WTF?! Your Hair Products Could Be Causing Your Breakouts


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So many factors can lead to acne breakouts, and some culprits are way sneakier than others. Sure, not washing your makeup off at the end of the day is a surefire way to wake up with pimples in the morning, but did you know that your hair care products are sometimes to blame for zits, too? Curious about the connection between the products we use on our hair and the clarity of our skin, we reached out to a couple of board-certified dermatologists for answers.

Why Do Some Haircare Products Cause Breakouts?

Long story short, hair care products and skincare products are almost always formulated without the other in mind. There’s an obvious reason why: Skin cells are alive and your hair cells are dead, and both have drastically different needs.

“Haircare products often contain ingredients which are known to irritate skin,” says Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in New York City. She says some of the biggest offenders include synthetic fragrances, sulfates, oils, dyes, and silicones, all of which can lead to irritation, inflammation, and clogged pores.

Some hair care products – like those that enhance shine or smooth frizz – are even specifically formulated to leave behind a thin film, which only adds to the pore-clogging. Add the fact that your hair is in very close proximity to your face and, well, you’ve got a recipe for some serious clashing.

Signs Your Haircare Products Are Causing Breakouts on Your Face

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Some people – particularly those with oily, acne-prone, or sensitive skin types – are more likely to experience this clash than others. If you’re unsure whether your hair care products are to blame, note these common signs:

Breakouts in Certain Areas: “When haircare products are causing acne, you may notice breakouts on the hairline, upper forehead, jaw, or sideburn area,” notes Dr. Lina Kennedy, a board-certified dermatologist based in Southern California. Other susceptible areas include your mid to upper back, neck, ears, and chest. These are all areas where your hair, and hair products, routinely come into contact with your skin.

Zits After Styling (or Wash Days): If you wash or style your hair every day this might not be as obvious. However, if you only wash or style your hair once every few days (or even less frequently than that) and notice breakouts in the days that follow, this could be a sign your hair care products are at fault.

How to Prevent Breakouts From Haircare Products

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Nope, you don’t have to give up anti-frizz serums or your favorite, heavenly-scented, dream-hair shampoo. There are certain steps you can take that help to reduce your chances of haircare-induced breakouts.

Style Your Hair First: When getting ready, style your hair before applying any skincare products or makeup. Go ham with your hairspray, serums, and creams, but do make sure to clip up your hair and wash your face well afterward. A double cleanse will be more effective in nixing the haircare ingredients. Also, when cleansing, make sure to pay extra attention to your hairline, jaw, and neck. (If you don’t want to risk messing up your hair, use micellar water and a cotton round at the hairline.)

Wash Your Hair First: When showering, wash your hair first and then follow up with a skin-approved body wash.  “Washing your body after you have washed and rinsed your hair helps wash off product that has gotten on your skin,” says Dr. Kennedy. Remember, some hair care products leave a film behind on purpose, which will inevitably end up on your skin unless you wash it away.

Wear Your Hair Up at Night: Products from your hair can easily transfer to your skin while you sleep. Use a silky scrunchy – like Kitsch Satin Sleep Pillow Scrunchies, $18 – to keep your hair off your face and neck while you’re catching those Zzz’s. The satin texture will prevent unwanted creasing and crimping. Just make sure you don’t tie your hair too tightly.

Use a Hair Cap: When using hair products that are required to set – like deep conditioners, oil treatments, or even dyes – put your hair in a cap while you wait. The less contact your skin has with these ingredients, the better.

Use Non-Comedogenic Haircare Products: “Always check the products ingredient list before using any products on your face or in your hair, and make sure there are no comedogenic (pore-clogging) ingredients,” advises Dr. Kennedy. Some brands, such as SEEN Haircare, do specialize in hair care products for acne-prone skin. If you’re particularly susceptible to breakouts, we recommend swapping your current hair products out for more skin-friendly options.

If you have any more questions on hair care products and acne, drop them in the comments below.

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