Selenium Sulfide and Hair Loss: Is There a Connection?

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There’s no doubt that conditions such as fungal infections and dandruff can cause hair loss. After all, such conditions alter the pH levels of the scalp which make it difficult for the hair follicle to produce strong, healthy hair.

Of course, treatment of such conditions should be top priority. But did you know that some of the more popular treatment methods on the market, like selenium sulfide, have also been linked to hair fall and may cause more harm than good?

Today, I’d like to discuss the side effects of selenium sulfide use – most notably, hair loss.

First, I’ll provide an overview of what selenium sulfide is and what over-the-counter products contain this harmful ingredient.

Second, I’ll show you the scientific data which proves that even one application of selenium sulfide can lead to hair root damage, even seen for up to 68 days after said application, and hair loss.

Third, you’ll learn of other methods for treating fungus and dandruff so you can avoid selenium sulfide altogether.

What is Selenium Sulfide?

Selenium sulfide is a chemical compound found within many popular dandruff-fighting shampoos, including Selsun Blue, Head & Shoulders, and Dandrex.

Sometimes referred to as selenium disulfide, this compound is used in a variety of over-the-counter and prescription-strength fungal treatments.

If prescribed by doctors and used by millions of people each year, then it must have some great results, right?

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Well, it’s true that selenium sulfide is an effective treatment for fungal infections and hair loss. This doesn’t mean, however, that it’s the right treatment method for you.

Has Selenium Sulfide Been Shown to Cause Hair Loss?

While selenium sulfide has been shown to produce some not-so-serious side effects, including hair discoloration, there is one side effect which just cannot be ignored – hair loss.

Note: Hair discoloration due to selenium sulfide can be treated with the application of rubbing alcohol. Keep in mind, though, that alcohol is drying to the hair and scalp.

One particular study, performed by Archer and Luell in 1960, found that even just one application of selenium sulfide had a negative effect on the hair roots. This lead to increased dysplasia (damage) and hair loss.

Hair root dysplasia caused by selenium sulfide shampoo

Out of the four subjects undergoing the testing, increased levels of dysplasia from baseline were seen in days 6, 9, and 12 after the application of selenium sulfide shampoo.

For test subjects one, two, and three, this increase in dysplasia was still being seen 68 days after application!

Individuals with thick heads of hair may not be worried by the sudden increase in hair shedding.

Those with male-pattern baldness and already-thinning manes, though, may find the side effect to be a most alarming one. Especially since not only does selenium sulfide appear to lead to hair loss, but also to damage of the roots.

Of course, selenium sulfide isn’t the only cause of hair loss.

Dandruff, too, can lead to the inflammation and irritation of the scalp, leading to hair follicle miniaturization and hair thinning and loss.

So what is there to do if dandruff is the enemy, but so is selenium sulfide?

How Can Selenium Sulfide Use Be Avoided?

While over-the-counter and prescription treatments certainly have their place, there are natural ways to deal with dandruff and fungal infections of the scalp.

Dryness and itchiness caused by dandruff can make hair fall out more easily

The scalp is its very own habitat, with its own ideal pH levels and nutrient requirements.

With this in mind, it’s easy to see how the balance can be so quickly thrown off, leading to skin irritation, flaking, fungal infections, and scalp buildup.

But what are the alternatives to selenium sulfide treatments when dealing with dandruff or other yeast-related maladies?

For those battling fungal infections, there are a few homemade treatment options – such as castor oil and tea tree oil – to test out.

Tea Tree Oil, Grape, and Black Walnut Fungal Treatment

Tea tree oil can help reduce fungal infections on the scalp

Tea tree oil is known for its variety of curative abilities, including its uses as an antimicrobial and antifungal.

With this three-ingredient fungal treatment, you can nourish your scalp and treat the fungal infection at the source – all without the use of harmful chemicals.


Combining equal parts of grapeseed oil with black walnut oil, and adding in 10 drops of tea tree oil, you can stir up your fungal treatment in a matter of minutes.

Simply apply the mixture to your scalp, ensuring that it’s applied directly to the most troublesome areas. You may leave in this mixture for up to 6 hours.

When ready to rinse, be sure to do so thoroughly with lukewarm (not hot!) water.

Hair Benefits:

As mentioned, tea tree oil is a powerful antifungal. Grapeseed oil and walnut oil have their own curative properties as well. In addition to antifungal, grapeseed is also an antibacterial.

This means that scalp damage caused by bacterial infections, like folliculitis, can be treated with regular applications of grapeseed.

Walnut, interestingly, contains sterols. These are natural inhibitors of 5-alpha-reductase and can reduce inflammation of the scalp.


While selenium sulfide is an ingredient commonly found in dandruff shampoos and prescribed by doctors for the treatment of fungal infections and seborrheic dermatitis, there are studies which show its link to hair loss.

For individuals with thick hair, this side effect may not be an issue. For those with male-pattern baldness, however, use of this ingredient can lead to increased hair thinning and hair fall.

So, should you avoid selenium sulfide?

Well, if you’re reading this site, you likely suffer from one degree of hair loss or another. If you’d like to avoid further hair loss and prevent irreversible damage, then it’s best to avoid selenium sulfide altogether.

Don’t worry, however – there are a variety of all-natural methods which can be used to treat both dandruff and fungal infections.

If you have dandruff, it just means the skin on your scalp is too dry. Try adding foods that are high in natural (healthy) oils to your diet.

For example, add pumpkin seed oil, olive oil, coconut oil, cold water fish, avocados, nuts, seeds and chia seeds.

This will help to get rid of the dandruff from the inside out, then you can use a simple and natural homemade shampoo instead of using harsh, aggressive chemicals that strip away the natural oils of your hair.

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