Sulfur is a natural mineral that is commonly used to combat mild to moderate acne.
What is sulfur for acne?
Acne symptoms, including pimples and scars, can be especially stubborn to treat. Sulfur, however, has been proven to be a potent yet gentle acne-fighting solution – for people with mild to moderate acne.
Sulfur is a type of mineral or element that is listed on the periodic table. It is sometimes spelt as “sulphur” and is renowned for its antibacterial properties as well as a distinctive “rotten egg” smell in its purest form.
The use of sulfur for acne dates back thousands of years – based on historical records. In Ancient Egypt, for example, the term “akut”, meaning pimples, was depicted on the hieroglyphs. Sulfur was highlighted as one of the go-to solutions for this age-old problem.
The Romans, too, put their own spin on this classic with sulfur-infused baths in an effort to clear the skin.
Benefits of sulfur for acne
Sulfur, when applied onto the skin, is beneficial for:
- Exfoliating deep into the skin’s pores
- Cleansing the skin
- Limiting oil production
- Absorbing oil production
- Eliminating bacteria with its antimicrobial properties
- Accelerating skin shedding and renewal
- Lowering inflammation
- Expediting the healing process
- Bringing pimples to a head
There are many other types of acne treatments in the marketplace today, including salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, for example. Sulfur acne treatments offer some unique benefits, however, as it’s often recommended for individuals with sensitive skin.
Side effects of sulfur for acne
Because sulfur is a potent chemical, it can lead users to experience several skin irritations upon use, including:
- Red skin
- Peeling and/or flaking
- Skin that feels warm to the touch
Precautions for using sulfur for acne
Some words of caution when using sulfur for acne are:
- Skin discoloration – Sulfur agents expedite the skin renewal process. Sometimes, users note discolored skin after using a sulfur agent. If this occurs, the dosage should be reduced or discontinued, depending on the instructions on the manufacturer label.
- Headaches – As a naturally occurring substance, sulfur has a distinctively strong odor, which causes some users to experience headaches. If the sulfur agent you’re using is too strong, consider swapping it for a topical treatment with less sulfur.
- Allergic reactions – In rare cases, sulfur agents for acne could cause a severe allergic reaction to occur. If you experience trouble breathing, hives-like rashes or swollen skin, discontinue use and seek emergency medical help right away. Some other signs of a serious allergic reaction include yellowing of skin and eyes, muscle weakness and lethargy.
- Overdose – If you suspect an overdose, do not hesitate to call 911. The American Association of Poison Control Centers can also be contacted at 1-800-222-1222. Even though sulfur for acne is topically applied, overdosing is still possible.
- Concomitant use with other drugs – Be sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist about sulfur treatments if you are currently taking any prescription medications. Notable negative interactions have been studied when sulfur is used with common prescription acne medications, such as Differin or Accutane for example.
How to treat acne with sulfur – spot-on advice
If you want to get sulfur for acne, do you need a prescription from a medical provider? Not necessarily. If you have mild to moderate acne, there are scores of acne sulfur treatments available over-the-counter – or online for purchase. These come in various brands and options, including:
- Sulfur masks
- Sulfur ointments
- Sulfur soaps
- Sulfur creams
- Sulfur lotions
- Sulfur emollient foams
The treatments come with wide-ranging instructions, and the two most popular options are:
- Wash off the sulfur treatment, or:
- Leave it on
The common theme, however, is that sulfur treatments for acne are usually topically applied. It’s also important to note that many sulfur acne treatments are produced with other key ingredients, for maximum potency and to improve the users’ results. For example, sodium sulfacetamide is often mixed with sulfur agents, because it reduces the intense odor present from sulfur alone.
Top tips for using sulfur for acne:
Here are a few words of advice when using sulfur agents for acne breakouts:
- Test first – when using a sulfur acne treatment for the first time, test it in a small area of the skin to determine if any allergic or adverse reactions occur. The best place to conduct spot tests is on the forearm – use just a dot during this experimental phase. Leave on the test treatment for a 24-hour window before using regular dosage amounts.
- Follow the instructions on the label – Because sulfur is known to cause dryness, it’s best not to overuse it. Going to extremes could cause more harm than good. As a result, be sure to follow all instructions listed on the manufacturer’s label. Most brands advise users to reduce the number of topical applications if adverse side effects are observed. The dosage may be increased to the listed number of times after a few days or weeks – when the skin becomes acclimated with the treatment.
- Rashes and other adverse reactions – If serious skin reactions occur, the medicine should be discontinued.
- Add a moisturizer – to help alleviate redness, dryness and/flaking associated with sulfur-acne treatments, a gentle and soothing moisturizer is recommended as part of the daily cleansing routine.
What’s the main appeal?
1. It’s very accessible – Head to a local pharmacy for over-the-counter skin treatments with sulfur. As mentioned earlier, the strength varies from one brand to another.
2. It’s affordable – Most sulfur containing acne products are budget-friendly for the average consumer.
3. It works for mild-moderate acne – If you have acne that isn’t severe, sulfur treatments may work for you.
4. It’s gentle – People with sensitive skin often use sulfur to fight acne, because it’s gentler on the skin, compared to Benzoyl peroxide or Retina-A for example.
5. It’s versatile – In addition to treating acne, sulfur alleviates the symptoms of many other skin conditions, such as Rosacea, eczema or psoriasis, for example.
- Skin type – Studies indicate that users’ skin type influences how well sulfur agents treat acne.
- Type of acne – If you have cystic acne or other severe cases of this skin condition, sulfur may not be the best treatment option for you. Medical research determines this agent offers marginal benefits for bad breakouts.
- Prescription strength sulfur for acne – Extra-strong sulfur treatments for acne are also available by prescription. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are currently taking any medications or have any underlying illnesses – to avoid negative interactions with sulfur agents.
Storage and handling of sulfur for acne
To preserve the integrity of your medication, always follow the storage instructions listed on the insert or package. In most cases, sulfur creams, ointments, lotions, foams and other treatment types should be stored at room temperature and away from heat or extreme cold.
For the safety of children and pets, store sulfur products in hard-to-reach areas, such as a locked medicine cabinet.
Pay attention to the expiration date listed on the product. When the treatment has been discontinued or if it expires, be sure to safely dispose of any unused portions.