Topical sulfur acne treatment

Sulfur is an element which exists as yellow powder or as a yellow crystalline solid. This element is already known even in ancient times and is usually found near hot springs or volcanic areas. This element is traditionally used as an antifungal, antibacterial and keratolytic agent.

II. How does Sulfur works on acne?

Sulfur is a keratolytic agent which means that sulfur encourages the shedding of skin cells. This peeling effect prevents the pores from being clogged. The peeling effect is thought to be caused by hydrogen sulfide which breaks down keratin on epithelial cells. Hydrogen sulfide is created due to the reaction of sulfur and cystein which is present on the skin. Sulfur can be combined with other keratolytic agent such as salicylic acid. In some preparations, it is combined with zinc oxide which provides anti-inflammatory action and enhances wound healing.


Study shows that topical sulfur is as effective as standard antibiotic acne treatment.

10% topical sulfur is comparable to the performance of oral tetracycline.
( Source: Journal of Drugs in Dermatology | Date: 7/1/2004 | Author: Gupta, Aditya K.; Nicol, Karyn )

“Our experiments appear to show that both alcohol-sulfur and carbowax-sulfur owe their inhibitory properties to the sulfur particles that are dispersed throughout the medium when these sulfur preparations are diluted with broth. The inhibitory effect of these particles may or may not be due to a combination of the sulfur particles with substances in the medium in which they are suspended”.
( Source: The Journal of Experimental Medicine, Vol 85, 531-542, Copyright, 1947, by The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research New York)

Sulfur has antifungal, antibacterial, and keratolytic activity. In the past, its use was widespread in dermatological disorders such as acne vulgaris, rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff, pityriasis versicolor, scabies, and warts. Adverse events associated with topically applied sulfur are rare and mainly involve mild application site reactions. Sulfur, used alone or in combination with agents such as sodium sulfacetamide or salicylic acid, has demonstrated efficacy in the treatment of many dermatological conditions.
( Source: The use of sulfur in dermatology, Gupta AK, Nicol K. Division of Dermatology, Department of Medicine, Sunnybrook And Women’s College Health Science Center, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. )


  • Very minimal side effects.Sulfur has a long track record of being safe,cheap and effective.
  • Does not cause bacterial resistance as compared to oral or topical antibiotics.
  • Does not stain clothing compared to benzoyl peroxide.
  • It is a combination keratolytic and antibacterial agent.
  • Disadvantages
  • Some individuals are sensitive to topical sulfur which causes scabbing of the skin.
  • The strong odor of sulfur may be unpleasant for some individuals.

III. Forms, Dosage and Administration

Lotion, Liquid, Cream, Soap, Ointment, Gel, Shampoo

IV. Precautions

Do not use over wounds. Abrasive soaps. Do not use other products with high alcohol content or other products with peeling agents.

V. Side Effects

Itching, burning, stinging, tingling sensation, redness or drying of skin

Brand Names

Liquimat, Sastid Soap, Sulfoam, Sulfo-Lo,Sulmasque, Sulpho-Lac, Sul-Ray Aloe Vera Acne,Thylox Acne Treatment, Zapzyt Cleansing

References “Zinc Oxide”( Last Editorial Review: 3/2/2005) “2001-2007 DAK Pharmaceuticals”

Sulfur for Acne | Sulfur acne treatment | sulfur acne | sulfur acne treatment | sulfur for acne | acne sulfur | sulfur acne products | sulfur soap acne | sulfur and acne | acne free sulfur mask | sulfur soap for acne

Comments are closed.