Pimples can appear on your face, back, chest, arms, and, yes — even in your hairline. Hairline pimples can be an issue when you’re brushing or styling your hair.

If you have red bumps in your hairline, it’s likely that you have pimples. But it might be a sign of another condition instead.

A pimple is caused by excess oil or dead skin that builds up within a pore in your skin. Your skin contains oil glands that produce sebum, which works to protect and lubricate your hair and skin. However, the buildup of sebum in a pore can cause a reaction of redness or slight swelling on the skin.

Pimples can be caused by many different irritants. Hairline pimples can crop up with little warning, but they can usually be traced to one of these causes:

  • Hygiene. Oils and dead skin build up naturally, especially in hairy areas. Be sure to practice regular hygiene. Wash your hair and skin regularly, with extra attention after physical activity or hot weather.
  • Makeup. Women’s makeup can cause a buildup of oils that aren’t natural to the body. Cover-up and foundation, which are used to even one’s skin tone, are often left on overnight or for the whole day. That too can clog the pores causing pimples.
  • Hair products. Hair products such as hairspray, mousse, oils, and gels can contribute to an excess of oil and skin reactions in the hairline.
  • Headwear. Headwear such as helmets, hats, bandanas, or headbands can trap sweat and oil in the hairline. This causes a buildup of sweat and oil that may cause acne or pimples in the hairline.
  • Hormones. Hormonal changes, especially in teens and young adults, can cause an increase in oil production that contributes to acne or pimples in the hairline, face, and other areas of the body.
  • Family history. Acne and pimples may be hereditary. If your parents have a history of also having pimples, you’re more likely to have reoccurring issues with pimples as well.

The good news is that there are measures you can take to help your pimples heal. Treating pimples takes time, but you can speed up the process with a few tips.

When you notice a pimple or pimples in your hairline, try the following:

  1. Refrain from touching the pimple as much as possible.
  2. Gently wash the area.
  3. Don’t use oily hair or facial products. Try to use noncomedogenic products for face and hair. If you have to, make sure to thoroughly wash your hair and face when the day is over.
  4. You can use anti-acne medication, lotion, or washes, but use them with caution. Be sure to monitor your use for dry skin or other skin reactions.
  5. Refrain from wearing tight or heavy headwear that may irritate your pimple more.

It’s unlikely that your red bump is anything other than a pimple, but there’s a possibility. If the red bump doesn’t go away or your conditions worsen, be sure to take note of symptoms that may be signs of another condition.

  • Measles. If you have a high fever or a cough along with red bumps in your hairline and on your body, you may have measles. There are preventative vaccines available for measles. But once you have it, only the symptoms can be addressed, using treatments such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • Rubella. If you have small red spots that start in the hairline and face along with swollen lymph nodes, you may be suffering from rubella (also known as German measles). Once you have rubella, there are no treatments for it. Those diagnosed are encouraged to get bed rest and avoid contaminating others.
  • Folliculitis. If you have several red bumps or pimples, you may be suffering from folliculitis. Folliculitis is characterized by inflammation of hair follicles. Some folliculitis is caused by a staph infection or razor bumps. Doctors usually prescribe creams or pills to treat folliculitis, but bad cases can require surgery to drain large boils.

Hairline pimples are extremely common. They usually occur because of the natural buildup of oils in your hair and skin.

If you’re experiencing more pimples than normal, consider washing your hair and face more regularly and limiting the use of hair products and makeup.

If you’re experiencing other symptoms like a fever or cough, you should visit a doctor to make sure you don’t have a more serious condition.