The Benefits of Sulfur for Acne-Prone Skin
If you have acne-prone skin, chances are ‘salicyclic acid’ and ‘benzoyl peroxide’ are two ingredients you know all too well. When it comes to kicking acne in the butt, they’re widely used in product formulas that are designed to fight acne. Dermatologists everywhere know that, we all know that. But there’s a not-so-new newcomer on scene that is making a name for itself in its own right. Here’s a hint: the ingredient has been used in acne-fighting formulas for hundreds of years, though its notoriety dates back to fairly recent times. Any guesses?
If you guessed sulfur, give yourself a pat on the back. For skin—especially acne-prone skin—products formulated with this mineral can work wonders when applied topically. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, formulas containing sulfur can also help to unclog pores. Products formulated with sulfur can help to remove breakout-causing dead skin cells as well as excess amounts of oil on the skin’s surface, according to board-certified dermatologist, and Skincare.com consultant, Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali. “Sulfur is a keratolytic,” he says. “This means it digests dead skin cells and helps with exfoliation. Many of my patients also like it for controlling excess oil.”
Where sulfur differentiates from its zit-zapping counterparts is the way in which it’s available to the public. Benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid can both be found in many different types of products, including washes, creams, facial scrubs, gels, pre-moistened cloths and more. Sulfur, on the other hand, is often found in targeted, leave-on formulas—think: a spot treatment—intended for use on a single area or pimple, rather than over a large surface. What does this mean for you? You’re less likely to lay your hands on a facial wash formulated with sulfur to fight your acne (it does exist though!). But don’t let that deter you. Products containing sulfur can be an effective alternative to products containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, especially if you have skin that is sensitive to products formulated with those ingredients. “I often use sulfur on my patients who can’t tolerate benzoyl peroxide,” Bhanusali says. “Which is a growing number.” That said, we should warn you: The stuff does stink pretty bad—think: rotten eggs meet a skunk—but for its skin-clearing powers, products containing sulfur are well worth it. (Side note: Many new formulas include proprietary blends to help mask the smell if it’s too overwhelming!)