Sometimes it can seem like there's one buzzy skincare ingredient after another to pay attention to. But some become true heroes for all the right reasons, and the latest to do so is sulphur, which is a brilliant anti-acne ingredient. So should you be using sulphur skincare? Here's everything you need to know to decide.
What Is Sulphur?
Sulphur is a naturally-occurring mineral, which you may know is found in hot springs via volcanoes, as well as in food, and in the human body. It is most known for its pongy, egg-like smell (if you've ever visited the sulphur springs at Rotorua in New Zealand, you'll know what I mean) but these days, skincare geniuses are offering formulas without the odour, so don't let that put you off.
How Does Sulphur Work In Skincare?
"Sulphur is keratolytic, which means it works by softening and thinning the epidermis to prevent clogged pores," Arielle Kauvar, MD, of New York Laser & Skincare told Byrdie. "It also reduces the growth of the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria and the blockage of pores."
In short, sulphur is a great ingredient for clearing out clogged pores, drying out spots, and absorbing excess oil like a dream. Per Get The Gloss, it's a natural exfoliant and also an antiseptic.
It may have just gotten popular in skincare again in recent years, but it's actually been around for a long, long time. We're talking ancient history.
Who Should Use It And Who Should Avoid It?
"Sulphur as an added ingredient in a product can be great for managing breakouts and helping to dry out excess oil/exfoliate the skin," notes Megan Felton, co-founder of skincare consultancy Lion/ne. For this reason, it's great for acne-prone skin, oily skin, or clogged pores, so long as skin isn't super sensitive and reactionary.
"We would not recommend using this ingredient for the purpose to soothe rosacea or eczema as many products claim to do," says Felton. "This is not necessarily because of the sulphur, but due to the ingredients that will likely be added into the formulation with it — often different clays etc."
"For a pesky whitehead, we give it the OK, but those with sensitive skin should be diligent about checking for hidden fragrance and drying ingredients!"
To make sure sulphur-based products don't dry out your skin, look for ingredients known to hydrate and soothe skin, such as glycerin and vitamin E, which are often included in these sorts of products. If there are a bunch of clays thrown into your product, it may not be right for you if you have super dry or sensitive skin.
The best sulphur skincare
Wondering how to incorporate sulphur into your skincare? These cleansers, masks, and targeted spot treatments are a great start:
The ultimate weekly treatment to dry out pesky spots, this is jam-packed with brilliant ingredients in addition to sulphur. These include earth clays kaolin and bentonite, liquorice root extract, and grape seed extract which promise to target acne head on, while soothing and calming the affected areas too.
If it's a targeted Sulphur treatment you're after to really take on specific spots, this overnight formula is a great choice. It contains a hefty dose of drying sulphur, as well as Salicylic Acid, Organic Camphor, and Zinc Oxide. Apply it to your spots before going to bed.
A daily cleanse that promises to help keep acne in check each and every day, this contains a 3% dose of sulphur to target blemishes, along with vitamin E, oat extract, and rice bran extract to stop the formula from drying out skin. It's a favourite in sulphur-powered skincare.