What You Need to Know About Pimples on Your Hairline

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 25, 2021
3 min read

Acne is a common condition. It typically starts when you go through puberty, and you can keep getting it into adulthood. It happens when the pores of your skin become clogged with excess natural oil (sebum) and dead skin cells. Bacteria trapped inside of the pores multiply, which leads to pimples forming. ‌

Pimples can show up anywhere on your body, although they appear most often on your face. You may find them on your nose, chin, and forehead. In some cases, they may also develop along the hairline. They feel and look like small bumps along the upper part of your forehead or along the back of your neck. Here’s what you need to know.

Pimples can show up along your hairline for one of these reasons:‌

Hormonal changes.Hormones can trigger glands in your skin to make too much oil, which makes you more likely to get acne and pimples. Changes in hormones, such as those that occur during puberty, menstrual cycles, and pregnancy, can contribute. ‌

Family history of acne. While acne isn't caused by one specific gene, research shows that it tends to run in families. If one or both of your parents have it, you are more likely to get it, too.

Hair products. Many hair care items, from cleaning to styling products, contain oil and irritants. These oils can block your pores, which may lead to pimples.

Headwear. Hats, helmets, headbands, and bandanas can all trap sweat, dirt, dead skin cells, hair products, and oil against the skin near your hairline. The buildup makes pimples more likely to form in these areas. 

Wearing makeup. Some cosmetics products, such as concealer and foundation, can clog the pores and lead to acne along the hairline. This particular type of acne is also called acne cosmetica. 

Washing your face too much. For a long time, people believed that poor hygiene led to acne. While you should wash your face regularly, pimples aren’t the fault of poor hygiene. Instead, washing too much may be the culprit. Washing your face too much or too aggressively can dry out your skin, which causes more oil production. The more oil your body makes, the more likely it is that your pores will become clogged. 

While pimples might not have any severe effects on your health, it does still affect your life. In cases of inflammatory acne along the hairline (and other areas of the face and body), you may develop permanent scarring when the inflammation clears.‌

Pimples also affect your appearance, which can impact your emotional health. It can lead to:

Many people with acne feel embarrassed or unattractive. Teens, in particular, may be unwilling to participate in class or hang out with others. They may also face bullying, which can also harm their mental health. 

You can take some steps to prevent pimples from forming along your hairline. The steps include:

  • Wash your face daily with a gentle cleanser and warm (not hot) water.
  • Apply and wash off cleansers with your fingertips instead of an abrasive material like a washcloth.
  • Shower and wash your hair after you do things that make you sweat.
  • Use skin care products and cosmetics that won’t clog your pores -- look for “non-comedogenic” ingredients.
  • Avoid tanning beds and too much sunlight.
  • Don’t touch your face or pick at any pimples you already have.

If you practice these tips but still get breakouts along your hairline, talk to a dermatologist. They can help you get to the bottom of your acne issues and recommend a treatment. 

Pimples on your hairline are annoying, but you can treat them. You can buy over-the-counter face washes and other products with ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or topical retinols.

A dermatologist can tell you which of these might be right for you. Or they can prescribe medications and other treatments that may help clear up the pimples along your hairline, which may include: 

When you work with a dermatologist, you’ll have regular follow-up appointments to track your progress. Your dermatologist can change your treatment plan if needed to help you get the best results.