pyrithione zinc

Medically Reviewed on 9/23/2022

Generic Name: pyrithione zinc

Brand Names: Denorex Everyday Dandruff Shampoo, Head & Shoulders Shampoo, DHS Zinc Shampoo, Head & Shoulders Dry Scalp, Selsun Blue Itchy Dry Scalp, T/Gel Daily Control, Zincon Shampoo

Drug Class: Keratolytic Agents

What is pyrithione zinc, and what is it used for?

Pyrithione zinc is a chemical compound with antifungal and antimicrobial properties, used to treat seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff.

Seborrheic dermatitis is believed to result from an inflammatory skin reaction to the overgrowth of Malessezia yeast that commonly lives on the skin surface. Seborrheic dermatitis causes redness, itching, and skin flaking, including dandruff on the scalp. Pyrithione zinc is also used off-label to treat tinea versicolor, another fungal skin infection.

Pyrithione zinc is commonly used as the main active ingredient in anti-dandruff shampoos, conditioners, soaps, lotions, and creams available over the counter (OTC). Pyrithione zinc inhibits yeast growth by increasing the cellular levels of copper and damaging iron-sulfur clusters of proteins that are essential for fungal metabolism and growth. Pyrithione zinc has a broad spectrum of activity against organisms including fungi, and gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.

What are the side effects of pyrithione zinc?


  • Do not use if you are hypersensitive to any of the components in the pyrithione zinc product.
  • Check with your healthcare provider before using pyrithione zinc if a large area of the skin requires treatment.
  • If you self-medicate with OTC pyrithione zinc, consult with your healthcare provider if your condition does not improve with regular use, or worsens.

Common side effects of pyrithione zinc include:

  • Stinging and burning of the scalp
  • Skin peeling (desquamation)
  • Skin irritation (rare)

Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms or serious side effects while using this drug:

This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug. Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.


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What are the dosages of pyrithione zinc?


  • 0.25%
  • 1%
  • 2%


  • 0.25%


  • 0.25%


  • 0.5%

Soap Bar

  • 2%


Dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, hyperkeratotic skin conditions

  • Body wash: Apply liberally to body; work into lather and rinse off; repeat as needed.
  • Cleansing bar: Wash affected areas in place of regular soap at least twice weekly or as directed.
  • Cream, spray: Apply to affected area 1 to 3 times daily or as directed.
  • Shampoo, conditioner: Use at least twice weekly for best results, but may be used with each washing.

Tinea versicolor (off-label use)

  • Shampoo 1%, 2%: Apply to affected area(s) of damp skin, lather, leave on 5 minutes, and rinse; repeat once daily for 2 weeks


  • Safety and efficacy not established


  • Overuse of topical pyrithione zinc products is unlikely to cause serious side effects, because systemic absorption from topical application is low.
  • Oral ingestion of pyrithione zinc can be toxic and induce vomiting. Symptoms should resolve on their own with adequate fluid intake.

What drugs interact with pyrithione zinc?

Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.

  • Pyrithione zinc has no known severe, serious, moderate or mild interactions with other drugs.

The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.

It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions about the medication.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

  • There are no adequate and well-controlled studies on pyrithione zinc use in pregnant women. Pyrithione zinc products should be used during pregnancy only if maternal benefits outweigh the potential harm to the fetus.
  • There is no information on the presence of pyrithione zinc in breast milk or its effects on milk production or the breastfed infant.
  • Check with your physician before using pyrithione zinc products if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

What else should I know about pyrithione zinc?

  • Use OTC pyrithione zinc products exactly as per label instructions.
  • Avoid contact with eyes.
  • Store safely out of reach of children.
  • Pyrithione zinc products are for external use only. In case of accidental ingestion, contact your physician or Poison Control.


Pyrithione zinc is a chemical compound with antifungal and antimicrobial properties, used to treat seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff by increasing the cellular levels of copper and damaging iron-sulfur clusters of proteins that are essential for fungal metabolism and growth. Common side effects of pyrithione zinc include stinging and burning of the scalp, skin peeling (desquamation), and skin irritation (rare). Consult your doctor if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Treatment & Diagnosis

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Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Medically Reviewed on 9/23/2022