How does Sulfur work on acne?

You may remember sulfur as that bright yellow, smelly naturally-occurring element from science class. But I bet your earth science teacher didn’t tell you that sulfur is actually a common and beneficial ingredient for acne!

What is sulfur?

Applied topically, sulfur has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, which can help slow the growth of acne-causing bacteria. Sulfur is also known as a keratolytic, which are ingredients that cause the outer layers of your skin to soften, dry and peel off. While we know that over-drying your skin is not usually a good thing, these properties of sulfur allow it to clear pores, shed excess skin cells and absorb excess oil, which are all necessary to manage acne. See below for tips on how to incorporate sulfur without stripping your skin.

What kind of acne is it best for?

Sulfur works best on whiteheads and blackheads, as it addresses both excess oil and dead skin cell build up. It can also provide some antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits for moderate acne, like papules and pustules, though most commonly will be used in conjunction with other acne treatments.

How to use sulfur in your routine

Sulfur is generally considered to be a safe choice for all skin types when used appropriately. Because of its drying nature, sulfur has the potential to be irritating and overuse may cause redness and peeling. 

You can find sulfur in many types of products, but we recommend looking for spot treatments, wash-off masks and cleansers. Limiting the location and/or contact time can help reduce the risk of irritation while still experiencing the magic of the acne-fighting element. Oh, and don’t worry – most acne treatments come without the rotten egg smell!