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Best Active Ingredients to Fight Acne: Sulfur

June 24, 2020


In past blogs, we have examined Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide. This week, we discuss the properties of Sulfur, which of course is everyone’s favorite acne fighting ingredient because of its gorgeous yellow hue and distinct odor. Ha!

You may turn up your nose to sulfur, but in fact it has been a key acne fighting ingredient for centuries – yup!  Even in the days of the pharaoh and Romans, adults and teens were battling acne and frequently used sulfur.  As we mentioned in our blog post “Acne throughout History,” there are documented cases of the ancient Romans and Egyptians both applying sulfur directly to their skin to cure acne. They didn’t know exactly why it worked, but they noticed it had a drying effect on their skin. In fact, the famous Roman baths offered sulfur in the water, to ease acne breakouts.

So why does sulfur work to fight acne breakouts?

By now, most of you know the underlying cause of acne is the retention of dead skin cells in the hair follicles. When excessive sebum (oil) from the skin’s sebaceous (oil) glands combines with the dead skin cells in the hair follicles, it causes a plug that attracts bacteria and then your body has to fight off the infection, thereby producing a pimple.

Sulfur is effective at preventing acne because it naturally dries up the skin’s extra sebum, making acne breakouts more infrequent. In addition to its drying qualities, sulfur is also a kerotolytic, which means it sloughs off dead skin cells at the skin’s surface. With fewer accumulated dead skin cells, there will be fewer to be trapped in the hair follicles which helps to prevent new breakouts. Sulfur is also an excellent anti bacterial which fights off the acne promoting bacteria, Propionibacterium acnes.

Cosmetic technology has progressed since the days of the pharaohs, which is good news for modern users of sulfur products . Although you may still notice a slight odor, most companies have been able to mask the smell significantly from its original form.

Should you be using a sulfur based skincare product?

There is no question that people suffering from acne breakouts will benefit from using sulfur on their skin. Depending on the type and severity of acne as well as the skin’s sensitivity will determine which product is best suited for your skin type. Nina Skincare offers 3 different products containing sulfur as an active ingredient:

The first is our Abolishing Mask with Sulfur 10%. When we consult with new clients, we recommend they incorporate this product into their treatment 100% of the time. What’s super cool about the Abolishing Sulfur Mask is that it is suitable for all skin types.  When used 5-7 times a week, the skin becomes clearer faster and breakouts tend to be smaller and go away much quicker than usual.

Next up is our Secret Agent Sulfur Formula topical medication. It is primarily used by clients who have a sensitivity to Benzoyl Peroxide, which is the case for a small percentage of the population. Clients with benzoyl allergies are thrilled to finally find a topical medication they can use nightly that clears their acne breakouts without causing redness, itching or inflammation.

Finally, for the most severe acne clients with no benzoyl peroxide sensitivity, we recommend our Elite Agent Benzoyl Peroxide 10% with Sulfur topical medication. This is the strongest medication we have here at Ninja Skincare and should only be ordered after the skin has become accustomed to our Secret Agent Benzoyl Peroxide 10%.  We have noticed that some clients will mistakenly order our Elite Agent Topical Medication when they meant to order our Abolishing Mask. Both products contain the word ‘SULFUR’ and are packaged in the same shaped container.  We will always double check your order if it contains the Elite Agent. Most clients do not have the level of acne that would require this level of treatment and using the Elite Agent can cause irritation and burning on the skin. For our clients with severe acne, we will recommend the Elite Agent when your skin is ready for this leap. Rest assured, you will not find a more potent topical acne product on the market!

Sulfur is a versatile, non-irritating and soothing treatment to the skin. Thanks to sulfur’s unique properties of skin shedding, anti-bacterial and oil reducing qualities, it will most likely be a favorite ally for fighting acne for many years to come!

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