What Are the Treatments for Clogged Hair Follicles?

Hair follicles are the sacs in the skin from which hair grows. Cells group together in the pore, they attach to a sebaceous gland (a gland that produces oils to lubricate the hair shaft), and muscle fibers, which help the hair grow away from the skin. Follicles can become clogged with dirt, bacteria and oils from the sebaceous glands. If not cleaned regularly, people with clogged pores can develop chronic acne, irritation and possibly hair loss.

Take a Shower

Take a shower in the morning to help reduce sebum production. Researchers in a Tokyo study published in the Japan Society of Physiological Anthropology's journal found that study subjects who took a shower in the morning had less sebum—the oil produced by the sebaceous gland—on their skin for several hours compared to subjects that did not shower 1. The trial was done to see if cleaning skin with soap and water had any impact on sebum production.


The Mayo Clinic reports that retinoids, a prescription medication derived from vitamin A, works by promoting cell growth and preventing hair follicles from clogging. Popular retinoid acne medications include Differen and Retin-A; they’re also sold under the generic names adapalene, tazarotene and tretinoin.

For those whose clogged hair follicles cause acne breakouts, retinoids combined with an oral antibiotic will unclog the hair follicles and kill the bacteria that cause acne. It will also reduce inflammation.

Noncomedogenic Products

Shampoos and conditioners that contain moisturizers to add body to hair and reduce dandruff and itching can also clog hair follicles. Oil-based skin moisturizers work in a similar way. To prevent clogging hair follicles, use products labeled noncomedogenic, which means that they’re formulated in a way that prevents them from blocking hair follicles. Noncomedogenic products also prevent breakouts and hair loss due to clogged pores.

Clarifying Shampoo

Washing your hair daily can strip the hair of natural oils that add volume and shine. Shampooing hair two or three times a week strikes a comfortable balance between cleaning hair and not damaging and drying the hair shaft with detergents and other ingredients in shampoos. Between shampooing, using hair products like styling gels and mousse accumulate and block hair follicles. Unlike skin elsewhere, it’s not likely acne will appear on the scalp, but hair can develop an odor. Clarifying shampoo (shampoo that does not contain conditioner) will wash away styling resins that collect on the scalp and clog follicles. It will also remove built-up oils from the scalp and hair.