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Sulfur for Acne: How To Use Sulfur as a Powerful Acne Treatment

Sulfur: How to Use This Old Fashioned Remedy to Get Rid of Acne

by Christine GlasgowNovember 22, 2016

Getting rid of pimples isn’t easy, as anyone, of either sex or any age is more than aware. But no one wants to live with it if they don’t have to either, so although all of the experimentation, research and possible expense that comes along with treating acne is a real pain at times it’s a challenge that most acne sufferers do take on.

Why is Treating Acne So Challenging?

If there were only one type or one level of severity of acne things would be so much easier. But that isn’t the case. Consider these facts:

  • There are several different types of acne and acne pimples. There are whiteheads, blackheads, cystic acne, hormonal acne, inflammatory and comedonal acne. Even figuring out which type you are actually dealing with can be a challenge.
  • There are a number of different causes of acne. Excess oil production in the skin, exposure to general dirt, debris and free radicals in the environment around us, hormones, a poor diet and even everyday stress can all be contributing factors.
  • There are lots of different ways to treat acne and not all of them are suitable for an individual’s unique skin. This is especially true if you have what is termed ‘sensitive skin’.


Sulfur for Acne – Is Sulfur Good for Acne?

There are certain acne treatments that are still in use today that have actually been around for centuries. And one of those is sulfur. Yes, the same stuff as they make matchstick heads from. The stinky stuff that was once referred to as brimstone.

The first truly documented use of sulfur to treat acne dates back to Ancient Rome. The wealthy Ancient Romans were a very image conscious lot, so acne was as distressing to them as it is to us today. To treat it they added sulfur to their daily hot mineral bath (they were exceptionally hygiene conscious too, somewhat unusually for the time) and contemporary writings suggest that they thought they knew why it worked; it dried the skin to remove oil.

The use of sulfur to treat acne spread across the world as the influence of the Roman Empire did, and it continued even after the great power itself fell. And, even if you were not personally aware of this fact, it is still considered a viable treatment for some forms of acne today, despite all of the advances in medicine and cosmetics since the Romans ruled the roost.


How Does Sulfur Work to get Rid of Acne?

In part, the Ancient Romans were quite correct. One of the reasons that sulfur can help get rid of pimples is that it ‘dries the skin’. But there is a little more to it than that:

  • Sulfur does dry the skin by removing excess oils. As the excess production of oil (sebum) in the skin is a big cause of many types of acne this is indeed a big help.
  • Sulfur also helps to reduce inflammation, reducing redness and calming the skin to help it heal.
  • Sulfur has exfoliation properties, so it helps removes the dead skin cells that can clog pores and lead to acne pimples.
  • The mild anti-bacterial properties found in sulfur can be helpful in keeping acne causing bacteria at bay, helping to prevent future breakouts.


Who Should Try Sulfur As an Acne Treatment? 

Sulfur is best used to treat mild to moderate acne. Those suffering from a more severe case would probably need to try something else. However it can also be especially helpful for:


Sulfur for Sensitive Skin

One of the points we just touched on briefly above above is the issue of skin sensitivity. But it bears expanding upon. Treating acne on sensitive skin is a real challenge. Many products are simply too harsh and can cause more problems than they actually solve. Acne products that are too harsh for sensitive skin can lead to:

  • Excess drying
  • Excess redness
  • Painful inflammation
  • Painful itching
  • Chemical ‘burns’

Because sulfur is gentler than harsher acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide or glycolic acid many people with sensitive skin are able to use sulfur to treat mild to moderate acne rather successfully without damaging their delicate skin.


What Kinds of Sulphur Acne Products to Treat Acne are Available?

Although you may have never specifically gone looking for them before, there are a number of different sulfur based acne treatments available over the counter in drugstores and at cosmetics counters. These include:

  • Soaps
  • Face washes
  • Foaming cleansers
  • Lotions
  • Face masks
  • Spot treatments

Every product is slightly different, so following the directions for use carefully and properly is very important. And if you have sensitive skin, watch out for additional ingredients. Some sulphur based lotions also contain benzoyl peroxide. For those with normal skin that is often very beneficial, but for those with the more delicate stuff it can be a little too much.

One thing people are a little worried about when they hear about sulfur as an acne treatment is the smell. Sulfur, in its pure form smells terrible. That’s one of the reasons it has historically been linked with the appearance of devils and monsters. Most OTC products have added fragrance to help combat that but some are still a little pungent, so it may be best to try to smell before you buy!


A Very Unexpected Home Sulfur Acne Treatment

Some people do prefer to keep things as natural as possible and seek out alternative and home remedies to treat acne. That of course won’t apply here, or will it?

Actually there is one rather surprising sulfur based home remedy you can try, although it is usually only effective for mild cases of acne. It is very simple though as it makes use of something that almost everyone will have in their kitchen right now; a potato.

Though you may never have realized it before potatoes contain sulfur and quite a bit of it too. Combine that with the potassium and chloride they also contin and you have a neat little acne fighter.

What You’ll Need

  • A large potato (any variety)
  • A bowl
  • A cheese grater

How It’s Done

  • Peel your large potato
  • Using the cheese grater grate the potato in its entirety into a bowl.
  • Wash/cleanse your face as usual
  • Take a handful of the grated potato and rub it, scrub style, into your skin, using circular motions.
  • Leave ‘potato juice’ in place for 10-15 minutes.
  • Rinse off with lukewarm water.
  • Repeat as needed, up to three times a week.


Using Sulfur to get Rid of Acne: Side Effects and Precautions

No acne treatment is perfect. Almost all of them have at least some mild side effects to be aware of and watch out for an that is true of sulfur. Sulfur side effects can include:

  • Dry skin
  • Peeling skin
  • Redness
  • Mild itching

Usually these are all mild symptoms and they will go away after a few uses anyway as your skin becomes more accustomed to being treated with sulfur, even if your skin is a bit sensitive. There are however some precautions you should take when using sulfur to get rid of acne:

  • Because sulfur treatments are trying always follow them with the use of a good, oil-free moisturizer.
  • Some sulfur treatments come in differing concentrations and strengths. Start with the lowest first and then, if necessary, ‘go up’ once you have an idea of how well your skin reacts to sulfur.
  • If redness, dryness or itching persist, even when using a low concentration of sulfur, for more than a few days discontinue use and try something else.
  • As is the case with most acne treatments the use of sulfur on the skin can make it more susceptible to sun damage, so always ensure you are wearing sunscreen when you go out.

So there you have it. As surprising as it may seem at first an acne remedy first used over two thousand years ago does still actually work for some and may be worth giving a try yourself. And if you do don’t forget to come back and let us know how it worked for you, we’d love to hear about your personal experiences.

Christine Glasgow
Canadian girl addicted to beauty and fashion. I'm a Blogger, Entrepreneur and web influencer 👑 I mostly talk about anything related to skin care and beauty. I created this site to share science-based information on skin conditions, treatments and skin care.

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