Scalp Discoloration ... from a Shampoo?

SS ZP shampoo.jpg

When children Selenium sulfide (left) and zinc pyrithione (right) shampoosdevelop red-brown discoloration in the scalp, every pediatrician and pediatric dermatologist takes note. This is because red-brown scalps in children can sometimes be a worrisome sign of certain internal diseases. So you can imagine how puzzling it would for a group of four doctors in St. Louis, Missouri when six children in their practice appeared with red-brown scalps. 

What was the cause of the scalp discoloration?

Selenium sulfide anti- dandruff shampoos!

The doctors' discovery was very simple but very clever: and they published their findings in the journal Pediatric Dermatology.  It’s hard to say just how common this orange discoloration is from selenium sulfide shampoo, but it’s probably more common than we currently think.  There is nothing harmful about the red-orange discoloration from these shampoos, and the pediatricians showed the discoloration could  be removed with an ordinary alcohol swab and the scalp discoloration disappeared once the shampoos were stopped.

But it took clever minds to piece this all together!


Gilbertson K et al. Scalp Discoloration from Selenium Sulphide Shampoo: A Case Series and Review of the Literature. Pediatric Dermatology 2012. 29; 84-88.

Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887

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