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Acne keloidalis nuchae: Self-care

To gain control over acne keloidalis nuchae, most people need both medical treatment from a dermatologist and self-care

Self-care can help prevent AKN from worsening.

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7 self-care tips that can prevent acne keloidalis nuchae from worsening

If you have acne keloidalis nuchae (AKN), dermatologists recommend both treatment and self-care. When used along with treatment, the following self-care tips from dermatologists help prevent AKN from worsening and keep the condition under control.

  1. When possible, let your hair grow. Ideally, you want to get haircuts that avoid shaving the back of your neck and head. Shaving these areas can cause AKN to flare.

    If you’re serving in the military and need frequent short haircuts, you can still keep AKN under control

    To do this, you need to medically treat AKN. A military dermatologist can help active service members with AKN.

    U.S. Marine has acne keloidalis nuchae under control, despite his closed-shaved haircut and need to wear a cap

  2. Prevent clothing and other items from rubbing the back of your neck or scalp. Anything that rubs the back of your neck or scalp can cause AKN to flare. This includes shirts, chains, hats, and athletic gear. To prevent rubbing, dermatologists recommend that you:

    • Wear collarless shirts and jackets.
    • Avoid wearing anything around your neck, including chains or lanyards.
    • Wear hats that stop short of where you have AKN.

  3. Wash the back of your neck and scalp with an antimicrobial cleanser. Having AKN increases the risk of developing an infection. Using an antimicrobial cleanser helps to avoid an infection.

    Dermatologists often recommend using a cleanser that contains benzoyl peroxide or chlorhexidine. Use the cleanser that your dermatologist recommends and follow your dermatologist’s instructions.

  4. Be gentle when washing the back of your neck and shampooing your scalp. Rubbing or scratching can irritate your skin, causing AKN to worsen.

  5. Relieve itch with a cool compress. AKN can be itchy. If you scratch, pick, or rub skin with AKN, you can make the condition worse.

    To make a cool compress, run a clean washcloth under cool tap water. Wring out the excess water. Then apply the damp washcloth to the itchy area. Leave the washcloth on your skin for 10 minutes.

    When used along with medication in your treatment plan, a cool compress can reduce the itch.

  6. If you use pomade or hair grease, stop. These can irritate the skin, causing AKN to flare.

  7. Keep the back of your neck dry. Heat and sweat can irritate your skin, so try to stay cool.

AKN impacts everyone differently. By working with a board-certified dermatologist, you can find out about treatment and what can help you prevent AKN from worsening.

You can find a board-certified dermatologist by going to Find a dermatologist.

Getty Images

Brahe C, Peters K, Meunier N. Acne keloidalis nuchae in the armed forces. Cutis. 2020 May;105(5):223-226.

Kelly AP, Bayat A. “Acne keloidalis nuchae.” In: Taylor and Kelly’s Dermatology for Skin of Color (2nd ed.), McGraw Hill, USA, 2016:224-9.

Ogunbiyi, A, “Acne keloidalis nuchae: prevalence, impact, and management challenges.” Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2016; 9: 483–489.

Written by:
Paula Ludmann, MS

Reviewed by:
Amanda Friedrichs, MD, FAAD
Chesahna Kindred, MD, MBA, FAAD
Omolara Olowoyeye, MD, FAAD

Last updated: 7/28/22