Before we delve into the benefits of sulfur, let’s first take a look at the skin inflammation we are looking to treat. Acne is the result of a combination of factors including the buildup of dead skin, excess sebum, bacteria, and trapped dirt. The causes of acne vary depending on blackheads, whiteheads, and closed comedones (the small skin-colored bumps often found on the forehead and chin of people with acne).

Sulfur is primarily recommended for people who have oily skin to help clear pores, as it can cause irritation in people with more sensitive skin types. It is most commonly known as a fairly pungent natural mineral, but in the skin care world it is a very popular ingredient in acne treatments. However, to better understand how sulfur treats acne, you must first understand how breakouts develop on the skin. Pores can become clogged with dirt and grime if the skin is not cleansed regularly. As these substances become trapped beneath the skin’s surface, inflammation occurs and often leads to painful acne. [1].

When applied topically, Sulfur removes the top layer of the skin by drying it out and allowing it to peel off easily. This helps remove a layer of dead skin, keeping pores unblocked and allowing new layers of skin to grow in their place. Sulfur also has antibacterial properties, which help combat the presence of persistent bacteria on the skin that can cause infections beneath the skin’s surface. Our team at Kate Somerville Clinic loves sulfur for these properties. Kelly Viavattine, our celebrity esthetician, shares that “this is the main ingredient in our EradiKate® Acne Treatment, which contains the highest level of sulfur allowed at 10%, and in our EradiKate® Daily Foaming Cleanser, loaded with 3% sulfur. Sulfur is a natural ingredient that fights bacteria and helps reduce acne by removing excess skin cells. It’s a powerhouse!”

What else is sulfur used for?

Due to its ability to remove dead cells from the skin’s surface while also fighting bacteria within the pores, sulfur can also be used in products that treat sensitive skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea, eczema and dandruff. [2]. As a result, you may often see it as a main ingredient in both soaps and shampoos.

When used in skin care, you will need to take note of the amount of sulfur present in the products to ensure their safety. This is because daily use of high-potency sulfur products could cause a number of side effects, such as irritation, and possibly make acne worse rather than better. Please note that any product on the market with more than 10% sulfur is illegal.

Should I use sulfur treatments?

Despite its acne-fighting power, sulfur is not suitable for all skin types and some people may find sulfur harmful to the skin rather than helpful. The same elements that make sulfur an effective acne treatment can also cause skin irritation in some people due to its high pH balance. The force of sulfur can break down the skin’s natural protective barrier and leave it more vulnerable. Plus, without a strong moisture barrier, your skin will become drier and more susceptible to environmental aggressors.

Because of the way sulfur acts on the skin, it is actually most effective in treating mild acne breakouts that consist of whiteheads and blackheads. Unfortunately, moderate acne, such as papules or pustules, and severe acne, such as cysts and nodules, are best treated with stronger ingredients and under the supervision of an esthetician or dermatologist. However, once more severe acne clears up, sulfur could be an excellent ingredient to help maintain clear skin in the future.

Battling acne is a challenge for many of us, but it’s important to be mindful of the products you choose to treat your skin. Many will seek intense treatments that excessively dry the skin. If you have any concerns or questions, it is important to work with a dermatologist or esthetician to determine the right solution for your skin.

Alternative treatment options

If for some reason you can’t use sulfur-based products, don’t panic! There are alternative spot treatment options, which can also be effective in treating acne at its source. Two of the most commonly used ingredients are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Like sulfur, benzoyl peroxide is a drying agent that helps remove dry, dead skin from the surface and reduces the presence of bacteria. Salicylic acid, on the other hand, is milder. Although its effects are less intense, salicylic acid can still help remove dead skin and penetrate the pores to cleanse the hair follicle and eliminate any existing breakouts. Our Acne Treatment with EradiKate® Salicylic Acid It is a good alternative for those who cannot use sulfur-based products.

Clearly, sulfur is an amazing acne-fighting ingredient. By removing dead cells in both the pores and on the surface of the skin, it can help clear existing acne and prevent new breakouts. With a little patience and dedication to your skin care routine, your acne should begin to clear up within a few days to a few weeks. However, while sulfur treatments are safe, they are not the best option for everyone, so be sure to work with your dermatologist or esthetician to find the best treatments and regimens for your particular skin. In it Kate Somerville Skin Expert Clinic At Melrose Place, we pride ourselves on working with each of our clients to find the best possible solution for them.


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