Acne, Sulfur and You

Sulfur: Stinky, yet effective.

I’ve been hearing more and more about sulfur masks for acne. (And I know what you’re thinking–I need new friends, right?) Ok, fine. We are nerds. BUT, that said, it seems like the new greatest thing ever is the sulfur acne mask. Now, sulfur is far from a new thing–it has been used topically on skin forever. It has been used to treat a lot of different skin disorders, including things like scabies,Ā seborrheic dermatitis, and acne. It is said to have some side effects, but they’re supposed to be mild. (I would assume this would depend on your skin, if it is highly sensitive, or if your acne is pretty raging.)

Sulfur masks are going to target the bacteria and oil-clogged pores. That extra oil keeps your skin cells from shedding, and they stay clogged. This is where you get the red, angry, inflamed acne from. This type of inflamed acne is called “Propionibacterium” acne, or just “P. acne”.

Sulfur is supposed to be ideal to strip the dirt and oil, leaving the pores with a deep down clean. It is also supposed to really refine the pores, shrinking them. It can also cause your skin to peel, which some say assists in the whole “deep down clean” aspect of a sulfur mask. So, peeling is definitely going to be a side effect. I would definitely think twice about doing a sulfur mask if you have really sensitive skin, or if you are in the middle of winter. It may go TOO deep down.

Over the counter sulfur masks are typically 3-10%. Some offer a whole slew of their own proprietary mix of ingredients, eucalyptus, yadda yadda. It will but down on that extra oil, making sure that less P. acne can survive in your pores. These types of masks are also ideal for comedones–whiteheads and blackheads. It is going to shrink the ones you have and block new ones from forming.

There will be some side effects, but it is nothing like a prescribed acne medication. Sulfur masks can cause redness, peeling and flaking, but you won’t have any sensitivity to light. Medications like benzoyl peroxide and azelaic acid will work, but you will see some pretty hefty side effects. Retinoids are somewhat effective, but again, you will pay for it in other ways. Also keep this in mind when you are working in orchestra with products that contain sulfur and these medications.

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