Acne Treatment: Sulfur

One of the most conventional forms of acne treatment is using sulfur-based products. Sulfur is a naturally-occurring compound and is known to be very effective in curing acne. However, the sulfur used in acne medications is produced synthetically. Now, many sulfur-based products like gels, soaps, creams and face-washes are available.

Overview of Sulfur Acne Treatment

Sulfur is able to clear the acne due to its cleansing properties. Sulfur acts upon the clogged pores that are susceptible to harboring acne-causing bacteria. This can be understood as a controlled but very comprehensive form of decontamination of the skin through scrubbing. Further, sulfur is also a natural anti-septic. Thus, sulfur can cure acne and also prevent acne development. However, sulfur is a potent compound and is seldom used in its purest form. Usually, it is combined with other anti-acne agents like salicylic acid or Rescorcinol.

Understanding Sulfur Acne Treatment

Sulfur is not ideally suited for curing chronic or scarring acne. It is more efficient when used to treat mild or moderate acne. It can clear both blackheads and whiteheads by curbing the excessive secretions of the sebaceous glands. However, when used for something as serious as cystic acne, the results may not be very encouraging.

Though sulfur-based products are available over-the-counter, sulfur may not be compatible with every type of acne. It is always better to seek a professional opinion before starting sulfur-based acne treatment. Sulfur is almost never recommended for oral administration during acne treatment. However, some of the oral, homeopathic medications for acne might contain trace amounts of sulfur.


In its chemical form, sulfur has a typical odor that is identical to the stink of rotten eggs. However, this doesn’t mean that sulfur-based acne products carry a displeasing smell. Most of these products have a strong fragrance that helps to neutralize the odor. However, this might induce a problem for people with sensitive skin, as the chemical compounds carrying the pleasing fragrance might irritate the skin.

Possible Side Effects

Please note that sulfur is able to cure acne by inducing a slight, peeling (abrasive) action. This might sound disturbing, but the action happens in a very minimal manner wherein only the outermost covering over the skin pores is peeled away. However, this can worsen the condition of skin among people with very dry skin. The peeling action might become highly pronounced among such people, causing irritation and the formation of scaly tissue. This is why some dermatologists recommending sulfur-based acne treatment advise their patients to stop using all kinds of cosmetic scrubbers and use a complementary moisturizer.

The most common symptoms of using sulfur products include a bit of redness or tenderness that usually subsides without any medication. It is often recommended that the daily usage of sulfur should be gradually increased. This means using a sulfur-based product, like sulfur soaps, only for a few days in a week for some time before starting a daily-use regimen.

Skin Discoloration can happen among people who have some form of skin lesion or slightly-pigmented areas on their face. Sulfur has the capability to induce a slight, bleaching-like action on such spots, causing unwanted pigmentation. Similarly, people with sun-burnt or chapped skin should use sulfur only under medical supervision as discoloration can happen.