Are Your Hair Care Products Affecting Your Skin?

Are Your Hair Care Products Affecting Your Skin?

You've tried everything! You've actually started washing your face before you go to bed, using a cleanser designed for your skin type, and eating a healthier diet. But your skin is still breaking out! Gaaaaagh! What gives?

One of the most overlooked aspects of skin care is really your hair! Hair is one of the main causes of adult acne, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, but most people don't associate their hair with their skin problems.


If you've got breakouts along your hairline, forehead, neck, shoulders, or back it could be the result of your hair. Sometimes the breakouts are subtle, tiny bumps that you can feel but not see called papules. Sometimes they're angry whiteheads.

Marina Peredo, MD, dermatologist and Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, sees it frequently. "When a patient walks in with breakouts on their hairline, upper forehead, jaw, or sideburn area, my first question is, "What hair products are you using?"

In addition to breakouts, the products we use on our hair can cause dry, flaky, or itchy skin, too.

How Does That Happen?

Lots of ways!
    • When you shower, any products that were applied to your hair wash down your body. It gets diluted along the way, but they're still making contact with your skin, cascading down your neck and back

    • When you exercise, any products you previously applied to your hair, like gel or hairspray, drips across your hairline and runs down your face and neck when you sweat. Alcohols in products like this can cause breakouts.

    • Do you have bangs? According to Dr. Ava Shamban, author of Heal Your Skin, the natural oils from your hair can irritate your skin and cause breakouts.

    • The way you apply your hair products could also be catching your skin in the act. Hair products can easily clog pores, so over application or not being careful when you spray will have an effect on your face.

    • Sleeping on your hair is a great way to transfer the day's dirt and oils right to your face and neck.

What Are the Culprits?

Many people can react to ingredients in hair products, particularly if they contain harsh or synthetic chemicals or other ingredients. Below is a list of some of the most common irritants. Some of these can have a negative impact on your overall health, too.
  • Mineral Oil is a lubricant emollient. It's actually a byproduct of processing gasoline from petroleum, and the large molecules will sit on top of your skin, sealing your pores. It destroys the natural oily barrier of the skin, leading to dryness. It's a cheap filler about 80% of companies use to help increase product volume.
  • Formaldehyde (Imidazolidinyl, DMDM Hydantoin) is a chemical preservative used in embalming. Yuck! It can trigger skin irritations and even heart palpitations.
  • Fragrance or Parfum are synthetic components that can contain up to 600 or more different synthetic chemicals. Many of these have been shown to be allergens, irritants, and sensitizers. They can cause reddened skin, acne, stinging eyes, and dryness.
    • Alcohol dries the hair and skin, particularly if you're prone to dry skin."Many hairsprays are also alcohol-based and can trigger breakouts if accidentally sprayed onto nearby skin," says Rachel Nazarian of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City.HairCareAffectingYourSkin-SLS

    • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is an inexpensive detergent that helps make foam. It has cancer causing properties and can damage the skin. It denatures the protein layers of the skin causing inflammation and can also cause damage to hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.

    • Parabens (methylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben, propylparaben) are preservatives found in many popular lotions and shampoos that are absorbed very well by the skin. They can cause irritation, making you susceptible to allergies and are toxic enough to increase your breast cancer risk.

 "Many hair products are oil based, which may trigger acne in those who are already prone, but ingredients such as petroleum, silicone, cocoa butter, sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, mineral oil, and lanolin can also trigger acne, especially if left on the skin," says Nazarian.

Chemicals that are less toxic, but are still harmful are part of the "cone" chemicals family, like Dimethicone and silicone. These are actually plastic, which can clog pores, making oil glands go rancid and accelerate aging.

How Can You Avoid Trouble?

The first step is to read your ingredients list. Try to stick with products that are more natural and don't contain any of the above ingredients believed by dermatologists to cause problems. Your skin is better off with products that are water or glycerin based, according to

If nothing on the list seems to be the likely culprit, stop using products that don't say one of the following things on the label:

    • Won't clog pores

    • Oil-free

    • Non-comedogenic

    • Non-acnegenic



 "The first thing we recommend is for the patient to switch to a milder shampoo, like baby shampoo, or to something fragrance- and color-free," Dr. Peredo says.

Best Practice

Sometimes, the best products for your hair may still contain ingredients that irritate your skin or cause breakouts. When that's the case, you can stick to the steps below to help keep things in check.
    1. Watch Your Shower Order. Wash your face and use your body wash after you've washed and conditioned your hair. That way, you'll be washing away any products that have trailed a residue onto your skin.

    1. Always Shower After You Exercise, or at least rinse your hair. Sweat clogs pores, especially when left sitting along your hairline.

    1. Apply Conditioner With Your Head Tilted Back. Make sure that you only apply it to your hair, staying about one to two inches away from your scalp. You could also try using one of those baby head cones that keeps water from running into your eyes.

    1. Give Your Forehead a Rest. If you wear bangs, pull them up off of your face when you're at home.

    1. Put Your Hair Up In a Soft Scrunchie To Sleep. Sleeping on your hair with the day's dirt and products rubs countless irritants onto your skin. Do yourself a favor and tuck it up for the night.

    1. Change Your Pillowcase Daily. That sounds like overkill, but a lot of those oils rub off of your hair while you're getting your shut-eye, and then you rub your face on the pillow. Changing up your pillowcase can help.