The element’s properties also just so happen to make it a great gentle exfoliator, which, in turn, means that it can help you with other skin issues like eczema and rosacea, as Peredo mentions. How? “It minimizes inflammation and kills bacteria,” she says. Sulfur’s exfoliating properties also make it great for treating dandruff.
In other words, sulfur really is that girl if you’re working toward clear skin or to remedy visible irritation.
Why does sulfur stink, though?
Before we go any further, let’s address the elephant — the very gassy elephant — in the room. Sulfur can sometimes stink like rotten eggs. By no means is it a pleasant smell, but if you’re using a sulfur-based skin-care product, the stench doesn’t necessarily mean the product has gone bad.
“While pure sulfur does not have a scent, its compounds do, such as hydrogen sulfate,” explains Smita Ramanadham, a New Jersey-based board-certified dermatologist. With this in mind, many brands are sure to formulate their products so that there isn’t that stinky smell.
“Most products, however, have other chemical ingredients to neutralize this smell. This can include the addition of sodium sulfacetamide or other fragrances,” Ramanadham says.
De La Cruz’s very popular drugstore acne treatment is one such product that has that pungent smell. However, the spot treatment that is otherwise pretty beloved not only because it’s inexpensive (about $13 for 5.5 fluid ounces), it also works well according to reviews (and this writer’s personal experience). Just scoop out a little bit of the ointment on a cotton swab and then gently apply it right on any blemish, leaving it on for 10 to 20 minutes before washing it off with water. Even if you can’t stand the smell, there are, as Ramanadham says, non-smelly options out there for you to try.
What kind of sulfur products should I use?
The kind of sulfur products you use, of course, is dependent on what your skin needs. “If you’re looking for a preventative method to control oil and breakouts, a cleanser containing sulfur is always nice to have in your skin-care rotation,” Yadav shares.
Before you even reach for a product, make sure the sulfur content is concentrated enough to actually be effective. “In over-the-counter beauty products, you can find sulfur in concentrations from 3 percent all the way up to 10 percent,” says Yadav. “Everyone’s skin has different needs, so it’s best to work with your dermatologist to find the right formula for you.” Ramanadham confirms that for acne treatments, concentrations up to 10 percent are usually safe to use for up to eight weeks.