All about pyrithione zinc (peer-i-THYE-ohn)
Pyrithione zinc is an antibacterial and antifungal agent
developed by scientists in the 1930's. Since then it
has been used to treat seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp
and other skin conditions such as eczema, athlete's
foot, and vitiligo, as well as psoriasis. Because of its antifungal
properties, it is commonly found in dandruff shampoo. Products
containing pyrithione zinc are available today with and without
prescription, and it is the main ingredient in many over-the-counter
creams, lotions, soaps, and shampoos.
Pyrithione zinc has a number of qualities that
may be helpful in alleviating psoriasis symptoms. It is an
antiseborrheic, which means that it helps to prevent or relieve
excessive secretions of the sebaceous glands. These glands
lie beneath the skin and are usually connected with hair follicles.
Their function is to soften and lubricate the skin and hair.
When sebaceous glands become overactive, an inflammatory skin
rash known as seborrheic dermatitis can result. Pyrithione
zinc also has both antifungal and antibacterial properties,
which may help reduce inflammation on the skin and provide
added relief for psoriasis sufferers. Topical zinc pyrithione
is generally recognized as a safe and effective treatment
for reduction in scale, erythema, and pruritus and can be
applied and left on the skin or scalp for the control of dandruff
and seborrheic dermatitis.
The effectiveness of pyrithione zinc is well-established,
but as with many modern medicines that have evolved from time-tested
remedies, the way the drug actually works is less clear. Many
scientists believe that pyrithione zinc slows down mitosis
(cell division) and reduces the turnover of skin cells. Pyrithione
zinc also slows down the growth of bacteria and fungi on the
skin, but researchers have not yet determined whether this
contributes to the antiseborrheic effects of the drug.
Pyrithione zinc history
For centuries zinc has been recognized for its unique healing
properties. In the 13th century Marco Polo observed that the
Persians used tutia (meaning zinc oxide, or perhaps
zinc sulphate) to heal wounds and sore eyes. Eighteenth-century
apothecaries in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia dispensed
skin remedies made from calamine, a mineral form of zinc.
Today most medicine cabinets still contain calamine lotion.
Zinc was a common symbol of wealth in ancient times. The
Romans believed that brass made from calamine, charcoal, and
granules of copper was indistinguishable from gold. Metallic
zinc was known in India by the year 1200 AD and in China by
1600 AD. Zinc production has evolved steadily over the last
500 years, and zinc sulphate ores have replaced zinc oxides
as primary sources. New uses for zinc continue to be found.
Zinc—an essential nutrient
Zinc is an essential nutrient and is crucial to the proper
functioning of at least 70 different enzymes. It plays a key
role in collagen formation as well as maintaining blood stability.
Research is currently being conducted to determine the impact
of zinc on brain activity and possible effects it may have
on disorders such as schizophrenia. Evidence also shows that
zinc may be an immune system booster, and it is often found
as an ingredient in lozenges for use in combating the common
cold and sore throat.
Zinc deficiency can result in significant health problems
arising from impaired synthesis of DNA, RNA and various proteins.
Excessive sweating and intestinal problems such as diarrhea
can increase zinc loss. Common dietary sources of zinc include
chickpeas, baked beans, cheddar cheese, and yogurt. Unfortunately,
due to poor soil and over-processed food, zinc is often present
in substandard amounts in our diets.
Side effects of pyrithione zinc
Pyrithione zinc has few known side effects, but in rare instances
products that contain it may cause skin irritation. Pyrithione
zinc has not been shown to cause birth defects or to cause
problems in nursing babies. There are no indications that
its effect on children or older adults is different from any
other group, and no adverse interactions with other medicines
FDA regulations specify how much pyrithione zinc a product
can contain. Allowable concentrations are based upon how long
the product is likely to remain in contact with the skin.
Higher concentrations are allowed for products made to be
applied and washed off than for products meant to be applied
and left on the skin or scalp. Despite FDA regulation 21 CFR
358.750 (which disallows product claims for eczema and psoriasis),
many consumers continue to use pyrithione zinc for the treatment
of psoriasis, eczema, and dandruff with good results.
You can try DermaHarmony pyrithione zinc products risk-free
for 37 days. If you are not satisfied with your purchase for
any reason, simply return the empty bottles for a full refund
of the product price (less shipping and handling), no questions
asked. If you would like to speak with one of our Skin Health
Specialists, call 1-800-827-3730. Click
here to order now.
Principal Author: K. Kastelein, Editor-in-Chief
Date of Publication: 11/07/2004
Last Updated: 09/29/2007