If you’re struggling with fungal acne, which is the made-up term for pityrosporum folliculitis or malassezia folliculitis, then dandruff shampoo could be worth trying. As one woman recently revealed on Reddit, her sister saw a significant reduction in her blemishes when she started using Selsun Blue three times a week, so of course, Allure consulted two board-certified dermatologists to find out if this is a safe and probable solution for treating this form of acne. Turns out, it might be.
“Selenium sulfide is an antifungal medication used in dandruff shampoos because it lowers levels of yeast and subsequently reduces inflammation that causes flakes,” explains Joshua Zeichner, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. “It is thought that the same type of fungus may play a role in certain forms of acne — for instance, in fungal acne, high levels of fungus promote inflammation in the follicles, leading to bumps, pus, and pimples. If your acne is not responding to traditional treatments, antifungals may be helpful because by reducing inflammation in the follicle, you can help clear acne.”
Adam Friedman, a board-certified dermatologist based in Washington, D.C., expressed similar sentiments. “Selenium sulfide, the active ingredient in Selsun Blue, is typically used to treat dandruff because it helps with cell turnover and reducing inflammation, but could also potentially be effective at treating acne for the same reasons,” he explains. That being said, Friedman notes that even though he believes it could be theoretically useful for the treatment of fungal acne, clinical trials would need to be done in order to prove this.
What’s more: Lily Talakoub, a board-certified dermatologist based in McLean, Virginia, previously told Allure that she recommends Selsun Blue for fungal acne.
In regards to usage, Zeichner recently shared some off-label instructions: “It should be applied to the skin, left to lather while you sing the alphabet, then rinsed off,” he says. “If it does not have enough time to sit on the skin, then it cannot do its job properly.” Interestingly, this is how the Redditor’s sister used Selsun Blue to treat her acne, so it’s good to know she’s using the product properly.
As far as possible side effects are concerned, Friedman points out that irritation could occur, especially in those with sensitive skin — or if you leave it on for too long. As Zeichner said, you should rinse the shampoo off after just a minute or two.
While there’s no denying the improvement in this woman’s acne, it’s worth noting that she’s also been using Cosrx’s Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser in combination with the Selsun Blue. And as Zeichner explains, “Salicylic acid is an FDA-approved acne medication that removes excess oil and dead cells from the surface of the skin to dry out pimples and keep the pores clear.” He adds that it’s one of the most common ingredients used in acne cleansers and recommends leaving it on the skin for one to two minutes before rinsing to allow it to do its job.
All this to say: If you think you could have fungal acne, definitely consult your dermatologist to find out for sure before trying out any new treatments, including dandruff shampoo. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, folks.
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