The Best Piroctone Olamine Shampoos for Treating Seb Derm and Dry Scalp


Piroctone Olamine is one of the more recent active ingredients found in dandruff shampoos. Designed to treat seborrheic dermatitis and dry scalp piroctone olamine is one of the most innovative areas of dandruff treatment on the market today. We’re consistently seeing some of the most exciting new shampoo formulations with this active ingredient – high-end cosmetic manufacturers and dermatologists alike.

Some of our much-loved favorites use this active ingredient. It doesn’t quite pack the punch of ketoconzole or selenium sulfide, but it’s much gentler too.  As an everyday shampoo, I find the ingredient to be first class.

I constantly have a piroctone olamine shampoo on hand for those times I don’t have a bad breakout so I don’t have to use a harsher ingredient.

Before looking at our favorite shampoos, in true Dandruff Deconstructed fashion, we’ll present the facts.  So you can work out if it’s the ingredient for you.

In this article, we’ll look at:

What Is Piroctone Olamine?

Piroctone olamine is an ingredient found in dandruff shampoos and topical skin products.  Also called piroctone ethanolamine and sold under the brand name “Octopirox”, piroctone olamine is an antifungal and antimicrobial compound used to treat fungal infections of the skin, including scalp infections that cause dandruff.

Piroctone olamine often replaces the more commonly used zinc pyrithione in anti-dandruff shampoos. As an active ingredient, it may be present in creams, lotions, rinses and other products. It is also used as a preservative and a thickening agent in cosmetic products. When used as a preservative, piroctone olamine prevents the growth of germs in the product to extend its shelf life and ensure user safety.

Where did it come from?

Piroctone olamine has been used for around 40 years, first developed by Schwarzkopf-Henkel (a subsidiary of Hoechst AG*) for use in anti-dandruff shampoo in the late 1970s. All the initial clinical and safety studies were conducted by Hoechst AG, but this changed in the mid-1990s when other cosmetics companies began using the ingredient [1].

Piroctone olamine was first submitted for approval to the European Union and United States FDA in the 1980s [2]. The ingredient was first approved for addition to the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) in 2008, after the FDA sought additional safety and effectiveness data in 2004 [3].

[*Note: Hoechst AG underwent a confusing series of mergers and acquisitions, and is now effectively known as ‘Clariant GmbH’ – a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical giant Sanofi]

How Does Piroctone Olamine Work?

It is thought that the malassezia fungus is responsible for seborrheic dermatitis. Piroctone olamine is an ethanolamine salt of piroctone, with a complex (and not fully understood) anti-fungal mechanism. One proposed mechanism of action is the formation of molecular complexes with iron, which may inhibit fungal cells from effectively utilising energy [4]. It is known to the particularly effective against Malassezia yeasts – and so has a role in the treatment of seb derm.

How Effective Is Piroctone Olamine?

Piroctone olamine, despite the recent upsurge in usage, has historically not been a hugely popular ingredient. So very few independent clinical studies have been performed. Its main advantage is that it’s well tolerated, and so can be used frequently to control mild dandruff, but this hasn’t been properly evaluated.

Seb Derm

Seb Derm is thought it be associated with a Malassezia yeast on the scalp, with anti-fungal shampoos used to reduce this growth. Very few high-quality clinical trials have been performed on the efficacy of piroctone olamine-based shampoos. In 2010, researchers at the cosmetic company Beiersdorf published data suggesting a piroctone olamine/climbazole combination shampoo was equally as effective at reducing dandruff compared to zinc pyrithione in 50 participants – although more research is required [5].

More positive results came from a study [6] that compared shampoos containing a combination of piroctone olamine and salicylic acid with coal tar shampoo. The piroctone olamine combination shampoo achieved the largest reduction in Malassezia over an eight-week period.

Dry Scalp

The 2010 Beiersdorf study found that the combined antifungal shampoo improved ‘wet combing’ on mannequins over a zinc pyrithione shampoo [5]. This easier combing is thought to reduce the need for frequent washing, but this is proposed and not proven.

Where can I buy Piroctone Olamine Shampoos?

Piroctone olamine is not regulated as a medicine, and so all formulations can be bought from supermarkets or pharmacies. The ingredient is permitted up to 1.0% in rinse-off cosmetics (e.g. shampoos) in both the EU and US.

[Note: There’s no straightforward way to tell if a shampoo is utilizing the ingredient as a preservative or active ingredient – as the exact concentration isn’t required by regulators – and so you should always read the product description.]

What Are the Possible Side Effects of Piroctone Olamine?

Extensive safety studies have been performed on piroctone olamine for submission to various regulatory agencies. The largest human safety trial was conducted in France, and found that application of a 1.0% cream three times a day caused no adverse effects or sensitivity over a four-week period. The FDA review of safety data in 2004, noted that no significant health effects have been observed in use since the 1970s [1]

The Seven Best Piroctone Olamine Shampoos

There have been some outstanding Piroctone Olamine treatments released this past few years.  More than any other active ingredient I can think of.  The top 3 of the following shampoos would make my top ten dandruff shampoos with any active ingredient. All three would potentially make my top five!

Vichy Dercos Anti-Dandruff Sensitive Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis

One of the best and mildest shampoos out there for seb derm sufferers with sensitive skin.

Containing both Piroctone Olamine and Salicylic Acid as well as being SLS free, paraben free, artificial color free this shampoo has an absolutely outstanding choice of active and inactive ingredients.

There are still two or three chemicals in there that some may find irritating. Otherwise this would have been a five out of five performer.

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Sebamed Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis

Sebamed is one of the gentle yet most effective seb derm shampoos available.

The active ingredient is Piroctine Olamine - an excellent anti-fungal agent.

The rest of the shampoo has been formulated with panache.

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La Roche-Posay Kerium Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis, Dry Scalp

La Roche Posay is a combination shampoo, combining both Piroctone Olamine and Salicylic Acid. The Salicylic Acid will help exfoliate existing dandruff build up while the Piroctone Olamine is designed to prevent any new outbreaks. It’s a match made in heaven.

I can’t let a mention of a review pass without commenting on how luxurious this shampoo feels and smells when washing – better than any medicated shampoo I have ever tried. And I’ve tried lots!

There are a couple of harsh ingredients but compared to the majority of the shampoos on the market, this is a first class Piroctone Olamine shampoo.

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Bioderma Node DS Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis and Psoriasis

Bioderma Nodé DS+ shampoo certainly packs an anti-dandruff punch. Its combination of anti-dandruff actives (Piroctone Olamine and Zinc Pyrithione), with keratolytic Salicylic Acid and anti-inflammatory Sodium Shale Oil Sulfonate are also complimented by several scalp soothing ingredients. A heck of an ingredients list only let down by the use of SLES and one or two other potential irritants.

This shampoo is definitely worth checking out.

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Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis

Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo is a beautiful looking Scandinavian shampoo which contains a very effective (new-age) combination of anti-dandruff actives. With Piroctone Olamine and Climbazole ready to defeat dandruff causing Malassezia yeast and Salicylic and Lactic Acids ready to eliminate existing flakes. There really is a lot to love about this formula.

It’s as good on the inside as it looks on the outside.

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Bioderma Node P Apaisant Anti-Dandruff Shampoo for Sensitive Scalps

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis

Bioderma Node P Apaisant Anti-Dandruff Soothing Shampoo is a fabulous option for sensitive, irritated conditions of mild to moderate dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. With a combination of 2 anti-dandruff actives and dry flake busting salicylic acid, its overall efficacy is excellent. It washes and smells great and if it weren't for the presence of fragrances and silicones it would be an almost perfect sensitive scalp friendly formulation.

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Alpecin Dandruff Killer Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis

While most shampoos contain one or two active ingredients, this bad boy goes the whole hog and contains five; zinc pyrithione, benzalkonium chloride, fumaric acid, piroctone olamine and salicyclic acid.

The shampoo washes with a dense and luxurious foam and leaves the hair feeling soft and clean. There’s no need to use a conditioner as the company have added conditioning agents such as panthenol, allentoin and hydroxypropyl guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride.

It may sound like the perfect shampoo but unfortunanately they’ve added some harsh ingredients too including Fragrance, DMDM hydantoin, limonene, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium hydroxide and cocamidopropyl betaine.

If you don’t have a particularly sensitive scalp and suffer from moderate to severe dandruff this is definitely worth a look.

Just make sure you don’t have sensitive skin!

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Body Shop Ginger Anti-Danduff Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis

This shampoo does perform first and foremost. If you suffer from Seb Derm then it will likely help control your condition.

If you're vegetarian or against animal testing and suffer from dandruff then this is an ideal choice.

Unfortunately it does contain some harsh fragrances which really soured the experience for us at DD towers.

Such a needless addition have made this shampoo unusable for so many.

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Phyto Phytheol Intense Anti-Dandruff Treatment Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis

This is a real Jekyll and Hyde shampoo. It will control your dandruff if you suffer from Seb Derm. Even relatively severe cases. That's the good news.

But the top performance isn't without compromises. The shampoo contains Sulfates, Kathon CG and a few other nasty contact irritants or allergens. Quite why a company who claim to be a "haircare pioneer through plants" have added these I will never know. With a few tweaks this could have been an outstanding shampoo. As it is, I would proceed with caution.

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L'Oreal Elvive PhytoClear Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Designed to treat Seborrheic Dermatitis

L'Oreal Elvive PhytoClear Anti-Dandruff Shampoo has a very effective combination of keratolytic salicylic acid and anti-fungal, malassezia treating piroctone olamine.

Where the actives give, the accompanying formulation takes away. A host of allergens, irritants and sensitizers.

It’s pretty on the pennies but a pain for sensitive scalps.

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If you haven’t seen your favorite shampoo listed, chances are we have and it can be found if you check out all our Piroctone Olamine reviews.

If there’s any we haven’t reviewed then please just drop us a line and we’ll be absolutely delighted to look into it!


[1] FDA. (2004). ‘Safety and Effectiveness Information for Piroctone Olamine. Docket No. 2004N-0050.’ [Accessed: 9/4/17]

[2] EUSCCS. (2002). ‘Piroctone olamine and its Ethanolamine Salt’ [Accessed: 9/4/17]

[3] USP. (2017). ‘Pending Monographs: Piroctone Olamine’. [Accessed: 9/4/17]

[4] Kim, Y., Alpmann, P., Blaum-Feder, S., Kraemer, S., Endo, T., Lu, D., & Schmidt-Wolf, I. G. (2011). ‘Increased in vivo efficacy of lenalidomide by addition of piroctone olamine.’ In vivo, 25(1), 99-103.

[5] Schmidt‐Rose, T., Braren, S., Fölster, H., Hillemann, T., Oltrogge, B., Philipp, P., & Fey, S. (2011). ‘Efficacy of a piroctone olamine/climbazol shampoo in comparison with a zinc pyrithione shampoo in subjects with moderate to severe dandruff.’ International journal of cosmetic science, 33(3), 276-282.

[6] Piérard-Franchimont, Piérard, Vroome, Lin, Appa (2000). ‘Comparative anti-dandruff efficacy between a tar and a non-tar shampoo’. Dermatology. 2000;200(2):181-4.

Comment 1

  1. pari April 19, 2017

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