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Pyrithione zinc, also commonly known as zinc pyrithione, has antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties that can help treat seborrheic dermatitis (also called dandruff), scalp psoriasis, and acne.

It can inhibit the growth of yeast, which is a main factor in dandruff. As the name suggests, pyrithione zinc is derived from the chemical element zinc and it’s used in a variety of hair and skin care products.

Zinc pyrithione shampoo is found in many common anti-dandruff shampoos. It is antifungal, antibacterial, and antimicrobial, meaning it can kill fungus, bacteria, and microorganisms that can contribute to an itchy, flaky scalp.

To use, follow the instructions on the bottle, but generally you should:

  1. Apply to wet scalp.
  2. Work into a lather.
  3. Let it sit on your scalp for a minute.
  4. Rinse thoroughly.

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Seborrheic dermatitis often affects the scalp, but it can also cause rough, scaly patches on the skin. Zinc pyrithione cream is used to treat seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis on the body.

For the treatment of mild seborrheic dermatitis, the National Eczema Foundation suggests daily use of a cleanser that contains 2 percent zinc pyrithione followed by a moisturizer. You can also use the cream daily by applying it in a thin layer to the affected area.

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Zinc pyrithione face wash can help alleviate redness and itching associated with seborrheic dermatitis on the face. It can also help alleviate some of the greasiness associated with eczema and seborrheic dermatitis.

There’s some evidence that using a medicated soap that contains 2 percent zinc pyrithione may help clear acne.

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Zinc pyrithione is approved for over-the-counter (OTC) dandruff shampoo, but it should only be used topically. It may burn or sting if it gets in the eyes, mouth, or nose.

Other side effects may include burning or redness, and in rare cases, blistering. Talk to a doctor if you’re pregnant or nursing before using zinc pyrithione. If you swallow zinc pyrithione, consult a doctor right away.

Selenium sulfide is a topical antifungal treatment that slows the growth of yeast on the scalp or body. It’s available in both prescription and OTC forms.

Like pyrithione zinc, it’s also commonly found in anti-dandruff shampoos, and the two ingredients can complement each other. Selenium sulfide is known to be a bit stronger and can be irritating if left on the scalp for too long. It’s naturally a light orange color, so shampoos or skin care products containing selenium sulfide are usually a peachy hue.

Pyrithione zinc, which is also known as zinc pyrithione, is a common ingredient in anti-dandruff shampoos, but it can also be effective at treating psoriasis, eczema, and acne. This is because of its antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.

It’s meant for topical use only, and may cause burning or stinging if it comes into contact with your eyes, nose, or mouth.

It should never be ingested. If you’re pregnant, nursing, or thinking of using a product that contains pyrithione zinc on a child, speak with a doctor before doing so.