As the trend for polished silky smooth hair has gained popularity, so have the reports of acne and skin breakouts shown a sharp surge — Is this a pure coincidence or is there a real relationship between the two? Lets investigate,
you recently started getting acne eruptions — on skin examination the acne flare-ups are seen around the forehead, sides of face, jaw-line and back — areas right adjacent to the hair-line. Looking at your skin and hair care products your skincare products are not labeled “Oily-combination skin” and you’re also using hair straightening and frizz-fighting hair products. In dermatology we call this phenomenon “Pomade acne”; acne flare-ups caused by certain chemicals used in the hair products. In the past it used to be a common reporting among African women with very curly hair who were using hair-relaxing pomades. With the rise of silky smooth hair trend now pomade acne is making a huge comeback in all skin types and in both men as well as women.
Hair leave-in products like “smoothing serums”, “anti-frizz serums”, heat styling sprays, “heat-protectants”, “thermal setting sprays”, and “shine sprays” contain silicone-derived ingredients and oils to control frizz, add shine, and detangle the hair. They work by coating the hair cuticle making it look and feel smooth. These leave-in hair products have become an essential part of the daily hair styling routine for people with difficult-to-manage hair, especially those who have naturally curly hair or who are experiencing frizzy hair due to damage caused by hair dyes and harsh hair styling procedures.
Men who like slick hair and are using hair waxes and pomades to style their manes are also reporting acne breakout as these hair products also contain greasy wax-based ingredients that can clog pores, trap bacteria, and cause inflammatory breakouts.
Most people don’t correlate their acne breakouts with their hair products until a skincare specialist points it out. Common culprits in hair products include PVP/DMAPA acrylates, cyclopentasiloxane, panthenol, dimethicone, silicone, Quaternium-70, oils, and petrolatum. These oily, waxy, hair products rub off on the face directly or indirectly through the pillow at night. Ladies who wear hijab also notice acne on the areas covered by the hijab as the cloth soaks in the hair product and later it is rubbed off to the facial skin blocking pores and casing acne.
Makeup (foundations, primers, and popular “BB” creams) that promises more coverage and smoother pore-less skin is also known to cause acne. Heavy-coverage skin foundations and concealers contain cyclopentasiloxane and dimethicone and are well known culprits as they contain the same ingredients as the hair products. They serve a similar purpose: smoothing the skin and smoothing the hair. Both should be avoided in acne-prone patients.
How To Prevent Pomade Acne?
The only way to eliminate acne caused by hair products is to completely eliminate the hair product from the daily routine. However, you can’t live without your hair products, here are some tips to reduce the breakouts:
- Choose a hairstyle that keeps the hair away from the face, or wear hair up to avoid prolonged contact with the face, particularly while sleeping.
- Change pillowcase often (every day if possible), especially for side sleepers. Regardless of the fabric, pillowcases trap oil, dirt, and bacteria.
- Wash your hijab every day if possible to avoid hair products being absorbed by the head-scarf and rubbed of on the face.
- Shower at night and sleep with clean hair and clean skin.
- It’s always better to style hair before applying makeup. When done with the hair wash hands thoroughly to remove all hair products before touching the face skin. Always wash face before applying makeup.
- Cover the face prior to applying any hair sprays.
- Cover the hair at bedtime with a hair net if you still have hair products in it; however, tight head coverings can stimulate sweat and cause scalp breakouts.
As a general rule, anyone with difficult-to-control acne, recalcitrant acne, or acne in areas on the cheeks or hairline should eliminate these hair products in their daily routine or avoid skin contact with these products. Additionally using daily skincare suitable for oily and combination skin keeps natural skin oils under check.