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Selsun Shampoo

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

The active ingredient in Selsun shampoo is a medication called selenium sulfide. It is effective in treating itching, flaking, or scaling of the skin due to conditions such as dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. Selenium sulfide has antibacterial and mild antifungal properties. It also has an effect on reducing irritation and slowing down the production of skin cells and excess natural oil (sebum) on the scalp, which can cause dandruff.

Doctor’s advice

Who is it for?

Selsun shampoo can be used to treat simple dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp in patients over the age of five years. Selsun aims to control symptoms of dryness, itching, and scaling of the scalp. The shampoo must be applied twice a week for two weeks to control the condition, then once a week for two weeks.

  • Before applying Selsun shampoo to your scalp, ensure your hair is thoroughly wet.
  • Rub in enough shampoo for a lather to form that covers your scalp, and continue for 2-3 minutes before rinsing your hair.
  • If, after four weeks of treatment, you find no benefit, speak to your pharmacist or doctor.
  • Selsun shampoo is for external use only and should be kept away from your eyes.

How does it work?

Selsun works in two ways. Firstly, seborrheic dermatitis is a common inflammatory skin condition affecting the scalp characterized by scaling and itching. Inflammation can occur when there is presence of a type of fungus called dermatophytes. The shampoo works to get rid of these fungal elements by breaking them down.

Secondly, dandruff can present when there is overproduction of our natural oil sebum, blocking the hair follicles and creating a greasy look to the hair. Selsun shampoo works by reducing the speed of production of skin cells on the scalp and reducing the greasiness of the scalp which contributes to dandruff. It also helps control the symptoms of itching and scaling associated with dandruff.

Selsun vs other shampoos

Selsun, coal tar shampoo, and ketoconazole shampoo are used for different purposes in managing various scalp conditions.

Selsun contains selenium sulfide and is commonly employed to address dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. It works by reducing the growth of yeast on the scalp, alleviating itching and flaking.

On the other hand, coal tar shampoo is often used to treat psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis. Coal tar helps to slow down the rapid skin cell growth associated with these conditions.

Ketoconazole shampoo, like Nizoral, contains an antifungal medication and is typically used for treating conditions like dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis caused by a yeast infection. It works by inhibiting the growth of the fungi on the scalp.

The choice between these shampoos depends on the specific scalp condition being addressed, and it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or pharmacist for personalized recommendations based on the individual's needs and circumstances.

Should anyone avoid using it?

Do not apply Selsun shampoo if you are under the age of five or if you have previously had an allergic reaction to selenium sulfide or any other ingredients in Selsun. Do not allow any contact with broken or severely inflamed skin, and like most shampoo – please avoid your eyes.

Are there any side effects?

Side effects with the use of the shampoo are uncommon.

Milder symptoms include hair loss or local irritation (some patients describe these symptoms as a burning sensation). If you experience these, stop using the treatment and seek advice from your doctor. Slight hair color changes and dryness of the scalp may also occur, though can be avoided or minimized by washing the hair after treatment.

If you notice any signs of an allergic reaction, such as a new rash, swelling of the airways or face, or difficulty breathing – you should call the emergency services immediately.

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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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