Does Shampoo Cause Acne?

Acne is a common problem for many people, and there are multiple factors that can contribute to its cause. One popularly held belief is that shampoo may be partly responsible for acne breakouts.

But is this really true? Does shampoo cause acne? I’m going to share whether there’s any evidence on whether shampoo actually causes acne, or if it’s just a common beauty myth.

Does Shampoo Cause Acne?

Does Shampoo Cause Acne?

Shampoo is a product we use daily to clean and refresh our hair, but can it also cause acne breakouts?

The answer is yes, certain ingredients in shampoo may trigger acne, especially when they come into contact with the skin on your scalp, face, neck, and back.

When trying to identify if your shampoo is causing acne, look for signs of breakouts soon after using a specific product.

Switching to a different brand or discontinuing shampoo use on certain days may help you determine if your skin improves without it.

Acne breakouts on the face, neck, or back, where your hair frequently comes into contact with your skin, could indicate that your hair products are the culprit.

Some ingredients in shampoos can cause acne by clogging the pores, particularly oil-based ingredients such as petroleum, silicones, jojoba oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter.

Shampoo Ingredients that Can Cause Acne

Are you frustrated with your acne breakouts despite using various skincare products and taking care to avoid oil and fragrance?

You might be surprised to learn that your shampoo could be the culprit! Many ingredients found in daily hair care products are known to trigger acne, causing a dilemma between having fabulous hair and clear skin.

So, let’s dive into what you need to know about these potential triggers, their effects on your skin, and which products you should use if you’re struggling with acne on your scalp, face, or back.

First, how can you tell if your shampoo is causing those breakouts? The most obvious way is if you notice breakouts shortly after using a specific shampoo.

In such cases, try switching brands or skipping shampoo on certain days of the week and see if your skin improves. If you consistently have blemishes around your face, neck, and back (areas where hair frequently contacts the skin), your hair products could be to blame.

Let’s talk about which ingredients can trigger acne. Some shampoos have ingredients that clog pores, causing acne for individuals sensitive to them.

Oil-based products, including substances like petroleum, silicones, jojoba oil, shea butter, and even cocoa butter, can trap bacteria and cause acne flare-ups.

Coconut oil, which adds hydration and shine to hair follicles, is a known comedogenic and can lead to skin breakouts.

Chemicals like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS) can cause irritation and clogged pores, especially for those with sensitive skin.

To avoid these issues, consider shampoos specifically formulated for acne-prone or oily skin types, such as those containing salicylic acid.

This ingredient balances oils on the face and scalp, providing effective treatment for dandruff and scalp acne.

How to Tell if Shampoo is Causing Your Breakouts

How to Tell if Shampoo is Causing Your Breakouts

To decide whether your shampoo is the one causing your breakouts, first, take note of when and where you’re experiencing acne flare-ups.

If you’re getting whiteheads, blackheads, and bumps mainly along your hairline, forehead, nape of the neck, or upper back and shoulders, chances are your shampoo may be to blame.

Understanding SLS and SLES in Shampoos Causing Acne

SLS and SLES are foaming agents, responsible for that rich lather we all love in our shampoos. They also act as detergents, effectively stripping away tough-to-remove grease and grime.

The problem arises when these chemicals come into contact with your skin, as they can potentially cause irritation or even contact allergies in some individuals.

How can these shampoo ingredients lead to acne? The issue lies in their ability to damage the acid mantle of your skin, a protective layer of fatty acids that keeps bacteria and other harmful substances at bay.

SLS and SLES, being detergents, do not discriminate between dirt and essential skin components, stripping away the protective fatty acids and weakening your skin barrier function.

When your skin’s defense system is compromised, harmful bacteria can easily infiltrate your skin, resulting in increased sensitivity, moisture loss, and acne breakouts. In fact, this is the same reason why you should never use regular soap on acne-prone skin areas.

If you suspect that your shampoo is causing your acne, it’s time to make a change. Look for a shampoo without SLS or SLES in the ingredient list, or opt for styling products formulated specifically for sensitive or acne-prone skin.

Try to avoid shampoos with ingredients like petroleum, silicones, jojoba oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter, as they can also trigger acne flare-ups.

Best Hair Care Products for Acne-Prone Skin

Are you tired of dealing with acne breakouts caused by hair care products? Many hair products are formulated with ingredients that, while great for your hair, can have a negative impact on your skin.

Don’t worry, though, we have some fantastic recommendations for hair care products that won’t cause breakouts and let your skin breathe easy.

First up, SEEN hair care is a dermatologist-formulated line that is clinically proven to be non-comedogenic and non-irritating.

This brand takes all skin types into consideration and is free from sulfates, phthalates, silicones, dyes, and pore-clogging oils.

Whether you’re looking for a lightly fragranced or fragrance-free option, SEEN has got you covered, making it an excellent choice for acne-prone skin.

Another great option for sensitive skin is the Free & Clear shampoo and conditioner. These products are free from dyes, fragrances, parabens, sulfates, oils, and gluten, meaning they won’t clog your pores or cause breakouts.

Often recommended by dermatologists, you can trust that these formulas are gentle yet effective for both your skin and hair needs.

Dealing with an oily scalp? Head & Shoulders Instant Oil Control could be the answer you’re looking for.

This shampoo not only helps control oil production, but also contains pyrithione zinc, which has antimicrobial and antifungal properties to help control both folliculitis and adult acne.

People with acne have concerns that lie primarily on your scalp, consider trying a salicylic-acid-based shampoo like Neutrogena’s T/Sal.

This dye-, fragrance-, and oil-free formula helps control scalp buildup and minimize oil production, addressing various scalp conditions like dandruff and folliculitis.

Lastly, don’t be too afraid of tea-tree oil-based products! Though some oils can cause breakouts, tea-tree oil is naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial.

When used with non-comedogenic ingredients, a tea-tree shampoo and conditioner such as OGX’s line can do wonders for keeping your scalp and skin clear. Just make sure to double-check the label for any other pore-clogging ingredients.

Tips to Avoid Breakouts Caused by Shampoos

Tips to Avoid Breakouts Caused by Shampoos

Identify whether it’s your shampoo or conditioner that’s causing breakouts. Observe your facial, neck, and back acne.

If your skin tends to break out after washing your hair, try switching shampoos, or even consider skipping shampoo on certain days. Pay attention to how your skin reacts and adjust your haircare routine accordingly.

Next, examine the ingredients in your shampoo and conditioner. Look for acne-triggering components like oil-based products, petroleum, silicones, jojoba oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, and coconut oil.

Coconut oil, in particular, is a well-known comedogenic, meaning it can lead to a breeding ground for breakouts on the skin. If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, avoid shampoos containing these ingredients.

Don’t forget to check for harsh chemicals like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS), both of which can cause skin irritation and clog your pores.

Instead, opt for products containing milder alternatives like sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and choose ‘fragrance-free’ variants, as they are often gentler on sensitive skin.

When selecting a shampoo, consider ones that are specially formulated for acne-prone and oily skin, and avoid acne-causing ingredients.

Look for skin care products and hair care products containing salicylic acid, which balances facial and scalp oils and gently exfoliates to remove excess oil and dead skin cells.

Salicylic acid is not only great for treating dandruff, but also proves effective in tackling scalp and adult acne.

Finally, always rinse your hair thoroughly after shampooing, ensuring no residue is left on your scalp or skin.

It’s also a good idea to wash your face and body after rinsing out your shampoo and conditioner to remove any lingering product that could cause breakouts.



While there is no conclusive evidence that shampoo directly causes acne, certain ingredients found in common hair care products can clog your pores and trigger breakouts.

To determine if your shampoo is to blame for those blemishes, observe where and when you’re getting breakouts and skip washing on certain days to see if this improves your skin.

If possible, try switching brands or using an alternative product that is specifically formulated for sensitive or oily skin.

When choosing a shampoo, take the time to read the ingredient list to ensure it’s free from known pore-clogging substances like petroleum, silicones, jojoba oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, SLS/SLES (sodium lauryl sulfate and ammonium lauryl sulfate), coconut oil, etc.

Opt for milder alternatives like salicylic acid or sodium laureth sulfate instead.

Remember to rinse off any remaining hair product residue after every wash, and make sure to wash your body afterward too! With these few simple steps in mind, hopefully you’ll enjoy beautiful locks without worrying about breakouts again!

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Gemma Etc.
Gemma Etc.

Hi, my name is Gemma, and I’m the writer behind I’m a true beauty obsessive, and love writing about anything to do with beauty. In addition to Gemma Etc., I also own, and love sharing my thoughts and feelings about beauty and lifestyle products.

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