Blackheads On Scalp

Blackheads on scalp are common and easy to treat. They can often go away on their own accord by just following some simple preventative measures.


Blackheads are small, dark pimples which appear on the skin. They are characteristic skin lesions associated with acne, but they can appear on their own without other forms of acne on the skin.

They get their name from the dark lesion in the centre of each pimple, which contains oxidized melanin. They are formed on the scalp in the same way as they are on other parts of the face and body, and usually appear when sebum, the skin’s natural oil, is overproduced by glands under the skin.

Blackheads are not a serious medical condition, and they cannot cause any severe harm to the patient. They can, however, cause itching, discomfort and pain. Due to their appearance, they can make people feel uncomfortable and cause self esteem to fall, especially in severe cases. But they are not usually a sign of any further medical conditions and can only be categorized as a mild health condition.

Blackheads do not normally require strong medical treatments, and can usually be managed through changes to a patient’s lifestyle and diet. There are blackhead treatments which can be bought over-the-counter and applied without the need for a prescription, but in cases of severe acne, strong medication may be required, which will have to be prescribed by a doctor or qualified healthcare professional.


The symptoms of having blackheads on the scalp include the following:

  • Raised pimples on the scalp
  • Itching scalp
  • Sore scalp
  • Redness under the hair


Blackheads or acne on the scalp are caused in the same way as pimples or acne elsewhere on the body. Pores or hair follicles become blocked which causes the skin to react and blackheads or pimples to form.

This can happen naturally, with dead skin cells or the skin’s natural oils causing blockages, or it can be provoked by certain types of bacteria, mites, yeast or chemical products.

There are a number of different causes of blackheads on scalp, but the following are the most common:

  • Natural oil or dead skin cells blocking the hair follicles
  • Using too little shampoo when washing your hair, and not cleaning the scalp thoroughly
  • Letting too much time pass after exercising before washing your hair
  • Covering the head during sport, so that the sweat cannot escape from the surface of the scalp
  • Spending long periods of time wearing a tight-fitting hat or helmet
  • A build up of hair products such as gel, conditioner, mousse or hairspray
  • Eating foods which cause an allergic reaction and cause a breakout

There are also specific types of germs which can be responsible for causing particularly sever forms of scalp acne and blackheads on scalp. These germs include:

  • Yeasts which belong to the Malassezia family
  • Demodex folliculorum
  • Staphylococcus epidermidids
  • Propionibacterium acnes
  • Cutibacterium
  • Staphylococcus aureus


For most people suffering from blackheads on the scalp, the pimples will go away if you are able to make a few small lifestyle changes. See the prevention section for tips on how best to go about this.

If the scalp, acne or blackheads are persistent and lifestyle changes do nothing to help, medicated products may be required. There is a temptation to use the same acne or blackhead medication which you would use on blackheads on your face to treat scalp problems. However, some acne medication contains peroxide, which is a common component in hair bleach. It is not recommended to use facial acne treatment on the scalp as it can end up permanently bleaching the hair.

Instead, salicylic acid is a better option. This is a common ingredient in anti-dandruff shampoos, and can easily be purchased over-the-counter in pharmacies or drug stores.

If this does not work, it is worth speaking to your doctor to ask for an oral antibiotic or other stronger medication to treat the problem.


The only way to prevent blackheads on scalp is to prevent the pores and hair follicles on the head from becoming blocked. Scalp hygiene is a key part of this, but there are other things which can be done to limit the chances of developing blackheads on the scalp. If you are worried about scalp acne, it is worth keeping track of any changes you have made to your lifestyle which may have caused the breakout to occur. If there is nothing obvious you can think to change, try some of the most common methods of prevention. These include:

  • Wearing only loose-fitting hats and head coverings, and making sure that you give your head regular chances to breathe
  • Washing your hair frequently, and taking care to rinse all of the product thoroughly from your hair
  • Switch to hypoallergenic hair care products, and only use them where strictly necessary
  • Take care of your skin, following healthy skincare routines
  • Making sure to eat a balanced diet and get all of the nutrients your body needs. Vitamins A, E and D are particularly important for healthy skin

All of the methods listed above will help to prevent blackheads from appearing on the scalp if the cause is not related to allergies. One of the other main causes of blackheads on the scalp is as a result of a food allergy or intolerance. The best way to prevent this from happening is to avoid food which you know you are intolerant to. If you suspect a food intolerance as being the reason behind your scalp problems, but do not know which food it may be, there are several things you can do. These include:

  • Get a food intolerance test. Clinics, health food shops and medical practices all offer this as a service. You can have your blood tested to see which foods you should avoid.
  • Keep a food diary. Keeping track of what you are eating and when your blackheads on the scalp are flaring up will help you to easily identify if there is a correlation between eating certain foods and breakouts on your scalp.
  • Try to eliminate certain foods one at a time to see if the problem goes away.
Last Reviewed:
June 18, 2018
Last Updated:
June 12, 2018