Shampoos for scalp acne

5 Best Shampoo To Treat Scalp Acne In 2023

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.

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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

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
  2. Gentleness 
  3. Affordability  
  4. Fragrance 
  5. Hair Care 

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. 

Top Shampoo To Treat Scalp Acne 2021

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

Best shampoo to treat 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. 

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.

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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

coconut oil 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

shampoo for face 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
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  • 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.


  • 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

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. 

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!

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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:

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.

Is it okay to pop a pimple on your scalp?

I asked our hair care experts if it was okay to pop a pimple on your scalp. And the answer was unanimously – No!

Picking at the scalp acne can increase infection. The bacteria on your fingertips transfers to the scalp, worsening the affected area.

There is also a chance you’ll spread the microbes around your scalp when popping a pimple, causing acne to spread. So it’s best to keep your hands to yourself. 

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. 

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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: 2021-12-24

Product In-Stock: InStock

Editor's Rating: