Sulfur is a chemical element that naturally occurs as sulfide and sulfate minerals. Almost all elemental sulfur is produced as a byproduct of removing sulfur-containing contaminants from natural gas and petroleum. Sulfur is an essential component of all living cells and plays a role in many biological processes. Skin, muscles, and bones contain about half the body’s total sulfur.
Sulfur can be found in many types of skin care products because of its ability to prevent and treat acne. Sulfur helps with acne in several ways. For example, it has antimicrobial activity and is known to inhibit the growth of P. acnes, the bacteria responsible for blemishes. Additionally, sulfur absorbs excess oil on the surface of skin, which helps to prevent clogged pores. Sulfur is also a keratolytic agent. Keratolytics are agents that soften keratin and cause desquamation (peeling) of the outermost layer of skin. This allows subsequent regeneration of the skin and also inhibits a buildup of dead skin cells which combine with oil to block pores. In addition to treating acne, sulfur is used for multiple other skin conditions such as rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff, psoriasis, scabies, and warts.