Acne keloidalis nuchae (AKN)

What is AKN?

It is a chronic condition where people get itchy bumps on the back of the neck and scalp. It is most common in young, African American men. The bumps may result in thickened scars and patches of hair loss.

Scratching, rubbing, or shaving the back of your neck may cause or worsen AKN. Another cause may be an abnormal reaction to a bacterium called staphylococcus aureus.

How do I know if I have AKN?

  • The first sign is small red or skin-colored bumps on the lower back of the neck along and in the hairline.
  • Sometimes you get tiny pustules or “pus bumps.”
  • The bumps can get bigger and be different sizes. They can be pea-sized to thick broad bands of scar.

How do you treat AKN?

While it's not clear how to prevent or cure AKN, the goal for treating AKN is to stop it from getting worse.

  • Do not scratch, pick, or rub (such as shirt collars and hats) the back of your neck.
  • Do not get short haircuts or use razors or electric hair clippers on the back of your neck.
  • Use antimicrobial cleansers, such as over-the-counter:
    • Benzoyl peroxide wash 1 time a day
    • Chlorhexidine wash 3 times a week
  • If your AKN is severe, we may give you topical or injectable steroids.
  • If you have a lot of inflammation, we may give you oral antibiotics.
Last reviewed: 
February 2017

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