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Can You Clear Rosacea with Dandruff Shampoo?

Some readers find that dandruff shampoo can help clear rosacea symptoms of redness and pimples. They use it as a face wash.

Rosacea is a common skin condition associated with easy flushing or blushing, persistent redness, inflamed blood vessels and small red bumps on the skin. People who have had rosacea for a long time may develop a bumpy, bulbous nose. Many people who have skin symptoms of rosacea also have trouble with their eyes: dryness, irritation and swollen eyelids. Doctors prescribe a number of medications that may help clear rosacea symptoms, but home remedies can help in some cases.

Selsun Blue and Milk of Magnesia:

Q. You recently ran a letter from a person who was treating rosacea with over-the-counter products. I have been using the same prescribed meds he mentioned, and like him, my condition hasn’t improved for years.

Can you provide details? How often does one apply Selsun Blue? Is the milk of magnesia a daily application? I’d like to try it.

A. There is nothing in the medical literature supporting the use of topical milk of magnesia or selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue shampoo) for rosacea. This inflammatory skin condition causes redness and bumps on the face.

Without research, all we can offer are testimonials. One reader describes using Selsun Blue in the shower as a dandruff shampoo and dragging the suds down over his face. Another person left the shampoo on her face for a few minutes before rinsing it off gently. Some people apply a light coating of milk of magnesia overnight for acne or rosacea.

Keep reading for other testimonials from people with rosacea.

Can Dandruff Shampoo Clear Rosacea Symptoms?

Q. I want to thank you for the information you provide. I tried dandruff shampoo, store brand with 1 percent selenium sulfide, on my rosacea. The improvement was almost instantaneous. I’ve been using it for over a week and can barely see the red veins that were clearly visible on my cheeks. It really seems to clear rosacea.

Selenium Sulfide and Dandruff:

A. We have been impressed by the number of people who report benefit from this simple approach. Selenium sulfide is an ingredient in many dandruff shampoos. It works in part by suppressing the growth of yeast, especially Malassezia. This organism is associated with dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, a condition in which skin on the face becomes itchy, red and flaky.

Rosacea–Mites and Inflammation:

Rosacea is a different condition that may be due in part to an immune reaction to small mites (Demodex follicularum) that normally live on the skin. People with rosacea host higher numbers of these almost invisible creatures (Forton & De Maertelaer, British Journal of Dermatology, Feb. 22, 2019). Mites are also more common in people with inflamed eyelids (Biernat et al, Japanese Journal of Ophthalmology, Nov. 2018).

Whether the problem is due to the mites or to an overreaction of the immune system to Demodex is not known. Selenium sulfide appears to moderate this immune reaction to help clear rosacea symptoms, although we have not seen any studies testing this hypothesis. Sulfur applied to the skin has antifungal and antibacterial properties (Gupta & Nicol, Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, Jul-Aug. 2004). There’s no word on whether it can help fight mites.

Using Dandruff Shampoo to Clear Rosacea Symptoms:

You are not the only person to report that dandruff shampoo seems to be helpful. Here are a few more stories.

Q. After I had made numerous fruitless trips to a dermatologist, my husband read about using Selsun Blue for rosacea. What a difference it made after just a couple of days! I haven’t been back to the dermatologist since.

I like a scrub, so I add a little baking soda and wash my face with the Selsun Blue. My face is so much better now that I barely need makeup.

A. Rosacea causes redness and flushing on the face, especially the cheeks and nose. It may be due in part to the immune system overreacting to mites that live on everyone’s skin. Selenium sulfide (found in Selsun Blue) may help reduce the reaction.

DM agrees:

“I am on my third bottle of Selsun Blue. I use it every morning, just a few drops, spread on hands then spread on face and rinse; 30 seconds at most. No more redness. Any pimples that I feel coming on just disappear before erupting.”

Alan reports:

“I read your story a bit over a month ago, and because I have rosacea & hadn’t any particular luck with anything else (basic unwillingness to use a cannon on a fly) short of some fairly strong medications, I tried dandruff shampoo.

“Long story short: works doggone well: small patches on the side of my nose last maybe a day.

“My take: try. can’t hurt, might help.”

Cheryl is enthusiastic:

“YES! I’ve been using dandruff shampoo for years to control rosacea. I used prescription drugs for many years before reading this remedy on People’s Pharmacy. The prescription drugs actually did NOT work so I thought I would give dandruff shampoo a try. My face completely cleared up in about 10-14 days and no one would ever guess that I had uncontrolled rosacea for years. My face has been clear ever since. Over the years I’ve used Neutrogena and some other generic brands of dandruff shampoos and they all have worked successfully to eliminate rosacea on my face completely. I will never go back to prescription meds again for rosacea.”

Pat tried a slightly different remedy to clear rosacea:

“Have had a little patch of what is probably eczema on my right cheek for years. Peoples Pharmacy suggested coconut oil and someone else suggested trying Selsun Blue – bingo! Either or both have kept it at bay. When I get lazy or forget to use it my patch of scaly, itchy eczema is back. Try it…”

Other Approaches:

Some readers have had success with elimination diets. Once they figure out which foods are making the symptoms worse, they can avoid them. Triggers vary from one person to another; one had benefit following a gluten-free diet, while another found that canola oil was the main culprit.

Katie said:

“I have found taking a baby aspirin daily and eliminating gluten has helped clear rosacea symptoms. Flushing occurrences have decreased and my complexion has improved dramatically.”

Pat added:

“I find that one of the rosacea triggers for me is any kind of artificial sweetener. I stopped drinking all products containing artificial sweeteners, and the redness has gone away. Now I drink carbonated water–which gives me the fizziness I like with no sweeteners.”

D’Lain reported:

“Anything spicy hot will cause my rosacea on my nose to break out with little pimples. My medication takes that away pretty fast, like 3 days.”

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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