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How Can You Use Dandruff Shampoo to Ease Eczema?

One reader reports washing with Selsun Blue shampoo to ease eczema. This dandruff shampoo inhibits yeast that may contribute to itch and rash.
How Can You Use Dandruff Shampoo to Ease Eczema?
A bottle of Selsun Blue dandruff shampoo

Eczema is a term used to describe skin that is itchy and red. The inflamed areas may show up as dry, cracked skin, or they may have rash-like bumps that weep when they are scratched. Backs of knees and other areas where skin is often flexed are especially prone to the itching or rash. Doctors call this condition atopic dermatitis. They may prescribe a range of medications, from steroid creams to drugs that suppress the immune system. Some readers have found, however, that they can use dandruff shampoo to ease eczema. 

Dandruff Shampoo to Ease Eczema Rash and Itching: 

Q. I read on your website about using Selsun Blue shampoo to ease eczema. Intrigued, I tried it. To my surprise, it has greatly reduced the itching and I now have almost none. This is after many years applying many prescription and non-prescription products. Since I use it on my legs in the shower, it is hard to keep it from washing off.

I’ve searched for an ointment or cream that could be used outside the shower. I wonder if you are aware of such a product.

A. The original Selsun Blue dandruff shampoo contains selenium sulfide. We have heard from many readers that this ingredient can be helpful against rosacea when diluted as a face wash. People rinse it off after washing.

There are prescription-strength (2.25 to 2.5 percent) formulations of selenium sulfide for seborrheic dermatitis and tinea versicolor (a fungal infection of the skin). They need to be rinsed off just like shampoo. If you are getting good results with an OTC product like Selsun Blue, you may find that both safer and more cost effective. 

Most people don’t realize that dandruff shampoo needs to sit on the scalp for at least five minutes before it gets rinsed off. This allows the anti-fungal ingredients to have an effect on the Malassezia yeast that are believed responsible for dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. Such yeast also appears to contribute to atopic dermatitis (Mycoses, July 2019). That might be a clue to how you use dandruff shampoo to help ease eczema.

Another Product to Help Ease Itch:

We heard from a reader who responded to this plea with a recommendation for a different product that could be used between showers.

Q. I would like to add a suggestion for the reader who is using Selsun Blue for eczema but would like to use something that didn’t need to be washed off. I have had excellent luck with Scalpicin. This product is also an OTC dandruff treatment, but it comes in a spray bottle and does not need to be washed off. I have eczema around my eyes and ears, and Scalpicin is a godsend.

A. Scalpicin contains low-dose hydrocortisone (1%) along with menthol, aloe, tea tree oil and carriers such as denatured alcohol, water and propylene glycol. The botanical ingredients, although listed as inactive, are often recommended to soothe itchy irritated skin. As a result, dermatologists find that menthol can help ease itch (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, June 2018).

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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. .
Citations
  • Nowicka D & Nawrot U, "Contribution of Malassezia spp. to the development of atopic dermatitis." Mycoses, July 2019. DOI: 10.1111/myc.12913
  • Liu B & Jordt S-E. "Cooling the itch via TRPM8." Journal of Investigative Dermatology, June 2018. DOI: 10.1016/j.jid.2018.01.020
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