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by Darren W.
The ancient Romans were not wrong when they bathed themselves in hot sulfur springs to rid their bodies of various ailments and skin disorders, acne included. Referred to the Bible as brimstone, sulfur was one of the earliest acne treatment known to man. Besides acne, sulfur is also used to treat skin disorders like dermatitis and bacterial or fungal infections.
For more than fifty years, sulfur has been combined with other drugs such as salicylic acid, resorcinol and sodium sulfacetamide to prevent acne development. Sulfur is available almost everywhere in prescription medications and over-the-counter in the form of skin care products like ointments, creams, lotions, masks and soap.
Sulfur is a naturally occurring element and its slow oxidation in the presence of air gives it the distinctive odor of rotten eggs or untreated sewage. Due to this characteristic, sulfur isn’t used as a standalone acne product but is used in combination with other more pleasant-smelling ingredients.
Sulfur has keratolytic properties so it promotes the quick shedding of dead keratinized skin cells which block pores that cause acne-forming comedones. It also has comedolytic action which clears comedones and inhibits new ones from forming.
When used topically, sulfur’s keratolytic action causes the infected skin to dry and slough off, which is a good sign if you are suffering from acne breakouts. It also minimizes skin oiliness, unclogs blocked pores and inhibits them from forming in the future.
All sulfur products are not created equal and because sulfur medications come in various packages, it is safe practice to follow the instructions that comes with the product.
Generally, sulfur preparations are used once to thrice a day. Carefully read the directions for topical applications like lotions and masks. Some of them can be safely left on your face for long hours, while others need to be washed off after a few minutes. Instructions vary with every product so always follow each direction to prevent damaging your skin.
Here are some more tips on using sulfur:
• If you develop dry, red or itchy skin, discontinue using the product until the irritation has healed.
• Avoid soaps or scrubs that tend to dry up your skin. They will make the sulfur medication sting once it is applied.
• If you are using Accutane or other prescription acne medication, consult your doctor before starting any sulfur product. Combining sulfur to your ongoing acne treatment can lead to irritating side effects.
• Be careful when using sulfur in tandem with over-the-counter products. They might overdry your skin.
• There are no reports on sulfur’s effect on developing fetus. Inform your doctor if you are pregnant or nursing an infant.
Some of the most common side effects associated with sulfur are redness, drying, itching, peeling and burning sensation. They appear upon start of the treatment where they tend to be at their worst. You can start with small doses and gradually build up as you develop tolerance for it.
Topical sulfur applications rarely bring severe side effects. If you experience some discomfort, cut down your usage for a while.
Some brands containing sulfur can discolor your skin while some brands aren’t able to get rid of that characteristic sulfur odor. If you find the odor too strong or repulsive, choose a pleasantly-scented product.