Head and Shoulders Shampoo Clears Acne: True or False?

I love fads and trends, especially in the beauty genre. In fact, as a young writer just starting out in NYC, I volunteered myself to get all sorts of crazy facials (including a caviar facial) for a local magazine. Those were the days!

So, when I heard that dandruff shampoo (specifically Head and Shoulders, according to TikTok) can help clear up acne, I was shocked, confused, and totally intrigued. Was this true?

@elysemyersyou ever look at a word so long it starts to look like a made up word? my brain started convincing me ‘zinc’ wasn’t the right spelling by the end of editing this. 😂♬ original sound – Elyse Myers

Here’s the back story. Social media personality Elyse Myers posted a video to her TikTok and Instagram about her skincare routine. She’s struggled with adult acne and—according to Myers—a dermatologist once told her to wash her face with Head and Shoulders dandruff shampoo because the zinc in it can clear up your skin. 

Myers insisted it worked for her, and even when she tried fancy, name-brand skincare products, they weren’t as effective as Head and Shoulders.

Asking the pros: dandruff shampoo for acne?

To me, Head and Shoulders smells quite chemically—however, I’ve always known zinc is great for the skin, which is why it’s the active ingredient in sunscreen. 

Ok—the question of all questions. Can you really wash your face with this blue dandruff shampoo—or does this only work miracles for Myers?

I consulted with Dr. Karan Lal, DO, MS, FAAD, a double-board certified celebrity dermatologist, about this dandruff shampoo on-your-face trend.

Head and Shoulders, along with many other dandruff shampoos, contain zinc as the active ingredient, which has anti-inflammatory properties and helps reduce oiliness of the skin.”

According to Dr. Lal, this blue shampoo is particularly helpful for those with pityrosporum folliculitis (itchy rashes/splotches on the face and body). “Those splotches are actually due to a yeast–the same yeast that causes dandruff.”

Bottom line? “Head and Shoulders works great for dandruff since zinc is antimicrobial against yeast — and thus also works great for those with acne,” says Dr. Lal.

Who knew?! I’m so thrilled Myers shared this beauty secret with the world.

Before jumping in, run all this all by your dermatologist, and remember, says Dr. Lal: “Head and Shoulders can be super drying, cause irritant reactions, and also cause significant redness.”

Also note: prolonged application of dandruff shampoo on the face can even lead to a burn-like reaction. Adds Dr. Lal: “I recommend people use it 2 to 3 times per week, alternating with a salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide wash. My go-to face washes are PanOxyl and Cerave Renewing SA Cleanser. Alternating reduces the risk of developing irritation, as well as resistance.” 

head and shoulders dandruff shampoo clear acne

Your skin situation is unique

Long Island, NY-based Physician’s Assistant Angie Seelal, PA-C of Advanced Dermatology PC wants to clarify the use of Head and Shoulders on the face. While the shampoo can combat acne, and worked for Myers and others, it’s NOT a treatment for everyone.

“I can’t stress this enough, especially with trends on social media—a dandruff shampoo is only going to work if you’re dealing with fungal acne specifically. This isn’t something to try if you’re simply dealing with a few blackheads or cyst,” says Seelal.

Fungal acne, she explains, usually manifests as pus-filled pimples and red bumps, which can be easily confused, with the same symptoms as typical bacteria-induced acne, therefore it can be difficult to self-diagnose without a professional.”

Adds Seelal: “So only if the patient comes in and meets this criteria would be when I recommend Head and Shoulders.”

3 thoughts on “Head and Shoulders Shampoo Clears Acne: True or False?”

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  1. Nancy says:

    I am a 40+ year old female that gave it a try as I have struggled with acne all my life. I have used everything on the market, including Accutane. I am only on my 3rd week and see some improvement and less inflammation. If asked, I would recommend it.

  2. Michelle says:

    My dermatologist recommended it. I use it when I have a break out and it clears right up. She also explained that it is for a specific, fungal acne. I hate the smell but it’s worth a once or twice a week scrub.

    1. RS says:

      I should have quoted you in this article! I can’t stand the smell either, but love that it’s an inexpensive way to clear fungal acne!
      – Rachel