|Trade names||Selseb, Selsun Blue, others|
|Other names||Selenium sulfide|
|Defined daily dose||not established|
|Chemical and physical data|
|Melting point||111 °C (232 °F)|
|Boiling point||118 to 119 °C (244 to 246 °F) (decomposes)|
|Solubility in water||negligible mg/mL (20 °C)|
Selenium disulfide, also known as selenium sulfide, is a chemical compound and medication used to treat pityriasis versicolor, seborrhoeic dermatitis, and dandruff. It is applied to the affected area as a lotion or shampoo. Dandruff frequently returns if treatment is stopped.
Side effects include hair loss, irritation of the skin, weakness, and feeling tired. Use is not recommended in children less than 2–5 years old. Use in pregnancy or breastfeeding has not been studied. Selenium disulfide is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula SeS2.
Selenium disulfide was approved for medical use in the United States at least as early as 1951. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the safest and most effective medicines needed in a health system. Selenium disulfide is available as a generic medication and over the counter. In the United States a month of treatment costs less than 25 USD. In the United Kingdom 100 ml of 2.5% shampoo costs the NHS about 1.96 pounds.
Selenium disulfide is sold as an antifungal agent in shampoos for the treatment of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis associated in the scalp with fungi of genus Malassezia. In the United States, a 1% strength is available over-the-counter, and a 2.5% strength is also available with a prescription. In Canada, the 2.5% strength is available over-the-counter. At the 2.5% strength, selenium disulfide is also used on the body to treat Tinea versicolor, a type of fungal skin infection caused by a different species of Malassezia. It has been suggested to be effective as a treatment for hyperkeratosis.
Selenium disulfide has a composition that approximates to SeS2 and is sometimes called selenium sulfide. However, as used in proprietary formulations, it is not a pure chemical compound but a mixture where the overall Se:S ratio is 1:2. The compounds are Se–S rings containing a variable number of S and Se atoms, SenS8−n.
Selenium monosulfide, along with elemental selenium and sulfur, has been used in medicinal preparations in the past, causing confusion and contradiction as to exactly what form selenium is in any given topical preparation.
Society and culture
In the film Evolution selenium was mentioned as an active ingredient of Head & Shoulders. A group of academics, therefore, tried to use this brand of shampoo to stop an alien invasion after discovering that the alien life form was sensitive to selenium. In fact, the modern shampoo from this brand no longer contains selenium sulfide and instead zinc pyrithione is used as a dandruff-reducing component.
- Zinc pyrithione, an antimicrobial agent used in many off the shelf shampoos
- Selsun Blue, a shampoo with selenium disulfide as its active ingredient
- Ketoconazole, another antifungal agent used in medicated shampoos
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