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5 Reasons Head and Shoulders for Acne is a Bad Idea

Acne is a common skin condition affecting millions of people worldwide. Countless remedies and treatments are available, but not all are effective or suitable for everyone.

One such treatment that has gained popularity over the years is the use of Head and Shoulders shampoo for acne.

However, this idea may not be as effective as it seems. In this blog post, we will explore the top 5 reasons why using Head and Shoulders for acne is a bad idea.

Also read: How to choose the best acne treatment

Biggest Take-Aways:

  • Head and Shoulders is designed for dandruff treatment, not acne, and contains ingredients that may be unsuitable for acne-prone skin.

  • The shampoo's active ingredient, pyrithione zinc, has limited effectiveness in treating acne compared to traditional acne treatments.

  • Using Head and Shoulders may compromise the skin barrier, leading to increased sensitivity and irritation.

  • Consult a dermatologist for personalized guidance on appropriate acne treatments instead of relying on a dandruff shampoo.

  • Opt for targeted acne treatments like Exposed Skin Care, which is specifically designed to manage acne and contains proven acne-fighting ingredients, instead of relying on a dandruff shampoo.


Woman washing her hair with head and shoulders

Understanding the Difference Between Fungal Acne and Bacterial Acne

One of the reasons people might consider using Head and Shoulders for acne is the confusion between bacterial acne and fungal acne. While both can cause similar symptoms, they have different causes and require different treatments.

Fungal Acne: Also known as "pityrosporum folliculitis" or "Malassezia folliculitis," fungal acne is caused by an overgrowth of yeast in hair follicles. This condition may be mistaken for bacterial acne but is actually more closely related to seborrheic dermatitis, which is treated with anti-dandruff shampoos containing zinc pyrithione.

Bacterial Acne: This type of acne is caused by the bacteria P. acnes, which thrives in the oil glands and hair follicles, leading to inflammation and breakouts.

While dandruff shampoos like Head and Shoulders can help with fungal acne, it is important to note that it is not suitable for treating bacterial acne. If you suspect that you have fungal acne, it's best to use a face wash specifically designed to treat fungal acne, or consider using a topical anti-fungal cream as recommended by a board-certified dermatologist.

1. Unintended Ingredients for Acne-prone Skin

Head and Shoulders shampoo is designed primarily for treating dandruff, not acne. The active ingredient in the shampoo, pyrithione zinc, is known for its anti-dandruff properties. However, this shampoo also contains various other ingredients that may not be suitable for acne-prone skin:

  • Sulfates: These can cause skin irritation and strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to an overproduction of sebum and worsening acne.

  • Fragrances: Synthetic fragrances can cause irritation and inflammation, further exacerbating acne problems.

  • Silicones: These ingredients can clog pores, leading to acne breakouts.

2. Potential Skin Irritation

As mentioned earlier, Head and Shoulders shampoo contains ingredients that can cause skin irritation, particularly for individuals with sensitive or acne-prone skin.

Over time, these irritations can lead to inflammation and worsen acne conditions. Using a product specifically designed for acne treatment would be a better option.

Shelf of shampoo

3. Ineffectiveness in Treating Acne

The primary active ingredient in Head and Shoulders, pyrithione zinc, has been shown to have some antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. However, there is limited evidence supporting its effectiveness in treating acne. Acne is primarily caused by the overgrowth of the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), and traditional acne treatments target this bacteria more effectively than pyrithione zinc.

4. Lack of Essential Acne-fighting Ingredients

Head and Shoulders shampoo does not contain essential acne-fighting ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or retinoids. These ingredients have been proven effective in treating acne by unclogging pores, reducing inflammation, and targeting acne-causing bacteria. By using Head and Shoulders for acne, you may be missing out on the benefits of these essential ingredients.

5. Risk of Compromising the Skin Barrier

Healthy skin relies on a strong, intact skin barrier. Using a harsh shampoo like Head and Shoulders on your face can potentially compromise your skin's barrier function, leading to increased sensitivity, irritation, and even worsening acne. Maintaining a healthy skin barrier is crucial in preventing and managing acne. Instead, it is recommended to use a gentle, pH-balanced cleanser designed for acne-prone skin to avoid disrupting the skin barrier.

The Benefits of Exposed Skin Care for Acne Management

If you're looking for a more effective and targeted acne treatment, consider Exposed Skin Care. This skincare line is specifically designed to manage acne and offers a range of products that work together to combat breakouts, unclog pores, and soothe inflammation.

Exposed basic kit

Here are some benefits of using Exposed Skin Care to manage your acne:

  • Scientifically Formulated Ingredients: Exposed Skin Care products contain proven acne-fighting ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and glycolic acid, which work together to unclog pores, eliminate acne-causing bacteria, and reduce inflammation. These ingredients are more effective in treating acne than the ingredients found in Head and Shoulders.

  • Natural Extracts and Soothing Agents: In addition to effective acne-fighting ingredients, Exposed Skin Care also includes natural extracts like green tea, licorice root, and aloe vera, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These soothing agents help calm irritated skin, promote healing, and maintain a healthy skin barrier.

  • Suitable for All Skin Types: Exposed Skin Care offers products that cater to various skin types, including sensitive and acne-prone skin. You can minimize irritation and maximize results by choosing a skincare line specifically designed for your skin type.

  • Comprehensive Skincare System: The Exposed Skin Care line includes a range of products, such as cleansers, toners, serums, and moisturizers, that work together to provide a comprehensive skincare routine. This holistic approach ensures that your skin receives the proper care and treatment needed to combat acne effectively and maintain a clear, healthy complexion.

By using Exposed Skin Care products, you can confidently manage your acne with a skincare line that has been specifically formulated to target the root causes of breakouts, while also soothing and nurturing your skin.


Using Head and Shoulders, a dandruff shampoo, as a treatment for acne may not be the most effective or suitable option. While it may offer some benefits for those with fungal acne, it is important to remember that the primary purpose of this anti-dandruff shampoo is to treat dandruff and not acne. Furthermore, its ingredients can cause irritation, especially for individuals with sensitive skin, and may even worsen acne conditions.

Instead of relying on a dandruff shampoo for acne treatment, it is highly recommended to use products specifically designed for acne management, such as those containing proven acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and retinoids. By doing so, you ensure that your skin receives the appropriate treatment it needs to combat breakouts effectively.

Additionally, if you have sensitive skin or are unsure of the best approach for your skin type, consulting a board-certified dermatologist can provide personalized guidance and recommendations tailored to your unique needs. This will ensure that you follow a skincare routine that is both gentle and effective in managing acne.

By understanding the limitations of using a dandruff shampoo like Head and Shoulders for acne and opting for targeted acne treatments instead, you can pave the way to clearer, healthier skin.


Q: Can I use Head and Shoulders shampoo for body acne?

A: Although some people report success in using Head and Shoulders for body acne, it is not recommended due to the reasons discussed in this article. Instead, consider using a body wash or cleanser formulated specifically for acne-prone skin.

Q: What are some alternatives to using Head and Shoulders for acne?

A: It's best to use products specifically designed for acne treatment. Look for cleansers, spot treatments, and moisturizers containing ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or retinoids, which are proven to be effective in managing acne.

Q: How can I maintain a healthy skin barrier?

A: To maintain a healthy skin barrier, use gentle, pH-balanced cleansers, avoid over-exfoliating, and always moisturize your skin. Incorporate products with ingredients like ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide to support skin barrier function.

Q: Is there any scientific evidence supporting the use of Head and Shoulders for acne?

A: There is limited evidence supporting the use of pyrithione zinc, the active ingredient in Head and Shoulders, for treating acne. While it has some antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, it may not be as effective as traditional acne treatments in targeting the primary acne-causing bacteria, P. acnes.

Q: How can I find the right acne treatment for my skin type?

A: It's important to consult with a dermatologist or skincare professional to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your skin type and acne severity. They can recommend products and treatments tailored to your unique needs and concerns.