Fighting Acne With Shampoo Sounds Wrong, But it Works


When I was in middle school and high school, unable to drive a car or sleep without the lamp on my nightstand burning brightly to protect me from murderers or Mary, the woman I believed lived in the mirror hung on my wall, I was limited in most capacities. Chief among those was my inability to go out on my own and purchase the products I’d been researching to clear my acne. Immobile and frightened of everyone and everything that wasn’t already in my bedroom, I turned to all of the DIY home remedies that 2005’s witch-preoccupied internet offered: honey, egg white, avocado, essential oils, coffee grounds, mayonnaise, motor oil, sheep’s blood, tuna salad, Funfetti frosting and the like.

One of the more effective at-home remedies for break outs — at least in the short-term — was sneaking into my parents’ bathroom and squeezing a hearty dollop of my dad’s Head & Shoulders into my palm, then scrubbing my face with it. (My dad never noticed his industrial sized supply of Head & Shoulders dwindling, as nobody has ever used up a bottle of Head & Shoulders, but he always noticed when I used his razor and shaving cream. Due to convoluted liberal arts white feminism and the anxiety I have about about making my money as a beauty writer even though I have absolutely no business telling people how to look or groom themselves, I no longer shave my legs, except when I’m bored. But I still occasionally fight acne with Head & Shoulders.)

Gonna put this out there before my closest friends and harshest critics — commenters on the internet —  weigh in: Basically all short-term acne solutions dry out skin. Cell turnover via gentle, gradual exfoliation and responsible moisturizing, as well as Spironolactone, have proved the only cure for my sluggish complexion. But sometimes you sleep in your makeup all week, not because you’ve been out being young, hot and flirty in New York City and have no time to slow down for self care, but because you’ve been distracted and just kind of, like, forgot. That’s when you can try this EPIC HACK.

Head & Shoulders helps with seborrheic dermatitis, acne vulgaris and an acne-like inflammation of hair follicles called pityrosporum folliculitis because of its active ingredient, pyrithione zinc, and its anti-fungal properties. The same effect could be achieved, theoretically, by swiping Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, zinc cream or any sort of zinc-based sunscreen on your face. I bought a travel-size Head & Shoulders earlier this week at my local CVS (aka, The Place Where Sara Bareilles Is Always on the Radio) for a single dollar. That’s the same as the price of the Pitbull song you bought on iTunes yesterday because you wanted to memorize the lyrics on the subway by playing it on repeat until you reached your destination. It works incredibly well!

But listen! Drying out your face is never going to create skin so radiant it shines and, despite the fact that I’m currently using the wifi of and taking up bodily space in a major American university’s medical library, I’m not a doctor. I’m not even old enough to be a doctor! I’m probably not even old enough or responsible enough to have internet access! But I know what it’s like to be in a state of real peril because even though it’s only October, it’s almost January in your head, and everything is bleak already, and then you get a bad breakout on your chin. Rub a little Head & Shoulders on it for now, and deal with the rest later.

Claire Carusillo is a freelance and fiction writer in New York. She writes a weekly beauty newsletter offering off-label product usage advice.  Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.


Claire Carusillo

Claire Carusillo

Claire Carusillo is a beauty columnist at Man Repeller. She writes a weekly beauty newsletter offering off-label product usage advice and prefers to be referred to as "IDK, Some Girl."

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