Selenium Sulfide

What Is It?

Selenium Sulfide is an inorganic salt consisting of selenium and sulfur.

Why Is It Used?

Selenium Sulfide may enhance the appearance and feel of hair, by increasing hair body, suppleness, or sheen, or by improving the texture of hair that has been damaged physically or by chemical treatment. In OTC drug products, Selenium Sulfide also helps to control dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis.

Scientific Facts

Selenium is a naturally occurring mineral element found in rocks and soil. In nature, Selenium is usually combined with sulfide. Selenium is an essential trace mineral found in the active center of certain enzymes. These enzymes control numerous chemical reactions involved in body functions.

Safety Information

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permits the use of Selenium Sulfide as an active ingredient in Over-the-Counter (OTC) external drug products for dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) has deferred evaluation of this ingredient because the safety has been assessed by FDA. This deferral of review is according to the provisions of the CIR Procedures.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has evaluated the data on Selenium and Selenium compounds and concluded that the available data provided no suggestion that Selenium was carcinogenic in man and that the data in laboratory animals were inconclusive. 

For the control of dandruff, FDA allows Selenium Sulfide and micronized Selenium Sulfide to be used at concentrations of 1% and 0.6%, respectively. For the control of seborrheic dermatitis, Selenium Sulfide may be used at concentrations up to 1%.

Link to FDA Code of Federal Regulations for Selenium Sulfide…

Selenium Sulfide is listed as Selenium Disulphide in the Cosmetics Directive of the European Union and may be used in antidandruff shampoos at a maximum concentration of 1% and “Contains selenium disulphide. Avoid contact with eyes or damaged skin” must be printed on the product label (see Annex III).

Link to the EU Cosmetic Regulation:…

More Scientific Information

Selenium Sulfide is an inorganic salt also called selenium disulfide. In cosmetics and personal care products, Selenium Sulfide functions as a hair conditioning agent. In OTC drug products, Selenium Sulfide functions as an antidandruff agent. It is also used to treat seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis.


Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) factsheet on Selenium

Find out more about the regulation of over-the-counter drugs by the Food and Drug Administration

OTC Drug Home Page:…

Information about OTC Drug monographs:

Search the Code of Federal Regulations

EU Cosmetics Inventory