Pomade Acne, a Self-Inflicted Dermatological Problem

Did you know that hair care products can cause something called pomade acne? Here's the 411

As if you didn't have enough to worry about from a skin-care perspective, something as simple as changing your hairstyle can result in an annoying condition called "pomade acne." As you may have guessed from the name, it's the result of over-enthusiastic use of certain hair care products.

What's next, chocolate-related acne? Oh, wait...

Hair Today, Skin Tomorrow

Pomade acne is a relative newcomer on the dermatologists' menu; it was first defined in African-American men about 1970. Scalp creams, heavy oils, and similar hair dressings of the pomade variety became especially popular about that time, and the gentlemen were suffering from acne at the hairline.

This form of acne is not limited to any specific gender or culture, of course; anyone who puts any hair molding or straightening goop on his or her head, whether homemade or store-bought, can suffer from it. That includes commercially available relaxers like those used in beauty shops, by the way.

Why It's a Problem

Basically, pomades tend to be "comedogenic"--which, despite the way the word sounds, isn't funny in any sense. Unless you really, really like zits, in which case, may we suggest a career in dermatology?

No, the oily nature of pomades tends to clog pores on the scalp, at the temples, and on the forehead, so that non-inflammatory acne lesions called "comedones" form. If you have long hair, they can also form on your neck. These comedones can include whiteheads, blackheads, or both.

In case you were wondering, whiteheads are closed comedones with white centers. Blackheads are open comedones filled with oil and dead skin cells.

In addition to all this, some of the chemicals used in pomades can cause inflammation, making the acne triggered by the product even worse.

How to Avoid It

You don't have to give up fashion altogether in order to avoid acne, but if you suffer from an eruption of the pomade version (or suspect you have), then let's just say you might want to go with the dry look for a while.

If that's not an option -- if, say, you use a pomade to ease a dry scalp -- then there are ways to limit the problem. You can use a less comedogenic pomade, preferably one with a water- or glycerin-based formula rather than one using mineral oil or petroleum jelly. Or, you can apply it farther back from the hairline.

Realize, of course, that whatever you do, some of your pomade will end up on your skin. That's inevitable. And if it does, you're setting yourself up for a breakout. So in the end, it's your call: would you rather have clear skin, or great-looking hair with a side of pomade acne?

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