Can You Use Selsun Blue For Skin Issues?

Quite surprisingly, an anti-dandruff shampoo can do quite a lot for the skin.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Schwarzburg, MD Dr. Schwarzburg Dr. SchwarzburgMD insta_icon
Written by , BTech Anjali Sayee BTech Experience: 7 years
Edited by , MA (English Literature) Ramona Sinha MA (English Literature) Experience: 11 years
Fact-checked by , MA (English Literature) Swathi E MA (English Literature) Experience: 3 years

Selsun Blue is a common trade name for selenium sulfide. It is used commonly in anti-dandruff shampoos. It reduces scalp greasiness and itchiness and slows down the growth of dandruff-causing skin cells on the scalp. Besides, anecdotal evidence suggests that using Selsun Blue on the skin may help treat several skin conditions apart from an itchy scalp.

But what does science say? Is Selsun Blue safe to use on the skin? Or does it cause more harm? In this article, we discuss the benefits of Selsun Blue for skin and its potential risks. Keep reading.

Benefits Of Selsun Blue For Skin

The Selsun shampoo contains selenium sulfide, a substance that effectively treats a number of scalp disorders like dandruff and psoriasis by reducing inflammation and inhibiting the proliferation of skin cells. Keep reading to know more Selsun shampoo uses and benefits that you should know about.

1. May Help Treat Thickening Of Skin

Thickened skin at the heel of a foot
Image: Shutterstock

A study suggests that topical application of a selenium sulfide lotion or shampoo may treat hyperkeratosis (thickening of skin’s outer layer), especially involving palms and soles (1). As part of the study, three individuals with hyperkeratosis were successfully treated with selenium sulfide in either a 2.5% lotion/shampoo or a 2.75% foam without any adverse effects. Besides, the response was not only rapid but also complete and sustained.

protip_icon Trivia
In the US, 1.5% selenium sulfide is available over the counter. However, you’ll need a prescription to get 2.5% selenium sulfide. However, in Canada, 2.5% is the maximum strength of selenium sulfide sold over the counter.

2. May Help Treat Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis on a scalp
Image: Shutterstock

This skin condition is characterized by red patches with yellow-gray scales that mostly appear on the face, scalp, upper chest, and back. A study found that selenium sulfide used in concentrations of 0.5% to 2.5% in lotion, ointment, cream, and jelly vehicles may help treat the skin condition effectively. Besides, concentrations of 0.5% and 1% were found to be less irritating than and as effective as the higher concentrations (2).

This disease may often occur in conjunction with other skin conditions like acne vulgarisi  A skin condition caused by inflammation and obstruction of the hair follicles by oil and dead skin cells. and eczema (3). Hence, treating seborrheic dermatitis may help reduce the flare-up of these conditions, as it works as an anti-infective agent.

3. May Help Treat Pityriasis Versicolor

Pityriasis versicolor on a man’s back
Image: Shutterstock

Pityriasis (tinea) versicolor is a skin condition that causes hyperpigmented and hypopigmented scaly patches. It is caused by the fungus Malassezia furfur. Research suggests that selenium sulfide may treat this skin condition effectively with its antifungal properties, besides showing better efficacy than sodium sulfacetamidei  A medication with antibiotic properties that is applied topically to treat pimples and seborrheic dermatitis. (4). However, it may cause certain adverse effects. Hence, practice caution.

4. May Help Treat Rashes

Woman itching a rash on her arm
Image: Shutterstock

Selenium sulfide is an antifungal agent. Anecdotal reports suggest that it may be used to treat skin rashes. However, consult a dermatologist before using Selsun Blue for rashes as it may cause side effects in some individuals.

These are the potential skin benefits of Selsun Blue. But how do you use it for achieving the desired results?

How To Use Selsun Blue For Skin

Woman massaging Selsun blue shampoo on her face
Image: Shutterstock
  •  Selsun Blue is meant for use on the skin only. Ensure you shake the package before use (as directed on the package). Remove jewelry before using the product. Rinse your hair and scalp before applying the product to treat seborrheic dermatitis or scalp dandruff. Massage the product in and leave it on for the prescribed duration. Check the label to understand if the product can be used on color-safe and processed hair. Keep in mind that each skin or hair care product may have slightly different application instructions, so be sure to look out for those.
  •  For tinea versicolor, apply selenium sulfide to the affected area. Add a few drops of water to form lather. Leave it on the skin for about 10 minutes and wash off.
  •  Wash your hands after using selenium sulfide. Do not leave this medication on your hair, scalp, or skin for a longer period. Also, do not use it more often than directed.
  •  Consult a doctor or pharmacist if your condition worsens or does not improve despite using Selsun Blue.

Note: Do not apply any products containing Selsun Blue into your eyes, nose, or mouth. Avoid applying it to broken or inflamed skin, unless directed by a medical professional, as it may cause swelling and irritation.

protip_icon Quick Tip
The United States approved using selenium sulfide for medical purposes around 1951. The chemical is also included in the World Health Organization (WHO) Essential Medicines List.

Selenium compounds are not easily absorbed through the skin. Hence, using medicated shampoos containing selenium is generally considered safe. However, one may still experience side effects like contact dermatitisi  An itchy rash on the skin caused by contact with a specific substance or allergen, making the skin red and inflamed. (5). Read to know the other side effects of Selsun Blue in the following section.

Selsun Blue: Side Effects And Precautions

The side effects of Selsun Blue include (6):

  •  Redness, burning, itching, stinging, and irritation of the skin
  •  Scalp sores, increased skin oiliness, and nail hyperpigmentation
  •  Scalp hyperpigmentation
  •  Scalp discoloration
  •  Alopecia (hair loss)
  •  Rarely, nausea may occur due to the medication’s odor

Note: Children aged below five years and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use Selsun shampoo.

Do not use Selsun shampoo if:

  • You are allergic (hypersensitive) to selenium sulfide or any of the other ingredients of the medicated shampoo. You should always do a patch test before using it as directed for your condition to ensure that you do not have any sensitivities to the product.
  • You have broken or severely inflamed skin

Kevin Bradshaw, a fitness vlogger, shares that he has been using Selsun blue shampoo on his skin for 13-14 years. He uses it for five minutes, as recommended by his doctor. However, he suddenly experienced a reaction after using the product. He says, “Two weeks ago, I was putting up Selsun blue on both sides of my neck for three to five minutes like recommended, guys. It literally burnt my skin, guys. I have marks all down my neck on both sides (i).” Kevin states that if you experience something like this, avoid using the shampoo daily. He advises using it only 3 days a week and only for a minute.

Do you know that the food we take contains selenium? But does it make the food healthy or harmful? Keep scrolling to know the answers.

Is It Wrong To Eat Food With Selenium?

No. Selenium is an essential nutrient for humans and animals. People receive a majority of their daily selenium intake from food, and to a lesser extent, from water. However, selenium can be harmful when regularly taken in amounts higher than those needed (6).

The seriousness of the adverse effects depends on how much selenium is taken and how often. Brittle hair and deformed nails can develop even if mildly excessive amounts of selenium are taken over long periods.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that people may also lose feeling and control in their arms and legs in extreme cases. Swallowing a large amount of selenium supplement pills could be life-threatening without immediate treatment.

Infographic: Top Benefits Of Selsun Blue For Skin

Selsun Blue is an anti-dandruff ingredient added to shampoos to improve scalp health and treat fungal skin infections. It reduces flaking, irritation, and redness on the scalp. Recently many people have started using this shampoo on their skin. Surprisingly, it can actually boost skin health!

Check out the infographic below to learn how it can be used to treat various skin issues.

top benefits of selsun blue for skin (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

In A Nutshell

Selsun Blue or selenium sulfide is a common ingredient in anti-dandruff shampoos. The antifungal properties of the ingredient help protect the skin from infections and treat several skin issues. The benefits of Selsun Blue include treating skin conditions like tinea versicolor, dermatitis, rashes, and hyperkeratosis. You can use this ingredient on your skin and hair, but remove your jewelry before using it. Also, do not keep the skin in contact with this ingredient for more than the prescribed duration. It may also cause side effects like discoloration, blistering, and rashes. Finally, always use the product as per the instructions given outside the package or by a doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you sleep with Selsun Blue on?

No. Leaving Selsun Blue on your skin for too long may result in an allergic reaction (6). Ensure you follow the instructions for safe results.

Can we use Selsun Blue for skin psoriasis?

Yes. Scientific evidence suggests that topical selenium sulfide may effectively improve psoriatic plaques (1).

Does Selsun Blue get rid of white spots on skin?

Yes. Selsun Blue has antifungal properties that may treat the white spots (hypopigmentation) on the skin (7). Consult your doctor for proper instructions and dosage.

Can we use selenium sulfide for burnt skin?

There is currently no research to support the use of Selsun Blue on burnt skin. Consult a doctor for more information.

How long should you leave Selsun Blue on sunspots?

Leave Selsun Blue on the affected areas for 10 to 15 minutes before washing it off with water.

Key Takeaways

  • Selsun Blue (or selenium sulfide) is a common ingredient in anti-dandruff shampoos that also reduces scalp greasiness.
  • It works as an antifungal agent and reduces the risk of infections, such as tinea versicolor, flaky scalp, and seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Selsun Blue should only be applied to the skin and left on for the prescribed time duration.
benefits Selsun Blue for skin

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

Learn how to use anti-dandruff shampoo safely and effectively to clear up acne. Check out this video to get more information.

Personal Experience: Source


Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Topical Selenium Sulfide for the Treatment of Hyperkeratosis
  2. Observations on the Use of Selenium Sulfide and Hydrocortisone Ointment
  3. Seborrheic Dermatitis and Malassezia species
  4. A Double-Blind Comparative Study of Sodium Sulfacetamide Lotion 10% Versus Selenium Sulfide Lotion 2.5% in the Treatment of Pityriasis (Tinea) Versicolor
  6. Selenium
  7. Tinea Versicolor – An Epidemiology
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Dr. Schwarzburg is a leading authority in the field of minimally invasive cosmetic and laser medicine in New York City. He is an Ivy League school graduate with 7 years of experience in cosmetic dermatology and regenerative medicine. His authority is widely recognized, and his expert opinion has been sought by many prestigious publications, including Forbes, Glamour, Good Morning America, full bio

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