If you can get past the smell, it's a gamechanger.
As any acne sufferer knows all too well, the beauty market is crowded with creams, gels and lotions all promising to banish breakouts for good. And as any acne sufferer who's bought into these alluring claims will know that the majority of them don't actually work.
While salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide have all been hailed for their spot fighting ability in the past, there's now a new ingredient on the scene that skincare fanatics are calling "the miracle" ingredient for acne: sulphur.
The nontoxic mineral (best know for its distinctive egg-like stench) has been used in the home for centuries, helping to preserve wine, whiten clothes, banish evil spirits – you name it. Now, it's recently jumped on the trend train and has been rolling out in creams, cleansers, masks, and moisturisers that pretty much beg you to buy them. But is it really that good?
In short, yes.
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Sulphur has natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, meaning it can clear bacteria from the pores that would otherwise lead to acne and also help to prevent new bacteria from manifesting on the skin’s surface.
Here’s all you need to know about what sulphur is, how it works and who it’s best suited for.
Plus, the best sulphur infused skincare products to load up on for clearer, brighter skin.
what is sulphur?
Simply put, sulphur is a natural element that is an essential component for all living cells. Commonly found in rocks and minerals, sulphur is essential for plant growth, and it's also found throughout our body in amino acids, vitamins, and our skin and hair. It's known for its yellow colour and its strong smell (but you already knew that). Sulphur has been used throughout history for medical purposes but when it comes to skincare, you'll now find it in acne spot treatments, masks, and soaps.
what does sulphur infused skincare do?
In topical skincare, sulphur can address a myriad of other skin concerns - most notably acne.
Sulphur has natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, meaning it can clear bacteria from the pores that would otherwise lead to acne and also help to prevent new bacteria from manifesting on the skin’s surface. It also reduces the production of sebum in the skin, which leads to oiliness. This process dries out the skin, which can be beneficial for acne sufferers who are prone to excess oil production that can lead to breakouts.
Sulphur has also been hailed as a keratolytic because it works by peeling away the top layer of the skin when it’s applied, taking dead skin cells with it and revealing a fresh layer of unblemished skin to flourish in its place.
who is sulphur infused skincare suitable for?
Sulphur can be used to treat those with mild-to-moderate acne, rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, and eczema.
However, like with most things, it’s not necessarily right for every skin type and can actually be harmful to some people, particularly those with dry or sensitive skin. Due to its high pH balance, it can exacerbate skin irritations by disrupting the skin’s protective layer, so it’s always worth consulting a dermatologist before you start using sulphur-infused skincare products.
How do i USE sulphur infused skincarE?
Sulphur comes in an array of topical skincare products but most dermatologists recommend using it as a short-contact cleanser to be used once a day, usually at bedtime.
Avoid layering sulphur with your other acne topicals that dry out the skin or exfoliate such as retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid.
Experimenting with multiple acne treatments together can be too much of a good thing and cause the skin to become overly dry and inflamed.
what about the smell?
If even glancing at the word sulphur has you already sensing the smell of rotten eggs, don't worry—most sulphur acne treatments are loaded with masking odours that overbear the scent. Still, we do suggest incorporating sulphur treatments into your evening skincare routine, in order to minimise any lingering scents.
WHERE CAN I BUY sulphur infused skincare?
In short, everywhere. But to help you on your quest for brighter, clearer skin we've rounded up the absolute best sulphur products for acne, all of which promise to banish breakouts for good.
This foaming cleanser is loaded with 3% sulphur to help clear and prevent breakouts. Kate Somerville also included honey, rice bran, and oat extracts to calm, soothe, and reduce excess sebum.
Another popular hero product that packs a blemish-busting punch by combining sulphur with activated Binchotan charcoal, this mask detoxifies, brightens and invigorates normal to oily skin.
Charcoal Rescue Masque, €50, Dermalogica
The best part about Peter Thomas Roth’s sulphur mask is that it’s not limited to your face—the highly concentrated product can treat breakouts on your chest and back, too.
Therapeutic Sulfur Mask, €46, Peter Thomas Roth
This widely-loved zit zapper has achieved cult status and is loved by celebrities including Jennifer Aniston, Kylie Jenner and Bella Hadid. It uses sulphur alongside salicylic acid to exfoliate, reduce inflammation and turf out impurities. Make sure you don't shake the bottle, as the product is supposed to be used with the formula separated in the bottle. Simply dip your cotton swab into the bottle to pick up a concentration of pink sediment and apply directly to the spot.
Drying Lotion, €19, Mario Badescu
With added sulphur to balance sebum levels, this backstage Bioderma staple makes for a speedy, shine-stopping first cleanse in your nightly skincare routine.
Bioderma Sebium H2O Micellar Water, €12.49, Boots
Main image by @isotretinoinwiths on Instagram