What is Acne Keloidalis Nuchae and Why Is It Never Talked About?
Acne Keloidalis Nuchae can be incredibly uncomfortable and frustrating. You've never heard of it? Well, that's part of the problem.
The facts behind acne keloidalis nuchae
Acne Keloidalis Nuchae is a common disorder that consists of acne-like breakouts on the scalp. This disorder is mostly found in males, who have thicker and coarser hair patterns. Generally, men experience this between their teenage years and 30s, and it is hardly seen in people older than the age of 55. Although these breakouts are far from rare, there is hardly enough medical research for people to reference in order to help self-diagnose and look out for it (Byrdie). This is why Acne Keloidalis Nuchae is never talked about – which sources like us and other health sites are trying to change.
This disorder is mostly found in men of African and Hispanic descent due to the natural coarseness of their hair and the way it tends to grow. In some very rare cases, it can affect women as well, but there are much fewer instances. To go into more depth, Acne Keloidalis Nuchae starts with irritating acne patches on the scalp and can later turn into permanent hair loss if not treated correctly. The hair loss occurs due to the keloid scarring from the acne damaging and potentially destroying the hair follicles in that specific area. On top of the hair loss, this condition can be incredibly uncomfortable, itchy, and also at times socially isolating.
Causes and symptoms
So what causes it? Well, a number of things come into play when talking about this type of condition. An unfortunate but main cause of this condition is simply genetics. A lot of males with coarser hair types are predisposed to ingrown hairs and keloid-scarring, which makes it really hard to prevent acne keloidalis nuchae. A few other causes include, but are not limited to: short hairstyles, dandruff, and scratching.
Here are some ways to identify if you are experiencing symptoms of Acne Keloidalis Nuchae:
1. Small itchy bumps
This type of acne can sometimes look like the regular type. However, these ones show up towards the nape of the neck and appear in clusters on the scalp. They may look like they can be popped or squeezed out, but avoid touching them at all costs, since this could make them 10 times more irritated.
2. Dry, inflamed skin (especially after a haircut)
You may not get bumps right away, but if you start to feel like your scalp has been super dry and inflamed, this may be a sign the acne is beginning to form. A lot of times hair cuts and super short hair can trigger acne because it is more prone to ingrown hairs. Usually, if someone is prone to this condition, they may experience dry and irritable skin from the haircut, which can then trigger an inflammatory reaction.
Treating acne keloidalis nuchae
Depending on the severity and how far it has gone untreated, there are a few ways you can go about treating or helping this condition.
1. Laser therapy
According to Dr. Rawn Bosley, a board-certified dermatologist, laser treatments can really only be used in mild cases of this condition. He states that laser therapy works by reducing the risk of ingrown hairs, which can be a huge factor in the development stages of acne keloidalis nuchae. Consult your primary care doctor or dermatologist for a consultation of laser therapy if you feel like you may have this condition.
Believe it or not, there are some great oral and topical medications that your dermatologist may be able to prescribe you to help treat this acne. Depending on how intense the condition is at the time of treatment determines the level of medication. However, it is a process/cycle, so if you are started on something more aggressive it gradually lessens as the treatment progresses.
3. Keloid Treatment
You may be wondering what exactly keloids are? Keloids are a type of raised scar that occurs after aggressive acne or injuries. Since the word keloids is in the name of this condition, it is very common for them to occur after an aggressive attack. However, with a keloid treatment, the scars can be shrunk or even eliminated at the later stages.
Keloid treatments work by anti-inflammatory injections or cryotherapy, depending on what your dermatologist recommends. This treatment shrinks the keloid plaque, eliminating the raised look of the scar. It is important to note that this treatment is mostly for cosmetic purposes and really only aimed at people at the later stages of acne keloidalis nuchae.
As I mentioned before, one of the main causes of acne keloidalis nuchae is ingrown hairs. Routine exfoliation of the scalp can be extremely helpful for eliminating ingrown hairs. You can exfoliate using a multitude of products such as topical retinoids, beta hydroxy acids, or just a simple cleanser with an exfoliator brush (as long as it doesn’t break the skin and irritate it more). A routine exfoliation can work well in the early stages to help avoid constant ingrown hairs that may lead to a more intense condition.
Final thoughts and tips
- Wear shirts that do not rub your neckline
- Avoid hair oils that may interfere with hair growth
- Avoid hats and helmets (especially when the condition has already started)
Since there is not a lot of reliable and educational research on acne keloidalis nuchae, it is important to advocate for more so that people who experience this condition can have resources for how to diagnose it, treat it, and minimize it.
Written by Emma Carlson