Finally: An Acne-Friendly Shampoo and Conditioner That Won’t Completely Dry Out Your Hair

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Body breakouts, be gone!

I’ve spent years searching for a product that would kick my body acne to the curb once and for all. I’ve tried body washes, bar soaps, sprays, and serums, and many of them really have worked… but only temporarily. After a few weeks with a breakout-free butt, those (literal) pain-in-the-ass pimples *always* seem to come back in full force. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that it might be time to stop treating the problem and start trying to figure out where the heck it was coming from, which made me take a much-needed look at my haircare routine.

And wouldn’t ya know it, certain ingredients commonly found in shampoos and conditioners can clog pores and ultimately lead to breakouts. Clearly, something needed to change, so I swapped my go-to lather and rinse products for Clearstem’s Luxury Haircare Bundle ($94), and haven’t looked back since.

Includes a bottle of Clearstem’s Restorative Shampoo, a tub of Repair Conditioner, a scalp scrubber, and a claw clip.


  • Acne-friendly
  • Safe for sensitive skin
  • SLS-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free
  • Doesn’t dry out hair
  • Spa-like smell
  • Includes claw clip and scalp scrubber


  • Expensive

Why an acne-friendly shampoo?

Fun fact: Your hair products don’t just come into contact with your scalp and strands. As you rinse them out, they make their way down your body, touching your back and butt—AKA, body breakout central—along the way. According to dermatologists, sulfates, which are often used as lathering agents to make shampoo feel frothy, form a film on the skin and trap acne-causing dirt and bacteria. Other common shampoo ingredients, like silicones, thick oils (like mineral oil and lanolin), and fragrances may also contribute to breakouts, but sulfates like SLS and SLES are known to be enemy number one.

Additionally, conditioners often use heavy butters and oils for their moisturizing benefits, which—as you likely already know from your skincare routine—can cause breakouts.

“We see hair-care products clogging the pores and creating acne-like lesions,” says Ivy Lee, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Pasadena, California. She notes that conditioners with certain oils “can have more comedogenic effects where they plug the pores and can lead to acne-like lesions along the hairline, on the back of the neck, shoulders, or upper back.” A few common culprits? Coconut oil, almond oil, and avocado oil.

About Clearstem’s Luxury Haircare Bundle

Clearstem’s haircare products are free of many things, including pore-cloggers like sulfates, shea butter, isopropyl myristate, and coconut oil, as well as potential hormone-disruptors, like parabens and phthalates. But equally as important as what the formulas don’t have is what they do have: A slew of good-for-hair ingredients.

First up in the bundle is the brand’s Restorative Shampoo, which contains growth-stimulating rosemary oil, scalp-soothing spearmint oil, and redness-reducing chamomile extract. Then, there’s the Repair Conditioner, which gets its nourishing benefits from Kokum seed butter (for hair moisture) and almond seed cake, which coats the hair shaft in a protective barrier of peptides to prevent breakage. Both of these ingredients are non-comedogenic, so they won’t clog your pores when they rinse off down your back.

Like all of Clearstem’s products, the new haircare line sits at a unique intersection of “clean” and “clinical.” The brand was founded by Danielle Gronich, a licensed clinical esthetician and the founder of San Diego Acne Clinic, and Kayleigh Christina, a certified holistic nutritionist, who brought their different perspectives on treating acne into the brand’s ethos. The formula’s hero natural, clinically tested ingredients are safe for sensitive skin and have been tested by dermatologists.

Photo: Clearstem

Why I love it

The fact that Clearstem’s Shampoo and Conditioner are acne-friendly may have been what got me to try them in the first place, but there are a whole bunch of other reasons that have kept me coming back for more.

Because most sulfate-free shampoos offer a pretty wimpy lather (if any at all), I’ve always struggled to believe they were actually getting my scalp clean—without the feeling of froth, I wasn’t convinced they were picking up all the dirt and grime. Clearstem’s shampoo gets the perfect amount of suds from its plant-based sulfate alternatives to leave me confident that it gets the job done.

Plus, not only does the spearmint-rosemary combination smell like a full-blown spa experience, but the essential oils offer a nice cooling effect when you apply them to your scalp. The whole user experience is so luxe that it feels like it should be happening at the hands of a professional in the salon instead of in my own shower. One thing that makes it even more pro-grade? The scalp scrubber that comes with it, which I massage all over my scalp anytime it needs a deep clean.

I was initially worried that an acne-friendly product duo would leave my perennially dry hair even drier, but boy was I wrong. Whatever the Kokum seed butter and almond seed cake are doing to my strands, it’s pure magic. The conditioner leaves my hair so soft and shiny and allows me to get a subtle whiff of its energizing spearmint scent all day long.

I also love that the product comes in a tub because it allows me to control exactly how much I’m using at a time. I like to apply it to my hair in small sections, working dime-sized dollops into my strands from end to root and combing through. I clip it all up into the claw clip that comes with the Bundle, let it sit for five minutes while I do the rest of my body care routine, and rinse.

The product is still a fairly new addition to my routine, but based on what my hair looks like, how dang good it feels to use it, and the fact that my body breakouts are on their way out the door, you better believe it’s here to stay.

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