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Selenium Sulfide | Properties, Uses & Side effects

Home » Blog » Selenium Sulfide » Selenium Sulfide | Properties, Uses & Side effects

What is Selenium Sulfide

Selenium sulfide or Selenium sulphide, also referred to as Selenium disulfide is a liquid antiseborrheic and antifungal preparation that should only be used topically. In the United States, Selenium disulfide was approved for medical use as early as 1951. It is listed as an essential medicine by the World Health Organization. It is available as a generic and over-the-counter medication. It is available as a 2.5% lotion only on prescription. Over-the-counter selenium sulfide at 1% strength (Selsun Blue) is available. Selenium sulphide is used to treat Pityriasis versicolor and Seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp.

Note for the reader >>> In a few instances this article refers to Selenium Sulfide as SS.

Chemical Structure and Properties

Chemical Structure of Selenium sulfide

  • Selenium sulfide is a sulfide salt and consists of a mixture of inorganic covalent compounds.
  • The chemical formula of Selenium sulfide is SeS2 and has a molecular weight of 143.1 g/mol.
  • However, as used in proprietary formulations, it is not a pure chemical compound but a mixture of eight-membered-ring compounds where the overall Se:S ratio is 1:2.
  • It occurs as reddish – yellow to bright orange powder.
  • It has a melting point of 111 °C (232 °F).
  • Selenium sulfide is soluble in carbon disulfide and acids but is practically insoluble in water and organic solvents.
  • When heated to decomposition, it emits very toxic fumes of sulfur oxides and selenium.
  • It is toxic by ingestion and inhalation, and is irritating to skin and eyes.
  • It decomposes in aqua regia, and in nitric acid.
  • Selenium sulfide is used as an ingredient in antidandruff shampoos and also as a constituent of fungicides.
  • If selenium sulfide comes under straight contact with heat, air or light it can be damaged. It must be kept in a secure location, tightly closed, out of reach of kids and should be maintained between 20°C and 25°C at room temperature.

Mechanism of action (How does Selenium sulfide work)

Dandruff and certain scalp infections (seborrhoeic dermatitis) are treated with selenium sulfide. It relieves scalp itching, irritation, and redness. It works as an anti-infective by slowing the growth of the yeast that causes the infection. Selenium sulphide is an effective inhibitor of P. ovale growth. It’s also a proven cytostatic drug in dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, reducing the growth of both hyperproliferative and normal cells. For dandruff, a 0.6 percent micronized version of selenium sulphide is likewise safe and effective.

Topical selenium sulfide may act by an antimitotic action, resulting in a reduction in the turnover of epidermal cells. It also has local irritant, antibacterial, and mild antifungal activity, which may contribute to its effectiveness. An antimitotic mechanism of action is suggested by data showing that selenium sulfide decreases the rate of incorporation of radioactively labeled thymidine into the DNA of dermal epithelial cells. The following organisms are generally considered susceptible to selenium sulfide in vitro: Malassezia furfurMicrosporum sp. including Microsporum audouinii and Microsporum canisPityrosporon sp.Trichophyton sp. including Trichophyton schoenleinii and Trichophyton tonsurans. Selenium sulfide has been shown to be sporicidal to T. tonsurans, the most common etiologic agent of tinea capitis. One in-vitro study demonstrated that 2.5% selenium sulfide was equivalent in sporicidal activity to both 1% and 2% zinc pyrithione. Furthermore, some studies have shown that selenium sulfide is effective in the treatment of Gougerot and Carteaud’s confluent and reticulated papillomatosis. In the treatment of tinea capitis, SS has also been shown to be an effective adjuvant with griseofulvin.

Uses of Selenium Sulfide

Selenium sulfide functions in two ways. It acts as a mild antifungal, inhibiting the growth and multiplication of the yeast that causes skin infections. It also aids in the treatment of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp by reducing the production of dead skin. It has also been proposed that SS can be used to treat hyperkeratosis.

How to use Selenium sulfide?

Follow the Selenium Sulfide Shampoo (Selsun Blue) instructions on the label or as directed by your doctor. Do not use the medications for an extended period of time. Give the SS foam, lotion, or shampoo a good shake before each use. Wash your face after using the foam or lotion. Rinse the shampoo thoroughly. Do not leave it in your hair for more than a few minutes. Topical shampoo containing SS should not be used on a regular basis. To know more about how to use selenium sulfide, you may refer here.

Side effects

The following are some of the most common and serious side effects of Selenium sulfide:

The most frequent adverse effects do not require medical treatment and will fade as your body adjusts to the new dosage. However, if you have any serious or unusual side effects, you should seek medical help right once.


  • If you are allergic to Selenium sulfide or any of its related drugs, see your doctor before using it. There can be some severe allergic responses or other serious issues with the product.
  • If you have a medical history of red, irritated, or damaged skin, talk to your doctor before using this medication.
  • If you are wearing gold, silver or other metallic objects, please remove them while using selenium sulfide to avoid discolouration.
  • When treated for Tinea versicolor, Selenium sulfide may harm the foetus when applied to a pregnant woman’s body surfaces or can affect reproduction capacity. Hence, it is advised that pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult the doctor before starting Selenium sulfide.
  • Selenium sulfide is intended for topical (for skin use) only, and avoid using it on red, broken and irritated skin.
  • Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all of your prescription and nonprescription medications, as well as supplements that you are currently taking.


Q. What is the difference between Selenium Sulfide and Pyrithione Zinc?

Both Selenium Sulfide and Pyrithione Zinc are commonly used active ingredients in anti-dandruff products. Zinc  Pyrithione (ZPT) is effective for treating mild to moderate dandruff, as well as dandruff-related symptoms like mild to moderate dryness and itchy scalp. However, the more strong active element selenium sulfide is utilized for persons who have severe dandruff and dandruff-related conditions including severe itching, scalp irritation, and larger, more persistent flakes.

Q. Is selenium sulfide the same as selenium disulfide?

Selenium sulfide is most commonly referred to as Selenium disulfide.

Q. How to use selenium sulfide lotion?

Selenium sulfide lotion is typically used at the affected area in order to treat conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff, and fungal infections of the skin. After applying it to the affected regions, lather it up with a little bit of water. Allow the product to remain on the skin for ten minutes, and then thoroughly rinse it off.

Q. How does selenium sulfide kill fungus?

There is evidence that selenium sulfide shows antifungal properties and inhibits fungal growth. It eliminates dermatophytes, which are specific kinds of fungi or yeasts, including one called Pityrosporum (Malassezia), and it also stops the growth of fungus. As a result, it is applied to the skin in order to treat fungal diseases, such as seborrheic dermatitis (also known as dandruff) and tinea versicolor (a small patch of discolored skin).

Q. What shampoos contain selenium sulfide?

Some of the brands of shampoos containing Selenium Sulfide are Selsun Blue Tinea Versicolor/Dandruff Shampoo, Selukos Anti-dandruff shampoo, Vichy Dercos Oily/Dry Hair Dandruff Shampoo, etc. For a detailed information about Selenium sulfide shampoo, you may refer here.

Q. Does selenium sulfide cause cancer?

On the basis of substantial evidence of carcinogenicity from animal research, selenium sulfide is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.

Q. Is Selenium sulfide toxic?

Selenium Sulfide has been found to cause liver and lung cancer in animals, hence it could be a CARCINOGEN (a substance that causes cancer) in humans.

Q. Is Selenium sulfide good for your hair?

Because selenium sulfide is used topically to treat dandruff, it’s frequently found in anti-dandruff shampoos. It can also be used in conjunction with protein-rich diets to promote healthier hair development.

Q. What is the difference between Selenium Sulfide and Ketoconazole?

Antifungal agents Ketoconazole and Selenium sulfide are used to treat dandruff-related itching, flaking, scaling, and dry skin on the scalp. However, Ketoconazole products are better tolerated due to lesser side effects.

Q. Is Selenium sulfide good for your skin?

Selenium sulfide is good for your skin if it’s suffering from a fungal infection.

Q. Can Selenium sulfide burn your skin?

It can cause a burning sensation if left for too long or if your skin isn’t suited to it.

Q. Where can I buy Selenium sulfide?

Macsen Labs is a GMP & ISO Certified Manufacturer of high-quality Selenium Sulfide.


The information provided here is based on general knowledge, articles, research publications etc and we do not claim the authenticity of any of the information provided above. We do not claim or suggest/advise any medical, therapeutic, health or nutritional benefits of Selenium Sulfide. We do not supply or promote our Selenium Sulfide product for the applications which are covered by valid patents and which are not approved by the FDA.