Zinc Pyrithione: What Is It, Cosmetic Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

Priya Singh
Fact-Checker: Priya Singh
This article was last updated on: February 27, 2024
Table of Contents

Navigating the world of cosmetics can often feel like trying to decipher a complex scientific formula, especially when you’re confronted with a myriad of scientific names on product labels. One such ingredient that you may have come across in your beauty products is Zinc Pyrithione. In this article, we will delve deep into the world of Zinc Pyrithione, exploring its uses, benefits, and potential side effects in the realm of cosmetics.

What is Zinc Pyrithione?

Zinc Pyrithione, also known as Pyridine-2-Thiol-1-Oxide, Zinc Complex (2:1), is a common ingredient found in many cosmetic products. It’s a synthetic compound that’s created by combining zinc and pyrithione salt.

Its primary purpose in cosmetic products is to serve as an anti-seborrheic and anti-sebum agent. This means it helps to control the production of sebum (the oil your skin produces), and it also helps to prevent or reduce dandruff. Additionally, it has hair conditioning properties and can act as a preservative, helping to extend the shelf life of products.

Zinc Pyrithione works by slowing down the production of yeast on the skin, which is a common cause of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. It’s a pretty effective ingredient, which is why you’ll often find it in anti-dandruff shampoos and other hair care products.

As for how it’s sold, Zinc Pyrithione is typically not sold as a standalone product. Instead, it’s usually one of many ingredients in a product’s formulation.

Who Can Use Zinc Pyrithione?

Zinc Pyrithione is suitable for all skin types. Whether you have oily, dry, or combination skin, this ingredient can help to balance your skin’s oil production and prevent dandruff.

As for whether it’s suitable for vegans and vegetarians, the answer is yes. Zinc Pyrithione is a synthetic compound, which means it’s not derived from animals or animal by-products. So, if you’re following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, you can use products containing this ingredient without any worries.

When it comes to pregnant or breastfeeding women, there’s no specific evidence to suggest that Zinc Pyrithione is harmful. However, as with any new product, it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider before use.

Zinc Pyrithione’s Cosmetic Benefits/Uses

The benefits and uses listed in this section are strictly the cosmetic benefits and uses of Zinc Pyrithione. It’s important to note that this ingredient may have applications in multiple different industries, which are beyond the scope of this article. The following are the benefits of Zinc Pyrithione based on its official functions of Anti-Seborrheic (anti-sebum), Hair Conditioning, and Preservative:

  • Anti-Sebum: Sebum is an oily substance produced by our skin’s sebaceous glands. While it’s necessary for skin health, excessive sebum can lead to oily skin, clogged pores, and acne breakouts. Zinc Pyrithione helps to regulate sebum production, thereby reducing oiliness and the likelihood of acne formation. It achieves this by inhibiting the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone known to stimulate sebum production.
  • Hair Conditioning: Zinc Pyrithione is a common ingredient in many shampoos and conditioners due to its hair conditioning properties. It helps to improve hair’s texture, making it softer, smoother, and easier to manage. It achieves this by coating the hair strands, reducing static electricity, and smoothing out the hair cuticle. This results in less tangling, less breakage, and an overall healthier appearance.
  • Preservative: In the cosmetic industry, Zinc Pyrithione is used as a preservative to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi in products. This extends the shelf life of products and ensures they remain safe and effective for use over time. Zinc Pyrithione’s antimicrobial properties make it an effective preservative, as it inhibits the growth and multiplication of microorganisms that could otherwise spoil the product or pose a risk to the user’s health.

Potential Side Effects/Adverse Reactions

The side effects and reactions to the topical application of Zinc Pyrithione can vary greatly from person to person. It’s important to remember that while some people may experience no side effects at all, others may have a different experience.

Potential side effects of Zinc Pyrithione include:

  • Irritation or burning sensation at the application site
  • Dryness or oiliness of the skin
  • Hair discoloration or changes in hair texture
  • Allergic reactions such as rash, itching, swelling, severe dizziness, or trouble breathing

If you experience any of these side effects while using Zinc Pyrithione, it’s important to stop using the product immediately and consult with a healthcare professional. In the case of a severe allergic reaction, seek immediate medical attention.

Adverse reactions to Zinc Pyrithione are generally rare, but they can occur. It’s important to remember that everyone’s skin is different, and what works well for one person may not work as well for another.

Before using any new skincare product, it’s always a good idea to perform a patch test. This involves applying a small amount of the product to a discreet area of skin and waiting 24 hours to see if any adverse reactions occur. This can help you avoid a potentially severe reaction to a new product. For a detailed guide on how to perform a patch test, check out our patch testing guide.

Comedogenic Rating

Comedogenicity refers to the potential of a substance to cause comedones, which are skin blemishes often associated with acne. These blemishes occur when pores become clogged with excess sebum and dead skin cells. The comedogenic rating of a cosmetic ingredient indicates its likelihood to cause such blockages.

Zinc Pyrithione has a comedogenic rating of 0. This means it is non-comedogenic and does not clog pores or contribute to the formation of acne. The rating is based on the molecular structure and properties of Zinc Pyrithione. It is a zinc compound that has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which can help to reduce acne and prevent its formation.

Therefore, Zinc Pyrithione is suitable for individuals who are prone to acne or breakouts. Its non-comedogenic nature means it won’t contribute to pore blockages, and its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties can help to manage existing acne.


Zinc Pyrithione is a versatile ingredient with several key functions. It acts as an anti-seborrheic, helping to prevent or reduce the production of sebum, which can contribute to acne. It also has hair conditioning properties, making it a popular ingredient in shampoos and conditioners. Additionally, it’s sometimes used as preservative, helping to extend the shelf life of cosmetic products.

Despite its many benefits, Zinc Pyrithione is not as widely recognized as some other cosmetic ingredients. However, it shares similarities with ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, which are also known for their anti-acne properties.

In terms of safety, Zinc Pyrithione is generally considered safe for topical use. However, as with any ingredient, it’s important to use it as directed and discontinue use if any adverse reactions occur. Overall, Zinc Pyrithione is a beneficial ingredient for those looking to manage sebum production, condition hair, and preserve the longevity of their cosmetic products.

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