Topical sulfur comes in different preparations. However, in this article, we will focus on sulfur soaps. Read on ahead for everything you need to know about their efficacy, side effects, and how to use them.
Sulfur is a non-metallic element with antifungal, antibacterial, and keratolytic (exfoliating) properties. It has become popular in skincare for treating conditions like acne vulgaris, rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff, pityriasis versicolor, scabies, and warts.
What Are Sulfur Soaps
This is a kind of soap whose main ingredient is sulfur, which exfoliates and cleanses the skin.
While making the soap, sulfur is usually added in the powder form. The soap is then left to set and becomes a soap bar. It can also be formulated and packaged as liquid soap, depending on the maker.
Sulfur soaps will contain different amounts of sulfur depending on their use. Some are used as skin treatments, and some are just used as daily soaps for cleansing and preventative care.
Benefits Of Sulfur Soaps For The Skin
The sulfur in sulfur soaps will:
- Exfoliate the skin – sulfur softens and removes dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. This cleans the skin and prevents clogged pores.
- Fight bacteria – this is especially helpful for acne vulgaris. This form of acne is mainly caused by bacteria that infect clogged pores and hair follicles. Sulfur also helps to get rid of excess oil on the skin that can cause blocked pores and worsen acne.
- Fights Fungi – sulfur and sulfur soaps can be used to treat fungal skin conditions like tinea versicolor, ringworm (tinea corporis), athlete’s foot, and dandruff.
- Help to treat other skin conditions – these include Scabies (caused by small skin mites); Inflammatory conditions like psoriasis and eczema; Oily Skin; and Rosacea.
To help treat Eczema consider – Calamine Soaps for Itchy Skin- Benefits & Risks
Do Sulfur Soaps Help to Treat Acne
Sulfur soaps are very effective at treating acne this is because it has:
- Strong antibacterial properties which kill acne-causing bacteria.
- Exfoliating Properties that allow it to unclog pores. Clogged can potentially become inflamed and lead to pimples and acne.
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Do sulfur soaps lighten skin and remove dark spots?
Sulfur does not have bleaching properties, but its exfoliating properties can gradually make the skin lighter and improve the appearance of acne scars over time.
It will not fade dark spots and hyperpigmentation like hydroquinone, but it will gradually resurface the skin, improving the appearance of dark spots and pigmentation. As old cells are exfoliated, new, healthier cells with less pigment will be added to the skin.
Some other great soaps that help to lighten skin tones are:
Is sulfur soap better than salicylic acid and/or benzoyl peroxide soap for acne?
Sulfur, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid all help to unclog pores, but each in a different way.
However Sulfur, has both keratolytic (exfoliating) and antimicrobial qualities. Meaning it removes dead skin cells that can clog pores, as well as halts and destroys bacterial proliferation.
While all three of these ingredients work in their own ways for acne itself, experts believe that sulfur will generally be more gentle on your skin. Because it causes less irritation and is more gentle, it can be used on the skin every day by people with sensitive skin.
Salicylic acid just helps to unclog pores since it exfoliates the skin and accelerates cell turnover in the treatment of pimples. Click here to learn more about Salicylic Acid Soaps – Benefits, Risks & How To Use
Benzoyl peroxide primarily works by fighting acne-causing bacteria as an antibacterial. Click here to learn more.
Video: Sulfur for Acne Scars | How to Use Sulfur Soap, Masks, and Spot Treatment
How To Use Sulfur Soap
Sulfur soap can be used daily like regular soap (on all external surfaces of your skin) or it can be used periodically as a skin treatment.
Ideally, how you use this soap will depend on:
- How much sulfur is in the soap
- The skin condition you are trying to treat or your reason for use
- Your skin type and its reaction to the soap
- Other skin treatments that you are using and need to continue using while you use the soap
How often you should use it
While sulfur soaps can be used daily, I advise that you start using them gradually to prevent any side effects.
If you have never used a sulfur soap before and you have sensitive skin, it is best to give your skin some time to get used to this new ingredient.
I recommend that you begin by using the soap one time a day, 2-3 days per week. See how your skin feels and reacts, and then you can gradually increase the frequency until you can use it daily.
If you are using sulfur soap for a specific skin condition, use it according to the direction of a dermatologist or medical professional.
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What you can & cannot use with sulfur soaps
When using sulfur soaps, experts recommend that you use hydrating and nourishing ingredients, but avoid using other exfoliating or active ingredients on your skin.
Sulfur already kills bacteria, exfoliates, and strips away oil. Adding products that also do these same things at the same time will be too much for your skin. You can end up with severe dryness and injury.
Avoid products like retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and other keratolytic acids.
What you can use are nourishing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, niacinamide, ceramide, vitamin B, and others that will hydrate and soothe the skin.
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Side Effects Of Using Sulfur Soaps
Even though sulfur is said to be gentle on the skin, it can still cause irritation and dryness, especially if used incorrectly.
Sulfur breaks downs and gets rid of oil from the skin. If too much sulfur is used too often, and you do not moisturize properly, then your skin can become very dry and irritated. This can lead to itching, peeling, and cracking.
To avoid this, use a gentle sulfur soap and/or use it moderately rather than daily, depending on how your skin reacts.
Your skin may also experience purging – similar to what can happen when you use vitamin C, salicylic acid, or benzoyl peroxide.
Skin purging is usually self-limiting and will not require treatment. It should go away within 4 weeks. However, if it does not go away or become unmanageable, seek medical attention. You can click here to read about Benzoyl Peroxide Skin Purges
Also, look out for signs of an allergic reaction. Sulfur allergy is rare but not unheard of and we cannot truly anticipate whether we are allergic to substances we have never used before.
If you notice that your skin becomes very itchy, red, swollen, and develops hives and/or blisters, and they do not go away, but get worse instead, stop using the soap and seek medical attention right away.
Best Sulfur Soaps To Use
1- Naturasil Sulfur-Lavender Soap
Naturasil is made of pure lavender oil and 10% micronized volcanic sulfur. The soap is made by hand in small batches in the company’s FDA-registered facility in the USA, just outside of Atlanta, Georgia.
It can be used to treat a variety of skin disorders, including acne, insect bites, psoriasis, tinea versicolor, onychomycosis, candida, discomfort, itching, and irritation.
However, as some people might be allergic to sulfur or essential oils, I advise you to patch-test a small area of your skin before using the soap completely to prevent any rashes or negative effects.
2- JOESOEF SKIN CARE Sulfur Soap
Joesoef Sulpf soap contains 10% volcanic sulfur and is said to be pharmaceutical grade and quality.
It is effective for treating Acne, Rosacea, Tinea Versicolor, Body Acne, Clogged Pores, Blackheads, Whiteheads, Fungus, Bacteria, Oily Skin, All Dermatitis, Blemishes, and Foot and toe Fungus.
Some purging may occur at first when using the soap, but after seeming worse, your acne will start to get better.
3- Dr. Ancient Sulphur Soap Bar
These vegan and natural soaps are prepared by hand in small batches using conventional techniques. Sulfur and only vegetable oils are used.
Dr. Ancient Sulphur Soaps contain no artificial colors or fragrances and there are no chemical additions, thickeners, hardeners, or preservatives. Use on the entire body and hair is recommended for all ages.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long does sulfur soap take to work?
You should begin to see a difference in your skin within a week of using sulfur soap. However, results and time may vary depending on your skin’s conditions and how you use the soap.
Every person’s skin will react differently to the soap. Some may see results faster than others. Different people will most likely also be using the soap in different concentrations and different routines.
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Will sulfur soap cause a breakout?
Unless sulfur irritates your skin, you are allergic to it, or your skin is purging, it is not expected to cause new breakouts.
Unlike salicylic acid and similar treatments, sulfur is not known to usually cause skin purging, but it is possible. Instead, experts expect that it will dry up blemishes. However, if your skin decides to purge, it can look like a breakout. Click here to read more about skin purging and what you can do.
If you notice that you are getting new breakouts, check to see if you are having a sensitivity reaction or an allergic reaction to sulfur.
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Is sulfur soap safe for use on your face?
Sulfur soap is safe to use on your face.
However, be careful to avoid getting it in your eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Ingesting sulfur and/or sulfur-containing skin products is not recommended.
Also, remember to moisturize your face well and always use an SPF.
Is sulfur soap safe to use when pregnant or breastfeeding?
Most experts and researchers say that sulfur-based products, like soap, are safe to use when pregnant and breastfeeding.
Sulfur is absorbed in a very small amount through the skin – not enough to cause issues during your pregnancy.
Additionally, they recommend avoiding getting the soap on your nipple and areola if you are breastfeeding. This is to avoid any residue from the soap being left where your baby’s mouth will come into contact.
Can children use sulfur soap?
Sulfur is safe to use in children older than 3 years in a concentration of up to 5%, with a good moisturization routine.
Using a stronger concentration can irritate and dry out children’s gentle skin. Most experts will recommend using a low concentration and then layering a very hydrating solution over it like Vaseline or Vaseline-based lotions.
How to Moisturize while using sulfur soaps
When using sulfur soap, it is very important to keep your skin moisturized and use SPF.
Sulfur cleans the skin but it also strips away the natural oils that build up inside our pores and on the surface of the skin. While this is great for helping to prevent acne, constantly stripping the oil from our skin can dry out our lipid moisture barrier and make the skin too dry.
Therefore, when using this soap, I recommend that you apply an effective but simple moisturizer once or twice daily. Also, use one with SPF or layer an SPF over your moisturizer to protect your skin from UV rays.
How much sulfur should be in your soap
According to the FDA’s Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, sulfur can be used on the skin in concentrations from 3% to 10% when being used as the main or active ingredient in the treatment.
Since it can cause irritation and skin dryness, I do not recommend using soaps that have more than 10% sulfur in them.
Many people have concerns about sulfur being toxic when applied too much to the skin. However, only about 1% of topically applied sulfur is systemically absorbed. This means that daily application of a suitable concentration of sulfur to the skin in a soap that is washed off after a few minutes will not cause toxicity.
Depending on the condition of your skin, I suggest that you start by using a low concentration and then gradually increase it as needed.