this thing's incredible

This Shampoo and Conditioner Fixed My Hairline Acne (and Actually Make My Hair Look Good)

Photo: Retailer

I consider myself something of an acne veteran. After four dermatologists, three rounds of Accutane, and two rounds of antibiotics, my skin is mostly clear (knock on wood) and seems to be staying that way. But even after all of that — and a retinol prescription — I was still developing stubborn whiteheads behind my ears and along my hairline. My first lines of defense were more retinol and hydrocolloid patches, but as soon as I’d heal one pimple, another would pop up in its place. And the ones behind my ears, while not as noticeable, were uncomfortable while wearing glasses and were much harder to treat. I was following all the advice I could: I made sure to wash my face after sweaty workouts and to keep my hair clipped up at night, but after several weeks passed with no improvement, I started to suspect my shampoo and conditioner might be the culprits.

I had been using an all-natural honey-based shampoo and conditioner I picked up at CVS because they claimed to be safe for skin but still moisturizing for my already dry, frizzy hair. (Lots of skin-safe and noncomedogenic shampoos, like Head & Shoulders or ones containing tea-tree oil, can strip hair of moisture even as they clear up your skin.) But looking closer at the ingredients of my supposedly skin-safe shampoo, I spotted several potentially pore-clogging oils, like sunflower and watermelon seed, which had likely caused the irritation.

So after speaking with dermatologists for a roundup of the best skin-safe hair care, I took my own advice and decided to try SEEN. It’s a noncomedogenic, sulfate-free, silicone-free hair-care line formulated by an actual dermatologist that was recommended to me by two other dermatologists. The combination seemed to strike the balance I had long been looking for: Free from heavy oils, the duo could still moisturize hair and tame frizz without causing breakouts thanks to actually moisturizing ingredients like hemisqualane, a sister of skin-soothing squalane, and shea butter.

It took just one (extra-long) shower to realize that SEEN was better than anything else I had tried. The shampoo foams up nicely even though it’s sulfate-free, and it has a light, clean scent — the fragrance equivalent, say, of slipping into a fresh set of sheets — which lasts until my next wash. It rinses clean without stripping my hair of moisture, and I have never noticed any residue on my skin. The conditioner leaves my hair feeling soft and smooth without coating it with a slippery, pore-clogging film. And after using both for a little over two weeks, I noticed that the breakouts, especially those behind my ears, were starting to heal — and no new ones were forming in their place. But perhaps more surprising, my hair was looking better too. It was soft and less frizzy, and I would often hold a piece up to my nose just to get a whiff of the deliciously clean scent.

I’ve now been using SEEN’s shampoo and conditioner for just over three months, and the breakouts behind my ears are completely gone, as are the ones around my hairline. My hair and skin are looking the best they have looked in years, and I’ve already added another bottle of shampoo to my cart. I will admit that these aren’t the cheapest shampoo and conditioner I’ve ever used, but because I’m not breaking out anymore, I’m using way less retinol and fewer hydrocolloid patches, the costs of which certainly add up, so I’m willing to call it a draw. And while my hair may not be completely free from frizz, I can guarantee you won’t find anything safer on skin (or more moisturizing or better smelling) at your local drugstore.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

This Skin-Safe Shampoo Set Actually Makes My Hair Look Good