Topical ketoconazole: a systematic review of current dermatological applications and future developments

J Dermatolog Treat. 2019 Dec;30(8):760-771. doi: 10.1080/09546634.2019.1573309. Epub 2019 Feb 14.


Introduction: Although labeling changes and market withdrawal have been implemented for oral ketoconazole (KTZ) due to serious adverse effects (AEs), topical KTZ is generally thought to be effective and safe for the treatment of superficial fungal infections. New dermatologic indications for the use of topical KTZ have arisen such as onychomycosis, blepharitis, and hair loss. This article aims to review the literature on topical KTZ's efficacy and AEs, as well as provide an overview on current insights regarding its mechanism of action and upcoming developments. Methods: A PubMed search was done to include randomized controlled trials (RCTs) focusing on the use of topical KTZ in human subjects. Results: Forty studies with 4566 patients were included in this review. Topical KTZ is clinically effective for the treatment of Malassezia-related conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis (SD) and pityriasis versicolor (PV) with a reported efficacy of 63-90% and 71-89%, respectively. Conclusions: Topical KTZ demonstrates high clinical efficacy for Malassezia-related conditions. More efficacious alternatives are now available for Tinea and Candida. Although topical KTZ is safe, clinicians should be aware that allergic contact dermatitis may occur. Further studies should be completed to investigate the use of topical KTZ for hair loss and inflammatory dermatoses.

Keywords: Topical ketoconazole; androgenetic alopecia; pityriasis versicolor; seborrheic dermatitis.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Alopecia / diagnosis
  • Alopecia / etiology
  • Antifungal Agents / adverse effects
  • Antifungal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Dermatitis, Seborrheic / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Ketoconazole / adverse effects
  • Ketoconazole / therapeutic use*
  • Malassezia / physiology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Tinea Versicolor / drug therapy*
  • Tinea Versicolor / microbiology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Ketoconazole