Can Hair Products Cause Acne? See What Ingredients to Avoid

Have you ever had mysterious breakouts on your face, arms, neck or back that drive you insane? The culprit may not be your new body wash, facial cleanser, or the copious amounts of fried chicken you ate last night. Because hair products cause acne, they could be the ones responsible for those dreaded pimples instead.

In fact, this is such a common occurrence that it has its own name: acne cosmetica. It refers to acne literally caused by cosmetics, and hair care products fall into this category.

woman looking at an acne spot on her face caused by hair care products

How Do Hair Products Cause Acne?

You might be wondering: Hair products are used on your HAIR, right? So how do they end up affecting skin on the face, arms, neck and back? You may be surprised to learn that there are a few ways this could happen.

The main culprits are shampoo and conditioner residue. You see, most of us wash and condition our hair in the shower. Heat during a shower usually causes our pores to open up. So when we rinse the products out of our hair, they run over the open pores on our skin. Oily residue + open pores? It’s a recipe for “acne” disaster!

But it doesn’t just happen in the shower. The transfer of acne-inducing residue can also take place when you’re getting ready for work or a girl’s night out. Because that’s when we put other hair products on our head, including styling gels, pomade, pastes, wax, mousses, and sprays.

Now, many of us do our hair before putting on makeup. But we usually don’t wash our hands to get rid of hair product residue before touching our face to apply makeup. Neither do we wash our hands after playing with our hair!

Even simple perspiration can get residue on our skin. Do you live somewhere warm or love to go to the gym all cute with your hair finely styled? Some of your sweat may get to the skin around your hairline, onto your upper back or neck. Yes, along with that dreaded residue.

woman-facing-pink-wall-while-running-fingers-through-long-wavy-blond-hair Can Hair Products Cause Acne?

And to make everything worse, hair products cause acne even while you sleep. Residue from your hair can glom on to your sheets and pillowcases, exacerbating any irritation and leading to full-blown acne in no time.

What’s Good for Your Hair May be Bad for Your Skin

The same oil that makes your hair healthy and shiny has pretty much the opposite effect on your skin.

Fortunately, just like food, you can read the labels on hair products to identify acne-inducing ingredients. Many hair products cause acne as they’re oil-based, and oil clogs your pores to cause breakouts. But not all the ingredients harmful to your skin are recognizable at first glance.

As a guide, look out for the following ingredients on the labels:

  • Silicone
  • Petroleum
  • Ingredients with the word “Butter”, such as Coco Butter or Shea Butter
  • Sulfates, such as Sodium Lauryl or Ammonia Lauryl
  • Alcohols that have the word “Isopropyl”, such as Isopropyl Linoleate or Isopropyl Palmitate
  • Botanicals
  • Ingredients with the word “Oil”, such as Mineral Oil, Jojoba Oil, Coconut Oil, Palm Oil or Grape Seed Oil

Out of these major offenders, dermatologist Iris Rubin, MD believes that three primary chemicals are the problem. These are known as the trinity of hair care: phthalates, parabens, and silicone. According to Dr. Rubin, all three are synthetic compounds that build up on hair and clog pores on the skin. If your skin is already breaking out from your hair products, this antioxidant cream can help your skin bounce back to a supple, and clear form.

Dr. Rubin’s research also indicates that these residues can stay on your body for up to four hours. So if you go to bed with styling products in your hair, you might as well sleep with a face full of makeup. Don’t do it of course, but let’s agree that the ick factor just went up a lot.

If you have acne prone skin check out our non-comedogenic make up too!

Title card for PassionBelle article on non-comedogenic make up, with recommended makeup items

What Should You Do if You Have Acne Cosmetica?

Fortunately, there are a few easy fixes to get you on your acne-free way.

1. Switch to oil-free hair products

Hair products cause acne when they contain oil and other harmful ingredients we mentioned earlier. So stop using your current products and switch to products that have these key terms on their labels:

  • Oil-free
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Non-acnegenic
  • Won’t clog pores

It’s still going to take a few weeks for the inflammation in your skin to heal and the acne to go away. But you got to start somewhere, right?

The only exception is tea tree oil, which is good for BOTH your hair (especially your scalp) and skin. Tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, so a tea tree shampoo won’t cause acne and can even help soothe a breakout.

You can make your own tea tree toner at home, instead of getting one at the store. Simply dilute 3 drops of tea tree oil in 2 ounces of witch hazel, and apply to the affected areas throughout the day.

The concoction combats redness, swelling, and some of the itchiness associated with inflammation.

2. Launder your sheets, pillowcase, hats…

Every single item that comes into frequent contact with your hair and skin can transfer unwanted residue and cause breakouts. So the basic thing to do is launder your sheets, pillowcase, hats, headbands, visors, and so on regularly.

We love Blissy Pillow cases for this! The silk pillowcases reduce irritation on your skin and can help prevent breakouts. We even got you a hook up, a 55% discount code.

Woman holding a Blissy Silk pillow case to stop hair products from causing acne
Click here to get your discount on a Blissy Pillow case

3. Wash your hair before you go to bed

By doing so, you’ll wash away most of the hair products you use during the day. This means you’ll minimize the amount and types of hair product you sleep with.

But be sure to thoroughly rinse all products off when washing and conditioning your hair. Then rub your hair gently with a towel to get most of the shampoo and conditioner residue off BEFORE your head touches the pillow.

4. Do away with as many hair products as possible

Using hair products isn’t the only way to get the style you want. Another way is to opt for clip-in ponytail extensions that are fun, beautiful, and require minimal styling products.

Woman wearing a clip in ponytail to avoid using hair products that cause acne

This is the secret to making sure that your hair is always on point — while your skin will remain clear, acne-free, and AMAZING! Plus, you’ll get to change your look as often as you like 😉

Get the best prices and styling tips here:

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