Both dandruff and head acne are caused by dysfunction of the sebaceous glands located by each hair follicle on the scalp. In the instance for dandruff, the glands secrete abnormally causing scales to form that often itch. Most cases, however, are mild and successfully treated with commercial shampoos. On the other hand, when these glands become blocked and inflamed by bacteria pustules and lesions can form causing a condition known as head acne. Teens suffering from severe oily scalp conditions known as seborrhea are often at risk for developing head acne.
In all cases it is important for people to avoid picking at their heads or using any kind of greasy or oily shampoos and conditioners. However, they should wash their hair frequently. Pillowcases should also be laundered often since accumulations of sweat and hair oil on them can provide a great breeding ground for bacteria.
A change in diet can also be a good way to combat both conditions. Sufferers should avoid fried foods as well as sugar, nuts, seafood, chocolate and dairy products during severe attacks. In addition, herbal supplements such as goldenseal, red clover, dandelion, burdock root, cayenne, chaparral and alfalfa are very beneficial. Those with head acne will also find that taking 100mgs of niacin with their meals will increase blood flow to the scalp, and many dermatologists often prescribe Retinol-A (a combination of Vitamin A and retonic acid) as well as lotions containing resorcinol and sulfur or Deprosone cream. Tea tree oil is also very helpful in treating both conditions.
African American men are also prone to a similar scalp condition known as acne kelodalis nuchae. Commonly referred to simply as AKN, it is recognizable by the formation of lesions and scar tissue on the back of their heads and necks caused by ingrown hairs. This is caused by close haircuts and shaving. Men suffering from this condition should wash their heads daily using mild keratolyic cleaners containing alpha hydroxy acid or a mild benzolyl peroxide rinse. However, in extreme cases, they may have to have the ingrown hairs removed with a laser.
As in all cases, it is best to consult with a dermatologist if symptoms are severe.