4 Steps to Get Rid of Clogged and Blocked Hair Follicles

  • Medically reviewed by: Debra Rose Wilson, PhD MSN RN IBCLC AHN-BC CHT
  • Written by: William Slator
  • Last updated: 19/02/2024

Blocked and clogged hair follicles are a common concern, especially among men with hair loss.

After reading this guide, you will be able to:

  1. Get rid of the scalp sebum build-up (also known as epidermis plaque) that is clogging up your hair follicles and reducing hair growth
  2. Stop the sebum coming back
  3. Reduce dandruff and hair shedding whilst improving the strength, thickness, and overall healthiness of your hair.

What Causes Blocked Follicles?

To understand what causes blocked follicles, it helps to understand the structure of the hair follicle.

The Structure of Hair Follicles

While the hair follicle is an independent micro-organ, it exists alongside other scalp structures. These include the sebaceous glands, the vasculature that supplies the follicle with blood, and the pore, namely the opening through which the hair and sebum pass.

The hair follicle itself is composed of multiple parts. At the bottom sits the hair bulb, which includes the dermal papilla and hair matrix. These structures are critical to the hair growth cycle. The ultimate size of the hair shaft is directly dependent on the size of the bulb.

As we move up the follicle, we find the hair shaft enclosed within two layers of cells: the outer root sheath and the inner root sheath.

The sebaceous gland is directly connected to the hair follicle. It empties its contents (sebum) into the follicular canal, via a short duct.

As the follicle shrinks (miniaturizes), the sebaceous gland enlarges and takes up much of the now-empty space. Predictably, the enlarged sebaceous gland will produce more sebum. This can harden and result in blocked pores and hair follicles.

Consumers often make things worse by using excess hair care products. These can build up on the scalp, and in combination with the sebum exacerbate clogged follicles.

The consequences of blocked follicles are unpleasant and include stunted hair growth. The blockage may also lead to folliculitis. This is a painful condition characterized by inflammation and infection. In extreme cases, folliculitis can manifest as visible bumps or puss-filled blisters.

How to Get Rid of Clogged and Blocked Hair Follicles

Step One: Choose the Right Cleansing Shampoo

An alternative to store-bought shampoos is to make your own shampoo. This will not contain harsh chemicals that could end up irritating your skin and possibly clogging your follicles.

Here are the basics of how to make your own hair loss shampoo:

  • Take 2 tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar
  • Add 1 teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda)
  • Add 2 drops of tea tree oil (optional)
  • Add 2 drops of peppermint essential oil (optional)
  • Mix the ingredients in half a pint glass along with warm water
  • Stir and wait to settle (the baking soda and apple cider vinegar will react)
  • Pour onto wet hair inside the shower and massage into the scalp for 3 minutes
  • Rinse out with warm (but not hot) water.

Apple cider vinegar and baking soda are natural cleansing agents that gently clean your scalp and hair. They do this without stripping away oils that protect the skin and hair.

The tea tree oil is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. It gently cleans away any fungi that can cause itching and dandruff.

The peppermint oil removes plaque, increases blood flow, and soothes the scalp.

If you would rather not make your own shampoo, then you will want to ensure you choose a shampoo with high-quality ingredients. You should consider shampoos containing ingredients like tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, and rosemary.

Step Two: Perform a Salicylic Acid Peel to Remove the Layer of Plaque

Dermatologists use salicylic acid to gently peel away the layer of dead skin cells. This reveals the youthful, radiant skin underneath.

Although this method is used mostly on the face, it is the perfect way to remove the layers of dead skin, oil, DHT, and dirt that clog and block the pores and follicles of the scalp.

Salicylic Acid Scalp Peel

Here is how to perform a salicylic acid peel.

What You Need:

  • Salicylic Acid
  • Coconut Oil


Wash your hair, rinse thoroughly, and towel dry.

Apply the coconut oil to your scalp, ensuring it is spread thoroughly. This will protect your scalp from over-drying caused by salicylic acid.

Allow the coconut oil to sit for 30 minutes, and then use a dropper to apply small amounts of the salicylic acid to trouble areas of your scalp.

Leave in for 10 minutes, and then rinse and peel the remaining salicylic acid.

A Scalp Peel Alternative

For some individuals, the salicylic acid peel can be a bit harsh. This is especially true if you have an underlying scalp condition, such as dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis.

In this case, you can use the alternative peel below.

What You Need:

  • Himalayan sea salt (2 tablespoons)
  • lemon juice (2 tablespoons)
  • olive oil (2 tablespoons)


Combine the ingredients above. Shake the combination vigorously.

To use, pour the mixture into your palm and apply directly to the most troublesome areas of your scalp. Gently massage the mixture in, using your fingertips and working them in small, circular motions.

Let the mixture sit on your scalp for 5-10 minutes, since the citric acid in the lemon needs time to break down scalp buildup. Rinse with lukewarm (or even better, cold) water.

You will likely need to perform this peel several times before the plaque is fully removed. However, this will depend on the severity of the buildup and other factors.

For further results, you can use a hairbrush to remove the excess buildup. This will stimulate blood circulation while further helping to unclog the hair follicles.

Step Three: Reduce Scalp Damage with Colder Showers

Excessively hot showers can dry and damage the scalp. Although you may think the hot water would be good at unclogging and unblocking the pores, it causes more problems than it solves. The skin will dry out, causing inflammation and dandruff. The hair follicles will become dry and brittle, and the body will try to secrete oils to moisturize the scalp, making the problem worse.

The alternative is to shower with lukewarm or, ideally, cold water.

Lukewarm and cold water will have fewer drying effects on the scalp. Cold showers can also boost circulation in the scalp, helping to increase oxygen flow to blood vessels and making the hair follicles stronger.

Step Four: Improve Your Diet to Reduce Sebum Buildup

Improving your diet can help naturally reduce the plaque that builds up over time. It will also help improve the quality and speed of your hair growth.

Here are a few simple pointers to help improve your diet for a better scalp condition:

  • Reduce unhealthy fats, such as frying oils, and those found in greasy foods.
  • Eat less processed foods.
  • Prioritize high-quality natural fats such as those from nuts, seeds, cold-water fish, and avocados.
  • Eat a low-glycemic-load diet.

The goal is two-fold.

First, a diet following the guidelines above is less likely to result in excess sebum production. This has previously been implicated in conditions such as acne.

Second, a healthy, whole-food diet will ensure you meet your body’s nutrient and mineral needs. This contributes to healthy hair growth from the inside.


It is common to experience sebum buildup on the scalp. After all, the scalp is exposed to many chemicals and irritants, including hair care products and pollutants. Dysregulation of sebum production, including overgrowth of the sebaceous glands, can exacerbate the problem. Ultimately, this buildup can lead to clogged hair follicles.

The above information will enable you to get rid of clogged and blocked hair follicles, as well as prevent them from reoccurring. This will ensure your scalp is the optimal environment for full, healthy hair growth.

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