Is zinc pyrithione good for seborrheic dermatitis? Is it safe?

Zinc pyrithione (ZPT) is an effective and clinically proven topical treatment for seborrheic dermatitis (SD) and dandruff. Products that contain ZPT are available over-the-counter and doesn’t require a prescription. However, since March 2022, ZPT is banned in the European Union for being toxic to the reproductive system.

Let’s take a deep dive:

What is zinc pyrithione?

Zinc pyrithione (or pyrithione zinc – it’s the same thing) is a chemical compound that is used in a variety of products to treat seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. It’s an effective antimicrobial agent against a broad range of bacteria. Zinc pyrithione also has antifungal properties and is effective against a variety of fungi.

Noble Formula 2% Pyrithione Zinc (ZnP) Vegan Mango and Cocoa Butter Bar Soap, 3.25 ozCheck it out on Amazon

Actually don’t check it out on Amazon yet. Read on to the end first and you’ll probably change your mind.

How does zinc pyrithione work?

Pyrithione zinc kills fungi by blocking the proton pump that fuels transport through the cell membrane. This disrupts the fungi’s ability to transport food in and waste product out, resulting in cell death.

What are the benefits of topical zinc pyrithione?

Zinc pyrithione’s largest benefits are due to its antifungal and antibacterial properties. ZPT can combat Malassezia yeast which is the main culprit in seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff.

ZPT can also kill some bacteria, reduce inflammation and reduce skin oil production – all useful benefits for acne-prone skin, fungal acne, dandruff and  seborrheic dermatitis.

Is zinc pyrithione an effective treatment for seborrheic dermatitis?

Zinc pyrithione has proven clinical efficacy against dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. Among others, an open-label study showed that using a herbal zinc pyrithione shampoo and scalp lotion resulted in improvement of scalp seborrheic dermatitis.

A study showed that dandruff scalps have an abnormal stratum corneum (impaired skin barrier). ZPT helps heal the scalp by normalizing production of new keratin cells and regulating sebum production.

A small but interesting study found that ZPT reduced Malassezia load. Participants with dandruff had to wash half of their head with a pyrithione zinc shampoo and the other half with a shampoo that did not contain ZPT. They found that there was a progressive reduction in dandruff on the side of the head traeted with ZPT shampoo.

What are some common zinc pyrithione products?

Zinc pyrithione shampoos

Zinc pyrithione shampoos like Head & Shoulders have been used for decades to treat dandruff, which is a mild form of scalp seborrheic dermatitis. Although I didn’t, many people have found Head & Shoulders Anti-dandruff Shampoo effective.

Head and Shoulders Itchy Scalp Care Daily-Use Anti-Dandruff Paraben Free Shampoo, 13.5 fl ozCheck it out on Amazon

Zinc pyrithione face wash or soaps

For seborrheic dermatitis of the face, zinc pyrithione face washes like DERMAdoctor claim to be hypoallergenic, soothing and non-drying. The product contains 2% zinc pyrithione as the active ingredient. Unfortunately, it also contains SLS, alcohols, parabens and other stuff you may not want on your face.

DERMAdoctor Calm Cool Cleanser With Pyrithione Zinc, 6 Fl OzCheck it out on Amazon

If you don’t mind washing your face with bar soaps, pyrithione zinc 2% bar soaps are easily available. The Dermaharmony bar soap is ‘natural’, containing palm and coconut oil, oatmeal, olive oil, vitamin E and salt. Bear in mind that ZPT itself is not natural.

DermaHarmony 2% Pyrithione Zinc (ZnP) Bar Soap 4 oz - Crafted for Those with Skin Conditions - Seborrheic Dermatitis, Dandruff, Psoriasis, Eczema, etc.Check it out on Amazon

Zinc pyrithione creams

Zinc pyrithione creams and moisturizers have been highly recommended by many as a treatment cream for seborrheic dermatitis. Dermaharmony also has a moisturizer that contains 0.25% pyrithione zinc on a base of sweet almond oil (btw, almond oil is one of the oils you should avoid)

DermaHarmony Seborrheic Dermatitis Cream 3 fl oz – (1 Tube) - Relieves Skin and/or Scalp itching, Irritation, Redness, flaking and Scaling Due to seborrheic DermatitisCheck it out on Amazon

What are the side effects of zinc pyrithione?

Side effects of zinc pyrithione include irritation and dryness of the skin. Although these are usually mild and temporary, sometimes it can make your skin more itchy and red. Zinc pyrithione cream or ointment should not be used on broken skin, around wounds, or if you have sensitive skin.

As always, apply ZPT cream on a small area of your skin to check for reactions before slathering it on the rest of your face.

Is zinc pyrithione safe?

As of  March 1st 2022, the European Commission added zinc pyrithione to their list of prohibited substances for being reprotoxic (damaging to your reproductive system).

ZPT is only banned in the European Union and not in the rest of the world. But the EU is quicker to act, and more conscientious than the rest of the world combined. I feel many governments are susceptible to industry pressures and promises of financial campaign support.

The Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) said that ZPT is safe when used in rinse-off hair products in dosages of less than 1% they didn’t confirm that ZPT is an irreplaceable ingredient. In other words, why put yourself at risk when you can use something else contains a less harmful ingredient?

To wrap up

Zinc pyrithione (ZPT) is an effective anti-dandruff and antifungal compound. However, it’s banned in the EU for being toxic. While most products containing ZPT on the market are ‘safe’ to use, why put yourself at risk when there are other compounds like essential oils and antifungal creams that are just as effective at combatting seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff?

5 thoughts on “Is zinc pyrithione good for seborrheic dermatitis? Is it safe?”

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