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Organic sulfur, everything you need to know about this renowned mineral.

Even though it's somewhat sidelined in the cosmetic world due to its characteristic rotten egg smell, sulfur is not a revolutionary ingredient for skincare. It turns out that it can address a myriad of skin issues due to its numerous properties, whether you're suffering from acne, eczema, scalp psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, scabies, or simply want to improve your complexion. Incorporating it into your skincare routine can thus make a significant difference. Discover what you should know about this natural element, from the benefits of sulfur to its mode of action.


Sulfur: What is it?

Sulfur is a mineral provided in the form of a finely ground pale yellow powder, which emits a sharp, volcanic odor. Essential for all living cells, it is found in rocks, volcanic regions, and minerals (iron pyrites, galena, gypsum, Epsom salts, etc.), and is also necessary for plant growth. Naturally present in the human body, it also plays an important role in our body's physiology, as it is found in amino acids, vitamins, skin, and hair. After oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and potassium, it is the seventh most abundant element by weight in the human body.

Sulfur has a long history of medicinal use. Indeed, the medical use of sulfur dates back to the time of Hippocrates, who mentioned its use for treating plague, seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea, scabies, psoriasis, and pityriasis versicolor. Some evidence suggests that it was used in ancient Egypt, Rome, and China. The Romans bathed in water filled with sulfur - among other things. At the time, its use was intended to soothe joint pains and skin inflammations. Experts assert that because it is so readily available, people used it for all sorts of skin diseases. Unfortunately, due to its foul smell, it is less popular today.

The various types of sulfur used in cosmetology.

Sulfur can present itself in various forms, where each form differs in their physical properties (color, solubility, particle size, therapeutic efficacy, etc.).

  • The flower of sulfur or sublimated sulfur is the natural, non-purified form. It is obtained by direct conversion of crude sulfur from the solid phase to the gas phase (sublimation). The sulfur vapor is then cooled (condensation) to take the particular form of yellow flakes, which resemble flowers. This variety of sulfur has been used in traditional and alternative medicine for humans and animals, as well as in alchemy and in the sulfuring of fruits before drying.

  • Colloidal sulfur is the most commonly used form of sulfur in skincare for its anti-acne properties. It is a highly reactive intermediary of traditional sulfur. It is prepared by repeated precipitation: first from polysulfides with proteins, then from a slightly alkaline solution with ethanol or acetone. Compared to other forms of sulfur, colloidal sulfur dissolves more easily in water, has a less offensive odor, and is slightly milder in terms of side effects.

    Le soufre colloïdal utilisé dans nos formules de soin est un contenu actif à 75% de soufre hydrophobe dans un colloïde protecteur de gomme d'acacia du Sénégal hydrophile. Sous cette forme, le soufre est plus facile à disperser et à pénétrer dans la peau, et son odeur naturelle est atténuée.

  • Precipitated sulfur or milk of sulfur is prepared by boiling sublimated sulfur with calcium oxide (lime) and water, followed by a precipitation with hydrochloric acid, resulting in the appearance of very fine sulfur particles.

  • Purified sulfur is prepared by washing sublimed sulfur with water and treating it with ammonia to remove impurities it contains, such as arsenic. It was once used for its mild laxative effect, attributed to the formation of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) by reduction by the bacteria of the intestinal microbiota, which then increases peristalsis in the intestine. However, this application has become rare today.

Colloidal SulfurPrecipitated SulfurPurified SulfurSublimated Sulfur
Synonym Sulfur Milk Sulfur Flower
Particle SizeParticles on the order of 35 micrometers (µm)Fine particlesFine particlesLarge particles
ColorPale YellowWhiteYellowYellow
SolubilityWater-solubleInsoluble in waterInsoluble in waterInsoluble in water and alcohol

What are the benefits of sulfur on the skin and hair?

Sulfur, used alone or in combination with other ingredients (sodium sulfacetamide, salicylic acid, resorcinol, etc.) has proven its effectiveness in treating numerous dermatological conditions. Its precise mechanism of action is not yet well understood, but it is known that its effectiveness depends on its direct interaction with the skin surface, which means that the smaller the particle size, the greater the effect. Sulfur thus offers a wide range of beneficial characteristics for the skin and the hair.

  • Drying out pimples: When sulfur is applied to a blemish, it absorbs the excess sebum, which contributes to pimple outbreaks, and dries out the skin's surface, thereby unclogging the pores.

  • Promoting Exfoliation: Sulfur also acts as a gentle yet effective exfoliant, meaning it aids in the breakdown of dead skin cells, to prevent the clogging of pores and the formation of blackheads and whiteheads, as well as to prevent and fade brown marks left by skin eruptions.

  • Combatting Microorganisms: As an antibacterial agent, sulfur has the ability to slow down the growth of bacteria on the skin, thereby helping to control acne outbreaks. The topical application of a product containing sulfur also appears to be an effective treatment for scabies, rosacea , or seborrheic dermatitis due to its anti-parasitic and anti-fungal properties. Indeed, the effectiveness of sulfur applied to the skin is due to the gradual production of hydrogen sulfide and pentathionic acid, which are toxic to the infectious agent (bacteria, fungi, parasites).

  • Preventing and Controlling Dandruff: Beyond skincare, sulfur is commonly used in hair care products to combat dandruff due to its exfoliating and anti-fungal properties. However, available research on its effectiveness is limited. Some studies show that using a shampoo containing sulfur and salicylic acid twice a day for 5 weeks reduces flaking.

  • Reducing visible irritation: Although the exact mechanism is not fully understood, sulfur can also help soothe other skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis and rosacea, by minimizing inflammation reactions. This anti-inflammatory property thus helps to calm irritated skin, reduce inflammatory lesions and surrounding redness that may appear, and relieve itching.

  • Delaying the effects of skin aging: Sulfur promotes the production of collagen, which can help delay or even reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, thus giving you a more youthful complexion. A study has shown that oral supplementation can increase skin elasticity.

What are the contraindications for organic sulfur?

Sulfur is potentially safe when applied appropriately to the skin. In clinical studies, products containing sulfur at concentrations up to 10% have been safely used for 8 weeks. However, this element may cause slight sensitization at the application site, reported as mild (adverse events associated with sulfur are rare). Indeed, some people may suffer from temporary dryness, redness, peeling, warming, or mild itching when using sulfur topically, which can be a source of discomfort especially for sensitive to dry skin types.

Due to its drying and irritating nature for some, sulfur is typically prescribed as a short-contact cleanser (a rinse-off product), to be used once a day, usually at bedtime, because of its distinctive smell. However, in case of an adverse reaction, stop using the product and consult a healthcare professional. Nevertheless, sulfur has fewer drying effects than benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.

Any precautions for use?

  • Before applying sulfur-based products on a large area of the skin, it is important toperform a patch test to check for the absence of skin reactions or potential sensitivities.

  • Follow the recommended usage instructions on sulfur-based products to ensure safe and effective use.

  • If you have very sensitive skin, start with a lower concentration of sulfur and gradually increase the amount over time.

  • If you have never used sulfur, start by using it once or twice a week and gradually increase the frequency as your skin adapts.

  • Sulfur can be drying, so it is crucial to follow a product containing sulfur with a moisturizing cream.

  • Do not use sulfur-based topical products while you are using other acne treatments on your skin, unless your doctor tells you that it is safe to do so.

  • Do not apply sulfur on damaged, wounded, or sunburned skin, or skin that is otherwise irritated, as this can exacerbate the irritations.

  • Do not layer a sulfur product with other topical blemish treatments that can dry out or exfoliate the skin, such as retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid, as this may further dry out the skin and lead to skin inflammation.

Is sulfur comedogenic?

It has long been reported that sulfur was comedogenic after experimentation on a rabbit ear model, as well as on a human's back. However, another study reexamined the comedogenic potential of sulfur and it was concluded that there was no correlation between the presence or absence of sulfur in the formulation and the occurrence of comedones. This randomized double-blind study involved the application of patches containing 5% sulfur on the skin of healthy volunteers with or without active acne, patches that were replaced three times a week for six weeks.

Please note that while sulfur can be beneficial for many people, it may not be suitable for everyone. It is always best to consult a healthcare professional or a dermatologist before altering your skincare routine.

Our purifying facial scrub made with sulfur.

At Typology, we offer you our purifying face scrub with 2% of colloidal sulfur. This grainy exfoliant is a powerful yet gentle product, specifically formulated for oily and blemish-prone skin. This formula harnesses the blemish-fighting power of sulfur and the purifying effects of clay, cellulose microparticles, and nettle extract (INCI: Urtica Dioica Leaf Extract), which work together to effectively exfoliate dead skin cells, unclog pores, and control excess sebum. As a bonus, glycerin works behind the scenes to alleviate feelings of irritation and promote skin radiance. We recommend using this scrub only once or twice a week.

Pure sulfur has no odor, but its compounds, such as hydrogen sulfate, do. Our purifying scrub has a reduced sulfur odor intensity compared to other formulations, and this is achieved without the use of potentially sensitizing odor-masking additives, such as fragrances.


  • Supplier document.

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