Derm DMs: Why Is Sulfur Used in Acne Treatments?

March 04, 2020
Alanna Martine Kilkeary
By: Alanna Martine Kilkeary | by L'Oréal
Derm DMs: Why Is Sulfur Used in Acne Treatments?

Thanks to its reputation from our high school science class (cue: rotten egg experiments!),  sulfur has a bad rap. These days, however, it’s an ingredient we often see listed on the packaging of acne treatment products, and since we still have a little PTSD from our chem lab days — we can’t help but wonder why? As it turns out, sulfur is quite beneficial for oily, acne-prone skin thanks to its antibacterial and antifungal properties. We chatted with dermatologist and consultant, Hadley King, M.D about exactly why.


What Is Sulfur, and Why Is it Used in Skin Care?

According to Dr. King, sulfur has been used in skin care since the time of Cleopatra. “Sulfur is a drying agent that has anti-fungal, antibacterial and keratolytic activity,” she says. This means that it works to keep the skin soft and thin to prevent clogged pores, and it reduces bacteria that can contribute to acne.

Who Might Want to Try Sulfur in Their Acne Routine?

Although sulfur may cause dryness and irritation, Dr. King notes that it’s actually less irritating and drying than other acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and retinoids. “Sulfur is a safer selection for sensitive or dry skin types,” she says. If you have rosacea and/or seborrheic dermatitis, you might also respond well to sulfur because of its anti-inflammatory properties. “Within four to eight weeks of using a sulfur product you should notice a decrease in clogged pores and pimples,” King adds.

Sulfur Products to Incorporate Into Your Regimen

Sulfur can be found in many types of skin-care products, from masks to cleansers. To get the most out of your sulfur acne regimen, try the AcneFree Therapeutic Sulfur Mask that’s made for oily or acne-prone complexions. “In addition to the sulfur unclogging pores, it contains vitamin C, copper and zinc, the formula helps give skin a healthy-looking glow. says Dr. King. Another product to try is the Sunday Riley Saturn Sulfur Acne Treatment Mask, which also contains tea tree oil and manuka oil to purify the skin.

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