Selsun Shampoo causes hair loss

Selenium disulfideDrug groups Selenium disulfide is an active ingredient from the group of antiseborrheic agents that is used to treat diseases of the skin and scalp. The areas of application include dandruff, seborrhea and pityriasis versicolor. Selenium disulfide has anti-seborrheic, fungistatic and anti-proliferative properties. When using it, it must be noted that jewelry, clothing and hair can be discolored. Contact with the eyes and mucous membranes must be avoided. Possible adverse effects include skin reactions, a rash, itching, hair discoloration, hair loss and contact dermatitis.

synonym: Selenii disulfidumPhEur, Seleniumdisulfid, Selenium sulfuratum, Selenium disulfide


Selenium disulfide is commercially available as a shampoo (suspension) in a fixed combination with sulfur (Ektoselen®). It has been approved in Switzerland since 1952. Selsun® has not been sold since 2019.

Structure and properties

Selenium disulfide (SeS2, Mr = 143.1 g / mol) is a yellow-orange to reddish-brown powder that is practically insoluble in water. It is an inorganic compound made up of the two elements selenium and sulfur. The formal structure is S = Se = S, but there are also other and cyclic connections.


Selenium disulfide (ATC D11AC03) has antiseborrheic and antimicrobial (antifungal, fungistatic) properties. It is effective against fungi such as dermatophytes and Malassezia furfur, which are involved in the development of dandruff. It also has anti-proliferative effects on the corneocytes and counteracts increased desquamation of the epidermis.

Indications Dosage

According to the instructions for use. The application depends on the product and the indication. For dandruff therapy, the drug is not used daily, but only once or twice a week.

Contact with the eyes and mucous membranes must be avoided. Rings and jewelry must be taken off before use. Silver jewelry can oxidize (blacken) on contact with selenium disulfide. Wash hands thoroughly after each use. The product should not get on the clothes.

  • Hypersensitivity
  • Open injuries or acute inflammation of the scalp

The complete precautionary measures can be found in the medicinal product information sheet.


Selenium disulfide should not be used before bleaching, dyeing or perming the hair.

unwanted effects

Possible adverse effects include skin reactions, skin irritation, a rash, itching, hair discoloration, hair loss, contact dermatitis and hypersensitivity reactions.

see also

Keratolytics, selenium, sulfur

  • Pharmaceutical product information (CH, D, USA)
  • European Pharmacopoeia PhEur
  • Specialist literature
  • Gilbertson K., Jarrett R., Bayliss S.J., Berk D.R. Scalp discoloration from selenium sulfide shampoo: a case series and review of the literature. Pediatr Dermatol, 2012, 29 (1), 84-8 Pubmed
  • Gillum R.F. Hyperpigmentation associated with selenium sulfide lotion. J Natl Med Assoc, 1996, 88 (9), 551 Pubmed
  • Slepyan A.H. Selenium disulfide suspension in treatment of seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp. AMA Arch Derm Syphilol, 1952, 65 (2), 228-9 Pubmed

Conflicts of Interest: None / Independent. The author has no relationships with the manufacturers and is not involved in the sale of the products mentioned.

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This article was last changed on 1/11/2021.
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