Sulfur (Topical)

Patients that are suffering from acne or other skin ailments may find relief through the use of a drug known as sulfur.


Sulfur is an anti-acne medication that is used in the treatment of a variety of skin conditions such as acne, scabies, and seborrheic dermatitis. This medication is an anti-acne drug that is available in both prescription and non-prescription formulations. Sulfur is available in topical creams, bars of soap, ointments, and lotions.

There are no reported major drug interactions with the use of sulfur, however, it remains important to always keep your physician and pharmacists informed of all drugs and medications that you are taking. Let me know of both prescription and non-prescription drugs that you are currently taking along with any vitamin or mineral supplements and herbal remedies.

Directions differ depending on the condition that is being treated and in what form you are using sulfur. The dosage information below outlines the instructions for the differing ailments and delivery methods. Whichever condition is being treated, it is imperative that the affected area is thoroughly cleaned prior to application.

Acne sufferers should use whichever delivery option that is most effective or preferable to them on an as-needed basis. If you choose to use the ointment, a strength of 0.5% is recommended. Scabies patients typically rely on sulfur ointment with a strength of 6% that is used for three consecutive nights. An ointment that is 5% to 10% in strength is typically used in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis.

Take caution to avoid contact with the eyes when using this medication as it can cause discomforts such as burning and blurred vision, and can be harmful if not washed out right away.

Condition(s) Treated

  • Acne
  • Seborrheic Dermatitis
  • Scabies
  • Other Skin Conditions

Type of Medication

  • Anti-acne

Side Effects

Sulfur does not cause any medically dangerous side effects that require you to contact your doctor. However, if your symptoms do not improve or become worse it is always advisable to contact your doctor. Sulfur may cause dry skin at the point of application and the immediate surrounding area.

If you experience any side effects that do not dissipate after a few days or begin to worsen, it may be a sign of a more serious issue that could require additional medical attention.


Due to its topical nature, it is imperative that the area to be treated is thoroughly cleaned with both soap and water prior to application and be sure to completely dry the area before you apply the sulfur medication. If you are utilizing sulfur in either cream, lotion, or ointment form, apply a small amount to the affected area and gently rub into the skin. Do not pull on the skin or apply too much pressure. These instructions apply to the use of sulfur for the treatment of acne, seborrheic dermatitis, and other relevant skin disorders.

If you are using sulfur soap, the instructions are fairly straightforward: using warm water, create a strong lather from the soap and spread it all over the affected areas before rinsing completely. Following this cleanse, re-lather the affected areas of the body for a few minutes and gently rub the lather into the skin before toweling or tissuing off any excess lather. Do not rinse the affected areas where you gently rubbed in the soap to the skin.

Patients that are using sulfur for the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis are typically advised to use an ointment that is a 5% to 10% concentration and apply it one to two times each day.

Acne sufferers can use either the lotions, creams, and ointments or the sulfur soap to treat the condition. Sulfur is recommended to be used as needed for the treatment of this ailment. If ointment is the preferred method of delivery the 0.5% strength is advised.

For patients that are using sulfur to treat scabies, the instructions are different. Sulfur that is being used to treat this affliction is applied at bedtime. Before using this scabies medication it is imperative to fully wash the entire body with soap and water and then fully dry the skin. Apply the ointment from the neck down and cover the entire body and rub it in, but gently. It is important to keep the ointment on the skin for a full 24-hour period.

Always wash your entire body after the 24-period of having the ointment on the skin. If you are going to reapply the sulfur medication for another treatment, be sure to fully wash the entire body with both soap and water and dry your skin thoroughly prior to application. The typical strength of sulfur for the treatment of scabies is the 6% ointment, with the recommended dose of treatment for 3 consecutive nights.

These lotions and ointments are available in different strengths with the age of the patient, the severity of the condition, and the type of affliction that is being treated all contributing to the determination of which dosage will be most effective.

If the treatment does not help to lessen the symptoms after a few treatments, or if the symptoms worsen, it is always advisable to contact your physician or pharmacist for advice as there may be another medication available that will be more effective in treating your condition.

Dosage information is the same for both adults and children that are using sulfur, but it is always advisable to confer with your pediatrician before administering a new medication to your child.

Major Drug Interactions

While there are no known major drug interactions, it is always best practice to inform your doctor and pharmacist of all medications and supplements that you are currently taking. This includes both prescription and non-prescription drugs along with any herbal remedies that you are using and any vitamin or mineral supplements that you are taking.

Depending on the drugs that you are currently taking, and which conditions that they treat, your doctor may alter your dosage or instead recommend an alternative treatment. It is important to follow the directions of your physician and to advise them of any changes in your overall health that occur while you are taking sulfur. If you begin treatment for another health condition while you are taking prescription or non-prescription sulfur medications, be sure to inform your doctor and pharmacist of this new condition and any treatment that you begin.

Any topical skin products or medications that contain mercury need to be avoided when taking sulfur. While not harmful to your health, it can cause a black stain on the skin, create a foul-smelling odor, and will cause further irritation that can become problematic. If you are unsure about the use of a certain product while you are taking sulfur, check with your pharmacist for advice. Remember to always notify your doctor and pharmacist of any changes to your health and/or medications that occur while you are taking sulfur.


It is important to avoid contact with the eye area when using this product. Sulfur can cause extreme discomfort if it comes into contact with the eyes and can be harmful if not flushed out immediately. If contact does occur simply rinse with clean water until the eyes are clear.

Do not consume this medication and be sure to keep it out of the reach of children as accidental digestion can be harmful. If the medication is swallowed contact your local poison control center for further guidance.

There are certain medications and products to avoid when using sulfur as they can interfere with the effectiveness of the medication or cause further irritation in the affected area.

  • Abrasive soaps or cleansers
  • Medicated cosmetics
  • Alcohol-containing preparations
  • Cosmetics or soaps that dry the skin
  • Benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, salicylic acid, or tretinoin which is also known as vitamin A acid
  • Topical acne products or medications or products that contain a peeling agent
  • Any other topical solutions that are used to treat skin ailments


Medicine should always be stored in its original packaging in a cool and dry location. Do not allow the ointment to be exposed to excessive heat or cold and do not allow it to freeze.

Keep Sulfur and all other medications out of the reach of children.

If you have excess ointment after completing the entire course of treatment, or if you have a product that is expired, consult with your pharmacist or physician on the appropriate manner of disposal.


Sulfur is an effective topical medication that is used to treat acne, scabies, seborrheic dermatitis, and other skin conditions. It is available in both prescription and non-prescription strength and comes in soap, lotion, cream, and ointment formulations. If you are suffering from a skin ailment sulfur may help to ease and eliminate your symptoms.

This medication does not have any reported negative interactions with major drugs but as with any new medication, you should consult your doctor or pharmacist before starting the course of treatment.

Sulfur is appropriate for use by both adults and children.

There are no known side effects to this topical treatment although it has been reported to cause dry and irritated skin in the affected area.

If your symptoms do not clear up after a few days, or they become worse, it is advisable to contact either your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Take care to avoid your eye area when applying sulfur because if it comes into contact with your eyes it can cause blurred vision, itching, and a burning sensation. If you do get this medication in your eyes you should immediately rinse them with warm water until the product is removed.

Do not ingest this product. If you mistakenly eat this medication contact your local poison control center to learn how to minimize the effects. Sulfur is commonly used as an acne treatment in addition to other skin ailments. Consult with your physician or pharmacist if you believe that sulfur could be an effective treatment for your condition. Acne, scabies, and seborrheic dermatitis are some of the most common conditions that are treated with sulfur.

Last Reviewed:
December 23, 2017
Last Updated:
April 05, 2018
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