

Just how you look out for ingredients to use and to avoid when buying a shampoo for a regular hair wash.

When you are prone to scalp acne, you can consider buying shampoos like these:

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1. Sulfate-free shampoos:

Sulfates are harsh in nature and can strip away the essential moisture content from the scalp, leaving the scalp dry and irritated.

These sulfates can clog the pores on the scalp and result in scalp acne and breakouts.

2. Shampoos containing salicylic acid:

Just as salicylic acid can help reduce facial acne, it can also help reduce and treat scalp acne.

This acid helps break down the dead skin cells on the scalp and reduce excessive oil or sebum from building up and settling on the scalp.

This keeps the pores clean and scalp healthy, reducing the chances of scalp acne formation.

3. Silicone and cationic surfactant-free shampoos and conditioners:

These ingredients are usually found in conditioners as they help keep the hair hydrated and moisturized.

Silciones act like a protective layer on the hair and unfortunately can settle on the scalp and clog the pores.

This traps in all the product buildup, dirt and grime, etc, leading to scalp acne. Hence, avoiding using conditioners on the scalp and using them only on the hair, is recommended.

4. Shampoos containing zinc pyrithione:

If you’re looking out for that one perfect ingredient in s shampoo for scalp acne, then this one’s the best one!

Zinc pyrithione can help reduce bacteria and yeast formation on the scalp as it has antibacterial properties.

How To Get Rid of Scalp Acne Naturally

Do you have scalp acne? Scalp acne can become extremely irritating, embarrassing and uncomfortable. When your scalp’s covered in zits, it’s hard to enjoy your life without worrying about what other people might think.

Fortunately, it’s possible to reduce scalp acne naturally with the right products and treatments.

For starters, the most important element of getting rid of scalp acne is a quality shampoo. Look for natural and organic shampoos that are specifically made to treat scalp acne. These types of shampoos will not only soothe your scalp but also target underlying causes like excess oil and bacteria.

They will also help balance your skin’s pH levels. If you want to go the extra mile, look for ingredients like tea tree oil, aloe vera, apple cider vineger, or rosewater; these ingredients can reduce redness and inflammation of your scalp.

Once you’ve invested in a good shampoo, you can build on your routine by applying a light moisturizer such as aloe vera or jojoba oil. These act as a protective layer against bacteria, dirt, and oil. In addition, you can use a specific scalp mask that will help clear out your pores and keep your scalp healthy.

If your scalp acne persists, it’s a good idea to visit a dermatologist who can provide you with a comprehensive treatment plan. Depending on the cause, they might suggest a topical cream or antiseptic solution. Laser treatments can also be used to reduce inflammation and redness.

Or, your dermatologist might suggest that you adjust your diet to reduce acne-causing elements. No matter what type of scalp acne treatment you go with, consistency is key.

Stick to your routine and be sure to use the right products. With a consistent approach and the right products, you’ll be able to get rid of your scalp acne naturally and feel more comfortable and confident in your own skin.

What Causes Acne on Scalp

Understanding the cause of scalp acne is key to finding the right solution. With that being said, there are quite a few different things that can trigger the skin disorder in an otherwise healthy-looking scalp.

Many times it is linked to genetics and hormones, but other causes of scalp acne can include sebum build-up, heat, and irritation. Sebum build-up can be caused by overly active sebaceous glands on the scalp which can lead to a build-up of oils and debris on the scalp that end up clogging the pores.

Heat, on the other hand, can increase sweat and body heat which can create an environment that allows bacteria to grow on the scalp which can in turn cause acne.

Lastly, irritation and sometimes even allergens can be known to cause inflammation and irritation on the scalp resulting in clogged pores, and eventually, scalp acne.

All these conditions can certainly be bothersome, but with the right shampoo, you can help prevent and treat scalp acne. It’s important to choose a shampoo that is free from harsh chemicals, preservatives, and sulfates as these can cause an inflammatory reaction on the scalp.

Also look for anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory ingredients, as these can help soothe and reduce skin irritation caused by scalp acne.

Finally, be sure to choose a shampoo specifically designed for scalp acne to help repair the skin and balance its natural oil production, as well as gently cleanse the scalp to prevent flare-ups.

How I rated the top shampoos for scalp acne?

So a good shampoo for scalp acne should help reduce excess sebum, unclog pores, remove dandruff and product build-up, and calm irritated skin.

When testing out the top shampoos for scalp acne in the market, I rated them on a scale of 5 for the following parameters:

  1. Acne Reducing Properties: I looked for shampoos that contained active ingredients that are known for reducing acne such as tea tree oil, salicylic acid and more.
  2. Gentleness – I then checked if the shampoos are gentle (meaning free of ingredients like sulfates, perfumes and alcohol that can irritate skin)
  3. Affordability  – Of course, I also checked how affordable the shampoos were.
  4. Fragrance – Scalp acne can be triggered by perfumes, so I checked if the shampoos didn’t contain artificial perfumes
  5. Hair Care – I also noted if the shampoos offered other hair care qualities other than reducing scalp acne. Such as moisturizing hair, dandruff reduction, damage control, etc.

I reviewed some of the shampoos to treat scalp acne and here’s how it went. Check out my reviews below!

Neutrogena T/Sal Shampoo

medicated shampoo for scalp acne

This Neutrogena T/Sal Shampoo is one of the more famous shampoo to treat scalp acne. So I was quite excited to try this dermatologist-recommended product. 

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The chief ingredient here is 3 percent salicylic acid or BHA which is a common part of many skincare products for acne. 

It’s a gentle chemical exfoliant that removes all the impurities from your scalp. It also removes product buildup accumulated due to excess use of gels, conditioners, and hairspray.

I also liked how the shampoo did not contain any sulfates. There are no SLS or SLES in here. 

But there is a milder form of surfactants called sulfonates. These do not strip the natural oils from your scalp or trigger irritation.

Best shampoo to treat scalp acne

However, they can remove hair dye from strands. So I wouldn’t advise people with color-treated hair using this shampoo.

Other than that it’s a great product for sensitive scalps as there are no artificial colors, fragrances, or preservatives here. It’s alcohol-free too. 

The shampoo is super effective at removing flaky crusts, dandruff, acne-causing bacteria, and other dirt from your scalp. It’s also fantastic at unclogging hair follicles. 

Best shampoo to treat scalp acne


  • Mildly exfoliating
  • Gentle on sensitive scalps
  • Can be used for psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis
  • Affordable
  • Free of artificial colors, scents, and preservatives


  • Not for color-treated hair
  • Can get drying if used regularly 

Acne Reducing – 4.5/5

Gentleness – 4/5

Affordability – 5/5

Fragrance – 4/5

Hair Care – 3/5

Tree To Tub Soapberry For Hair – (best tea tree shampoo for scalp acne)

best tea tree shampoo for scalp acne

A lot of these clarifying shampoos that treat scalp acne tend to be medicated or very drying on your hair. 

But I wanted something to look after my tresses as well as reduce the pimples on my scalp. And I found it in the Tree to Tub Soapberry shampoo.

This product is free of any harsh chemicals. So no sulfates, alcohol, parabens, artificial color, fragrances, silicones, or anything of that sort!

And the best part? The shampoo uses natural soapberry extracts to create lather. So there are no milder chemical surfactants.

Best shampoo to treat scalp acne

This means you can use it on color-treated hair without a second thought. 

I especially loved the nourishing formula. There’s aloe vera, soapberry, coconut extract, sage, and tea tree oil that takes care of acne. 

And there’s also DHT blockers in the form of saw palmetto and caffeine that promote hair growth. 

This shampoo works so well on scalp acne because of its pH balanced, anti-inflammatory formula. It’s slightly acidic 5.5 pH perfectly matches the human body.


  • Natural ingredients
  • pH balanced
  • No sulfates or harsh chemicals
  • DHT blockers prevent hair loss


  • Not strong enough for severe acne problems

Acne Reducing – 4/5

Gentleness – 5/5

Affordability – 3.5/5

Fragrance – 4.5/5

Hair Care – 5/5

Phyto Apaisant Botanical Soothing Treatment Shampoo

best shampoo for forehead acne

Most acne-reducing products focus on reducing sebum production as well. But what happens if you have a dry scalp and acne?

I found this Phyto Apaisant shampoo when I was looking for something that will nourish my scalp and get rid of pimples.

The product contains passion flower extract, mallow extract, coconut, and vitamin E all of which help hydrate scalp and reduce itching and inflammation.

Despite the presence of the exfoliant salicylic acid, this shampoo didn’t dry out my locks!

Best shampoo to treat scalp acne

There are no sulfates in this shampoo either. So you can use it care-free on your color-treated hair. 

While the formula is definitely soothing and calms acne, redness, and irritation, I found it a bit mild, especially when you compare it to the older, discontinued Phyto Intense shampoo.

So if you have seborrheic dermatitis or severe acne, a slightly more powerful shampoo like the T/Sal is a better choice.


  • Mild and nourishing
  • Good for color-treated hair
  • Leaves hair soft
  • Exfoliates scalp without drying it


  • Not very powerful 

Acne Reducing – 3.5/5

Gentleness – 4.5/5

Affordability – 4/5

Fragrance – 4/5

Hair Care – 5/5

Christophe Robin Purifying Shampoo for Oily or Flaky Scalp

pimples on scalp popping

I tried out this Christophe Robin shampoo as it has now become a sort of cult favorite. So I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Truthfully, I went in with high expectations and was a bit disappointed. Now don’t get me wrong, the shampoo is amazing for those with an oily scalp, dandruff, and scalp acne problem.

But it’s not very special for its price tag. And trust me, it’s a massive price tag at that. 

There’s no sulfates, parabens, or silicones in this shampoo. But it does contain a milder form of surfactants. So it’s not the best product for colored hair.

The top ingredient here is jujube bark extract that helps reduce dandruff, excess oiliness, and scalp acne. 

But there’s also added perfume, so you should stay away if you’ve got inflammation or scalp issues like psoriasis. 

I also noticed that the pump on the product isn’t as effective, which is annoying given the exorbitant price of the shampoo.

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  • Good for oily scalps
  • Balances sebum production
  • Helps reduce dandruff
  • Smells great


  • Artificial fragrances 
  • Not for color-treated hair
  • Very expensive

Acne Reducing – 3.5/5

Gentleness – 4/5

Affordability – 3/5

Fragrance – 4.5/5

Hair Care – 4/5

Vanicream Free & Clear Shampoo for Sensitive Skin

what shampoo is best for scalp acne

After spending on the Christophe Robin shampoo, I was desperate to find an effective shampoo to treat scalp acne that didn’t leave my pockets empty. 

And that’s when I discovered the Vanicream Free & Clear shampoo. It’s sulfate free, hypoallergenic and very very affordable. 

It’s great for people who have inflammatory issues or allergies or certain plants and herbs. There’s no gluten or any plant-based component here. So there’s no chance of irritation.

But this shampoo is very drying. It removes all traces of dandruff, crusts, and impurities from scalp. 

Best shampoo to treat scalp acne

Unfortunately, it also removes most of the scalp’s natural oils.

This is not so bad if you have a very oily scalp. But it can be devastating for folks with dry scalp types. For them I would suggest sticking to the PhytoApaisant Shampoo.


  • Good for sensitive skin
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Doesn’t have plant extracts that can lead to allergic reactions
  • Reduces oiliness and dandruff


  • Doesn’t lather well
  • Very drying
  • Strips color from hair

Acne Reducing – 4.5/5

Gentleness – 3/5

Affordability – 5/5

Fragrance – 3.5/5

Hair Care – 4/5

Nizoral A-D Ketoconazole Anti-Dandruff Shampoo – (best ketoconazole shampoo for scalp acne)

ketoconazole shampoo for scalp acne

As someone who has suffered from scalp acne since my teenage years, I was willing to give Nizoral A-D Ketoconazole Anti-Dandruff shampoo a try.

After all, it’s always nice to find a product that is specifically formulated to treat the specific needs of my scalp. Once I gave it a shot, I noticed a difference almost immediately.

After a few uses, my scalp felt soothed and nourished. My scalp acne was minimized and over time, I was able to see an improvement in my scalp condition.

Plus, the shampoo has a nice, herbal scent that I’m a fan of, which gives it bonus points from me. Nizoral A-D Ketoconazole Anti-Dandruff shampoo is gentle yet effective and provides instant relief from my itchy and irritated scalp.

Even after a few washes, I can feel my scalp looking and feeling healthier and I love the result. I’ll definitely recommend it to friends and family, and continue to use it myself.

To put it simply, Nizoral A-D Ketoconazole Anti-Dandruff shampoo is a great remedy for any scalp-related issues you may have, especially scalp acne.

I’ve tried other shampoos before and this one is by far the best. If you’re looking for an effective shampoo that promises results, don’t look any further!

What is the best shampoo for scalp acne?

After looking at several parameters such as effectiveness on acne, gentle formula, price, etc. I’ve decided that the Neutrogena T/Sal shampoo is best for scalp acne. 

The Neutrogena T/Sal shampoo contains salicylic acid as its main ingredient. It gently exfoliates your scalp, unclogging pores and reducing acne. This shampoo is also sulfate free, so you can use it on color-treated hair. You can see a difference in your scalp acne with just 2-3 weeks of use. 

FAQs about Scalp Acne Care

All you need to do now is pick your favorite shampoo to treat scalp acne! 

Don’t forget to take into consideration your scalp type, the severity of your acne, and any other hair issues before buying a shampoo. 

There are several medicated OTC shampoos you can get for severe scalp issues. But it’s always better to visit your dermatologist for a clearer opinion. 

Also Read:

Tips On How To Treat Scabs On Scalp From Bleach

Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo

A good shampoo to treat scalp acne can help reduce pimples, redness, and itching. The Neutrogena T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo is sulfate-free and suitable for all hair types.

Product SKU: N762V6O77

Product Brand: Neutrogena

Product Currency: USD

Product Price: $20.23

Price Valid Until: 2024-12-24

Product In-Stock: InStock

Editor's Rating:


  • Helps control scalp acne
  • Reduces itching and inflammation
  • Is gentle yet clarifying


  • Contains sulfates
  • Not for colored hair
  • May leave hair dry
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