Selenium Sulfide (Topical)

Selenium sulfide is a topical antifungal used for the treatment of dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis and tinea versicolor.


Selenium sulfide is a topical antifungal medication used to treat dandruff and scalp infections, such as seborrheic dermatitis in order to reduce itching, flaking, irritation, and redness of the scalp. Moreover, when applied to the skin, it treats tinea versicolor which is a condition that causes discoloration of the skin.

This particular class of medication falls into a category known as anti-infectives which work by slowing down the growth of the yeast that causes the infection. Selenium sulfide prevents fungus from growing on the skin.

Selenium sulfide comes in 1% and 2.5% strengths applied to the scalp to control symptoms of dandruff and dermatitis and the 2.5% strength performs the function as a treatment for tinea versicolor on the body.

The 2.5% strength is only available through a physician's prescription, and not for use by patients that have any allergic reactions to the ingredients contained on the label and avoided by anyone with various types of inflammation present in their body.

This medication is for use on the skin; therefore, removing any jewelry to avoid possible damage is suggested. If the patient has bleached, blond, grey, tinted, or permanently waved hair, they should rinse the product for at least five minutes in order to minimize the chance for discolored hair. Any hair color or perm application should not occur within 48 hours of using this medication.

In addition, the patient should always wash their hands thoroughly each and every time after using this product in order to prevent the medication from touching other parts of the body.

US Brand name: Dandrex, Dandruff Control, Selenos, Exsel, Selsun Blue 2 in 1, Selsun Blue Balanced Treatment, Selsun Blue, Selsun Blue Medicated Treatment, Selsun, Sel-Pen Blue, Selsun Blue Moisturizing Treatment, SelRx, Tersi Foam, Glo-Sel, Head, and Shoulders Intensive Treatment, Selseb

Canadian brand name: Versel

Conditions Treated

Type of Medicine

  • Antifungal

Side Effects

The patient should take care not to get this medication in their nose, mouth or eyes or any area where broken or inflamed skin has occurred since it may cause irritation. Seek medical attention should any unusual side effects arise or if there are any signs of an allergic reaction.

Check with your health care professional if any unwanted effects occur while taking selenium sulfide topical, or you can report any unusual reactions to the FDA:

Less common or rare:

More common:

  • Unusual dryness or oiliness of hair or scalp

Less common:



  • Abdominal pain
  • Alopecia
  • Anorexia
  • Eye irritation
  • Hair discoloration
  • Halitosis
  • Metallic taste
  • Nail discoloration
  • Tremor
  • Vomiting


The dosage of the medication will depend on the patient and their physician's orders. The amount of medicine taken will vary in the strength of the product, the number of doses, time allowances between doses, and length of time-based on the medical issue at hand.

This product is available in different dosage forms:

  • Cream
  • Foam
  • Lotion
  • Shampoo
  • Suspension

The average selenium sulfide strength used on the scalp to control dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis is 1% and 2.5%. Additionally, the selenium sulfide 2.5% strength treats tinea versicolor and has availability only by prescription. If the 2.5% strength is being prescribed, it must be used only as directed unless your healthcare professional advises a different course of treatment.

For adults and children using topical shampoo or lotion for dandruff:

Apply shampoo or lotion to wet scalp and massage in, leaving the product on for two to three minutes. Rinse and repeat. Two weekly applications usually bring the condition under control, but a course of treatment can follow with one application every one to four weeks as needed. Dandruff may re-occur if discontinuation of the selenium sulfide therapy takes place.

Topical dosage for adults using shampoo with 2.25%:

Wet scalp, massage product in and leave on for two to three minutes and then rinse thoroughly. Two applications a week for two weeks should bring control to the infected area and after two weeks, the shampoos may occur less frequently or as needed.

For the treatment of tinea versicolor:

Adults and children using 2.5% lotion by prescription, should only apply the product to the affected areas and lathered with a small amount of water, leaving on the skin for ten minutes followed by a thorough rinse. This treatment should recur daily for seven days and any additional course of treatment should only take place for chronic problems.

For the treatment of psoriasis with topical dosage 2.5% lotion by prescription only:

Apply a sufficient amount to cover lesion and leave it on for 15 minutes followed by a thorough rinse. Adults and children should apply daily for one to three weeks, gradually tapering off from the product. Maintenance treatment may continue as needed one to two times a week. Selenium sulfide has shown to be successful for various types of psoriatic lesions associated with pruritus on the scalp, trunk, axillae, and groin.

Treatment of tinea capitis with 1% shampoo:

An application to the affected scalp area using water, then working the product into a lather, subsequently leaving medication on the area for two to three minutes and rinsing afterwards thoroughly. Repeated treatment should continue for at least six weeks and applied twice per week.

Ensure that this product does not get into your nose, mouth, eyes or near genitals. If this does happen, flush the area with plenty of water. Washing hands thoroughly remain highly recommended before and after each use to prevent this product from placement in a non-infected area.

Should you miss a dose of this medication, do not double the dose the following day; only use as directed. The treated skin should not be covered unless prescribed by your physician or healthcare professional. Any type of cotton binding may protect clothing from this product while a recommendation of free-flowing cotton or natural fiber clothing may protect the area from discomfort until the infection heals.

As this product has the purpose of use for external situations, there has been no information resulting from human ingestion of topical selenium sulfide. If for some reason ingestion occurs, it may result in potential toxicity and would require possible hospitalization. Contact your physician should your symptoms not improve or if they continue to worsen while using this medication.


There are no specific drug interactions associated with selenium sulfide products; however, it is important to provide your healthcare professional with a list of all medications that you are presently taking in order prevent the likelihood of an interaction.

Avoid the use of other medications that may be topical during the time period when applying selenium sulfide unless your healthcare practitioner approves or has prescribed this particular combination. Additional topical medications combined with selenium sulfide may cause rejection of the process of absorption or effectiveness of the intended product.


Always tell your doctor or healthcare professional if you have allergies related to the ingredients in this medication. Inactive ingredients may trigger a sensitive response or other issues that may result in negative side effects.

Topical Selenium sulfide is a contraindication in patients who have previously shown signs of sensitivity to any components of the lotion or shampoo. It should not be applied to inflamed or broken skin and the patient must avoid any exposure to the genital or ocular areas. In order to prevent potential hair or scalp discolorations, the product should, therefore, be rinsed thoroughly after each use. Any sensitivity that should take place, tell your healthcare professional and discontinue use.

Although there has not been any detailed information regarding pediatric reactions to selenium sulfide, children under the age of two should not use this medication unless specifically prescribed by a physician.

This medication is not ordinarily recommended for use by pregnant women by the manufacturer; nevertheless, an application of selenium sulfide foam may offer a viable option. If a woman is breastfeeding, caution should take place when using this product. Since it is unknown as to whether or not selenium sulfide occurs when excreted through breast milk, the potential for risk is possible and discussions should take place with the patient's physician.

There are no data regarding whether or not this product affects the elderly in any particular way more than someone younger with this condition.

Other medical problems:

  • Acute inflammation
  • Blistered areas on the scalp or body


Storage of this product should follow the guidelines according to the manufacturer's recommendations. The medication should remain in a closed container at room temperature, 59-86 degrees F (15-30 degrees C), away from heat, moisture, direct light and never frozen.

As with all medications, keep out of the reach of children and pets and any outdated medication needs disposal in an appropriate manner. Do not flush product down the toilet or pour down the drain unless instructed to do so.


Selenium sulfide is an antiseborrheic, antifungal topical preparation used in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp, dandruff and tinea versicolor as well as psoriasis. This product is not for patients allergic to any of its ingredients or when acute inflammation exists as absorption may occur in the patient.

The recommendation of dosage use by the patient's physician results in the best outcome and should remain adhered to unless prescribed differently. Some brands of this product may require shaking before use and the patient should check the label on the package before starting treatment. It is important to note that this medication must not remain on hair, scalp or skin for a longer period of time as it will not help the patient's condition improve faster and might result in increased unwanted side effects.

All medications, including prescribed as well over-the-counter products used by the patient, should become known to the physician in order to avoid any negative interactions. In addition, any foods, beverages, dyes or preservative allergies with proven reactions to the patient must be accessible to their healthcare professional.

The patient should take into consideration the pros and cons of whether or not this course of treatment is the most effective for their condition.


Last Reviewed:
January 30, 2018
Last Updated:
April 05, 2018