Sulfur is used in the treatment of acne, because it is considered to target bacteria, including Propionibacterium Acnes, which is the bacteria present in acne lesions. Sulfur is also thought to have a mild ‘keratolytic effect’, meaning that it breaks down the bonds linking the skin cells together to prevent the pores from being clogged with dead skin cells1. Among other mechanisms, presence of the bacteria P Acnes and clogging of the pores with dead skin cells lead to formation of spots, which is why sulfur might be beneficial in acne.
Usually, sulfur is combined with other active ingredients, such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, and has been shown to effective in combination with other ingredients2.
The concentration of an ingredient is important for its efficacy, and therefore products containing the same ingredient may not necessarily have the same effect as in the studies mentioned above.
Updated: July 2017
1Am J Clin Dermatol. 2003
2J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2012