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  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

6 Tips to Help Treat + Prevent Pomade Acne

Pimples around your hairline? It could be pomade acne. Learn how to clear it up with these helpful tips.

Chinyelu Chukwurah Avatar

Chinyelu Umeh, NP
Oct 16, 2020 · 7 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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Are you dedicated to your skincare routine, using all the right acne treatments, and still noticing some breakouts? Acne can be caused by many things, and one potential culprit is your haircare products. The good news is, by learning more about pomade acne and the steps you can take to minimize pimples caused by your hair products (or bid them goodbye altogether), you can help keep your skin and those locks looking amazing.

What is pomade? 

Similar to hair gel, pomade is a waxy or a water-based substance that is used to style hair. Typically, pomade gives your hair a shiny and slick appearance. It lasts longer than most hair care products, and can require a few shampoo sessions to completely wash away.

What is pomade acne and what causes it?

In short, pomade acne is acne caused by hair products. Pomades and other gels can contain comedogenic ingredients, meaning they can clog your pores. These pore-clogging ingredients may be harmless when it comes to your hair, but if any come in contact with your skin, you could notice some breakouts. There isn’t one specific product that causes pomade acne, which can make it difficult to identify what exactly could be the cause of your breakouts. The term “pomade acne” can refer to different types of pimples, including whiteheads and blackheads.

Acne, in general, is caused by a buildup of oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria in the hair follicles.¹ Pomade acne, however, occurs when the product contains ingredients that clog your pores along with your natural sebum and dead skin cells. The use of pomades might not be the only thing causing your breakouts, but it can be one reason for persistent acne.

What are the symptoms of pomade acne?

If you’re wondering just how to identify pomade acne before you start switching out your hair products, here are a few symptoms you may notice.

Persistent acne. Taking care of your skin can be frustrating because there are many different causes for breakouts. If your blemishes seem to stick around no matter what, even when you use acne treatment as part of your skincare routine, it could be due to a comedogenic ingredient you still use in your haircare. 

Scalp acne. If you’ve noticed pimples on your scalp, while you may not be able to see them, they can still be irritating and uncomfortable, you may be dealing with pomade acne.

Acne along your hairline. If you’ve noticed breakouts always pop up right by your hairline, pomade acne might be the reason. It is likely that when you are using your favorite hair products, some will get on your skin by your hairline, so if there are some pore-clogging ingredients, you might notice some pimples pop up.

Edge control gels

Some popular hair products are “edge control” styling gels that, while great for slicking down your hair, often contain heavy comedogenic ingredients that can clog pores and possibly cause pomade acne.

If you use edge control gel, look for those that don’t contain comedogenic ingredients like coconut oil² and cocoa butter.³ Instead, opt for hair products with non-comedogenic oils to keep those pores clear.

If you’re looking for recommendations, here are some edge control gels that are free of comedogenic ingredients:

Another tip: try not to sleep in your edge control—the oils can migrate into your pores while you sleep. And, if you wear a headscarf at night to keep your hair in place, this could make the situation worse by creating friction or pressing your haircare product into your skin overnight. If possible, wash out your edge control product before heading to bed. 

Also, because oil and water don’t mix, water won’t be enough to remove the residue of heavy ingredients and oils in edge styling products. We recommend lathering up with a sulfate-free shampoo and then rinsing it all out.

What other hair products could cause acne?

It’s not just pomades and gels that could be causing your skin to break out. Plenty of other haircare products could be a contributing factor.

Conditioners. Some conditioners include hydrating oils to help make your hair super smooth and shiny, but unfortunately, some of those oils might be comedogenic. If your favorite conditioner includes coconut oil, it could be a cause of breakouts. Hair masks. Pampering your hair with a mask is always fun, but a breakout afterward isn’t. Make sure you check your favorite hair masks for—you guessed it!—comedogenic ingredients if you’ve been noticing some persistent acne.

Shampoo. As surprising as it may seem, yes, even some shampoos contain pore-clogging ingredients. Especially if you are scrubbing your shampoo into your scalp, it’s likely to come in contact with your face. 

While hair products can contribute to pomade acne, other products—including makeup—can also contain those annoying pore-cloggers. So remember to always read the ingredients list carefully. 

What are some hair products that won’t clog pores? 

We all love haircare products that keep us looking and feeling clean, soft, hydrated, and styled. There are, however, certain common ingredients in hair products that can contribute to breakouts. So we did some digging and rounded up a few of our favorite shampoos, conditioners, and styling products that also happen to be good for your skin.

Scrub away buildup with one of our favorite non-comedogenic sulfate-free shampoos:

Encourage soft and hydrated hair with one of these non-comedogenic conditioners:

If you’re looking for ways to style your hair, we also rounded up some of our favorite styling products:

Worried about giving up your “holy grail” haircare products

Find it hard to give up your “tried and true” haircare products, pore-clogging potential aside? Well, you still have options to help reduce your breakouts:

Hairstyle. Choose a look that keeps your hair away from your face (like wearing it up).

Take cover. Shield your face prior to applying hairspray.

Wash your hands. Style your hair before you apply your makeup, then wash your face and hands thoroughly to remove any hair product before continuing with your makeup routine.

Cleanse thoroughly before bed. Bring your cleanser all the way to your hairline to wash any residual haircare product that may be left on your skin.

Vaseline. Apply a very thin layer of pure petrolatum (like Vaseline) around your hairline to help keep pore-clogging ingredients from your hair products working their way onto your face.

Laundry. Be sure to frequently wash your pillowcases, night scarves, bonnets, durags, hijabs, or niqabs—anything that touches your hair—to remove any product residue.

What are the different types of acne?

Identifying what type of acne⁴ you have can help you effectively treat your breakouts. All skin types are different, so you may be more prone to one kind of acne.

  • Blackheads.  Blackheads are small bumps called closed comedones on your skin filled with oil and dead skin. The bumps are open and have a dark appearance. 

  • Whiteheads. Whiteheads are also comedonal acne, but they are small closed bumps filled with oil and dead skin. Just as the name suggests, the bump will come to a white head.⁵

  • Papules: Inflamed bumps with a red color, these pimples don't come to a head.

  • Pustules: These pimples are filled with pus and come head. They’re also surrounded by a red or pink ring.

  • Cysts: Filled with pus, cysts are known to cause scarring. 

  • Nodules: Deep and painful, this is a type of inflammatory acne and is often called “blind pimples.”

  • Fungal acne. Fungal acne develops when there is excess yeast in the hair follicle. It may be itchy and appear as white bumps.

Pomade acne can be frustrating, especially when the solution is to sacrifice your favorite hair products. That said, if you are struggling with acne or just unsure how to effectively treat your skin, a dermatology provider can help.

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FAQs

What is pomade acne and what causes it?

In short, pomade acne is acne caused by hair products. Pomades and other gels can contain comedogenic ingredients, meaning they can clog your pores. These pore-clogging ingredients may be harmless when it comes to your hair, but if any come in contact with your skin, you could notice some breakouts. The term “pomade acne” can refer to different types of pimples, including whiteheads and blackheads.

What are the symptoms of pomade acne?

Persistent acne. If your blemishes seem to stick around no matter what, even when you use acne treatment as part of your skincare routine, it could be due to a comedogenic ingredient you still use in your haircare.

Scalp acne. If you’ve noticed pimples on your scalp, while you may not be able to see them, they can still be irritating and uncomfortable, you may be dealing with pomade acne.

Acne along your hairline. It is likely that when you are using your favorite hair products, some will get on your skin by your hairline, so if there are some pore-clogging ingredients, you might notice some pimples pop up.

• • •

P.S. We did the research so you don’t have to:

  1. Draelos, Zoe D. The effect of a daily facial cleanser for normal to oily skin on the skin barrier of subjects with acne. Cutis. (July 2006).

  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. Acne: Symptoms and Causes. Mayo Clinic. (2020, September 12). 

  3. Abel Francis and Anitta Shojan, Comedogenicity of Oils. International Journal of Contemporary Medical Research. (August.2019).

  4. Baek, Ji Hwoon et al. Early detection of microcomedones induced by cocoa butter using reflectance confocal microscopy.Journal of cosmetic dermatology, (2021 October 10).

  5.  Cleveland Clinic. Acne. (2020, September 1).

  6. Oakley, et al. Comedonal Acne. Dermnet NZ. (April 2014).

This article was originally published on October 16, 2020, and updated on April 21, 2022.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Chinyelu Chukwurah Avatar

Chinyelu Umeh, NP

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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