For any of those who’ve dealt with the embarrassment, annoyance, and just pure frustration that is accompanied by the common, dreaded skin condition known as acne, then you’re not alone.
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 80% of people in the United States between the ages of 11-30 have had some form of acne outbreak during their lifetime .
Although it typically starts during puberty and comes to an end as people reach their 20s, some unfortunately deal with these same acne problems well into their 40s and 50s .
Most think of it as purely a cosmetic issue, but it’s most often a lot more than that; as it can oftentimes lead to psychological and lifestyle issues. These include social anxiety, interpersonal relationship problems, anxiety, and even depression [3,4,5].
For mild and moderate cases of acne, a topical treatment is often prescribed. Unfortunately, dry skin, redness, and irritation can all be issues of concern, which can of course affect a person’s overall quality of life.
Treatment of Acne with...Sulfur?!
Yes, that’s right, sulfur!
Now I’m not sure exactly what you think of when you think of sulfur, but most people would associate it with rock formations or some sort of industrial solvent or compound.
While this may be true, what many people don’t often associate it with is a treatment for acne! May sound crazy, but in a little bit this will all make sense.
How it Works
Now you might be aware of some of the over-the-counter (OTC) remedies available for acne. One that you’ve probably heard of is benzoyl peroxide, which is often used for its antibacterial properties.
While it has certainly proved to be effective, people sometimes complain of its side effects such as burning, itching, redness, and application-site irritation, especially at higher concentrations .
Unlike benzoyl peroxide, sulfur-based topical applications tend to be more well tolerated, especially those with sensitive skin . Sulfur isn’t always necessarily the primary compound in a topical medication responsible for the treatment of acne, but it always plays a very significant role in how well the primary medication is going to work. Simply put, sulfur increases what’s called the permeability, or the ability to absorb things, of the skin.
In doing this, it dries out the outermost layer of your skin (the epidermis). The excess accumulation of oil that is primarily responsible for acne is then absorbed by the sulfur, drying out dead skin cells, ultimately freeing up your pores.
Sulfur used for the purpose of treating acne is said to act as a keratolytic. This means that it has the ability to soften a protein called keratin found in the outermost layer of skin.
This increases the moisture binding capacity of the skin, which can help treat dry skin; a symptom that’s often associated with acne. Excessive dry skin can lead to clogging of pores and eventually breakouts of acne.
The Different Types of Acne
So now we know that sulfur has the ability to dry out the skin, while simultaneously being able to absorb oil. Along with this, sulfur is very effective against a bacteria known as P. acnes, which is commonly found in blackheads and most types of acne in general.
This creates the perfect storm to attack the forms of acne known as whiteheads and blackheads. This is because these types of acne both are associated with skin pores or hair follicles being clogged with either oil, dead skin, and/or bacteria.
The only difference between whiteheads and blackheads are that the former are closed pores or follicles and the latter are open pores or follicles.
In a study of 113 acne patients with varying types of acne; papular, pustular, comedonic, and cystic types, using a sulfur and benzoyl peroxide combination treatment found that:
~90% of acne sufferers accomplished either “good” or “excellent” treatment outcomes
- “Good” indicated that there was marked but incomplete resolution of lesions
- “Excellent” indicated that no comedones, acneiform papules, pustules, or cysts were visible
- No undesirable or adverse side effects were noted in any of the 113 subjects
- The amount of sulfur used (which was in a cream-based topical application) was 2-5% concentration .
Sulfur Treatment Options
The great thing about sulfur-based acne treatments is that you have freedom of choice as it pertains to what form you want to use it in. It is available in washes, lotions, foams, creams, as well as OTC and prescription (Rx) masks.
In 2009, it was discovered that a sulfur-based foam was proven to be effective as an acne treatment either in isolation or in combination with other popular topical acne treatments.
- Sulfur-based foam treatments have been shown to reduce the colony formation of the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria, the kind that’s most responsible for the development of acne, in petri dish-based experiments.
- In subjects with mild-moderate cases of acne, they all showed significant improvements, while at the same time, presenting a lack of irritation to the skin in contrast to other topically-applied acne treatments
- The researchers reported that there was less residue, more rapid skin penetration, and higher ease of use associated with a sulfur-based foam acne treatment compared to other types of topical acne treatments .
Topical acne treatments containing sulfur have proven to be effective either by itself or alongside other proven acne treatments.
It’s especially beneficial for those with sensitive skin, as several of the available topically-applied acne treatments. Give it a shot and let us know what you think!
Fighting off acne can be difficult, that is why we created a formula that will suppress it with nutrients from ingredients such as sulfur.
Take your skincare into your own hands and get the best resolution to acne on the market!
- Acne. (2020, July 20). National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/acne#tab-risk
- GOULDEN, V., CLARK, S., & CUNLIFFE, W. (1997). Post-adolescent acne: A review of clinical features. British Journal of Dermatology, 136(1), 66-70. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2133.1997.tb08748.x
- Rubinow, D. R., Peck, G. L., Squillace, K. M., & Gantt, G. G. (1987). Reduced anxiety and depression in cystic acne patients after successful treatment with oral isotretinoin. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 17(1), 25-32. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0190-9622(87)70166-2
- Gupta, M. A., Gupta, A. K., Schork, N. J., Ellis, C. N., & Voorhees, J. J. (1990). Psychiatric aspects of the treatment of mild to moderate facial acne. International Journal of Dermatology, 29(10), 719-721. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-4362.1990.tb03777.x
- Baldwin, H. E. (2002). The interaction between acne vulgaris and the psyche. Cutis, 70(2), 133-139.
- Bataille, V., Snieder, H., MacGregor, A., Sasieni, P., & Spector, T. (2002). The influence of genetics and environmental factors in the pathogenesis of acne: A twin study of acne in women. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 119(6), 1317-1322. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1523-1747.2002.19621.x
- Lyon C. C. (2001). Acne: Diagnosis and Management. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 94(12), 652.
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- Chiu, A., Chon, S. Y., & Kimball, A. B. (2003). The response of skin disease to stress: changes in the severity of acne vulgaris as affected by examination stress. Archives of dermatology, 139(7), 897–900. https://doi.org/10.1001/archderm.139.7.897
- Mills, O. H., Jr, Kligman, A. M., Pochi, P., & Comite, H. (1986). Comparing 2.5%, 5%, and 10% benzoyl peroxide on inflammatory acne vulgaris. International journal of dermatology, 25(10), 664–667. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-4362.1986.tb04534.x
- Keri, J., & Shiman, M. (2009). An update on the management of acne vulgaris. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 2, 105–110. https://doi.org/10.2147/ccid.s3630
- Wilkinson, R. D., Adam, J. E., Murray, J. J., & Craig, G. E. (1966). Benzoyl peroxide and sulfur: foundation for acne management. Canadian Medical Association journal, 95(1), 28–29.
- Del Rosso J. Q. (2009). The use of sodium sulfacetamide 10%-sulfur 5% emollient foam in the treatment of acne vulgaris. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 2(8), 26–29.