Sulfur has been used to treat skin conditions for hundreds of years. Even today sulfur can be effective to treat very mild acne. Still, there are far more effective options that you should consider for clearing your skin.
How does sulfur work to treat acne?
Sulfur is what’s known as a keratolytic. When applied, a keratolytic dries the skin and makes for a thinner epidermis. As you know, a pimple occurs when your pore is blocked, trapping oil and bacteria within. Sulfur helps the skin shed quicker, thus unclogging the pore and healing the acne.
Along with it’s ability to regulate the shedding of your skin, sulfur also has some antimicrobial qualities. This means the sulfur can kill the acne-causing bacteria that is trapped within your pore. Basically, the sulfur helps open the pore and then helps minimize the bacteria inside.
Sounds like a sure fix. Why shouldn’t I use it??
There Are Proven Options that Work Better than Sulfur for Acne
Only for Mild Acne: Sulfur does have some keralytic qualities mentioned above, but there are other proven treatments considered much more effective. The two most common treatments are sacylic acid and retinoic acid (topical retinoids).
Rotten eggs: Treatments that include sulfur naturally smell like sulfur. Other scents that include sulfur are rotten eggs, a skunk’s odor, and garlic. (You do the math…sulfur smells bad.) Studies have shown that sulfur’s harsh scent makes it harder for patients to maintain continued use.
Skin discoloration: Some sulfur products can cause your skin to lighten or darken depending on your skin tone and the levels of sulfur in the product.
Go with the better options:
There is some research to suggest that some sulfur products work. However, if you don’t want to deal with the smell or try unproven products, sacylic acid and/or topical retinoids are your best bet. If you are already using an acne treatment, make sure to consult your doctor before adding sulfur to your routine. When combined with other acne treatments, sulfur can cause irritation and sun sensitivity.
Everyone’s skin is different. To get the right acne treatment that will work best for your skin type and acne severity, always consult a dermatologist. If you don’t have a dermatologist, or want a more convenient way to receive a consultation, check out an online dermatology service
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- Gupta et al,. “The Use of Sulfur in Dermatology.” Journal of Drugs in Dermatology 3.4 (2004): n. pag. Web. <https://jddonline.com/articles/dermatology/322>;.
- Danby, F. “Rosacea, Acne Rosacea, and Actinic Telangiectasia.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 52.3 (2005): 539-40. Web. <https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(04)02229-7/fulltext>;
- Strauss et al,. “Guidelines of Care for Acne Vulgaris Management.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 56.4 (2007): 651-63. Web. <https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(06)02346-2/fulltext>;.
- Del Rosso et al,. “The Use of Sodium Sulfacetamide 10%-Sulfur 5% Emollient Foam in the Treatment of Acne Vulgaris.” The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology 2.8 (2009): n. pag. Web. <https://www.jcadonline.com/the-use-of-sodium-sulfacetamide-10-sulfur-5-emollient-foam-in-the-treatment-of-acne-vulgaris/>;.