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Bienfaits soufre peau.

The benefits of sulfur on the skin.

For years, the fight against skin conditions has led the field of cosmetology to favor the use of certain notable ingredients. Retinol, azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid... these active principles are known for their interesting properties to improve the skin. However, natural ingredients exist and can also provide benefits for the skin. Sulfur, used for centuries in skin care, is appreciated for its many advantages and therapeutic properties. Let's explore together in this article its biological effects and its uses for skin care.


Benefit #1: Sulfur has a bactericidal effect.

In vitro, it has been demonstrated that sulfur may have a slight antibacterial activity. It could have an inhibitory effect on the growth of Propionibacterium acnes, certain streptococci, a moderate effect against most staphylococci bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis) and no activity against Gram-negative bacteria. This antibacterial action would result from the inactivation of sulfhydryl groups contained in bacterial enzymatic systems. Thus, sulfur could help combat acne bacteria, reducing inflammation and preventing future acne outbreaks. However, the exact mechanism of action of sulfur in the asymptomatic treatment of acne is not fully understood.

Benefit #2: Sulfur, an anti-inflammatory.

Sulfur, more specifically hydrogen sulfide, is believed to have physiological functions as an endogenous cellular signaling molecule in the regulation of inflammation through NF-κβ. It is thought to downregulate the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-8, IL-1β, TNF-α, IL-6, and IL-10).

This reflects a reduction in oxidative stress, which can contribute to decreasing inflammation.

Benefit #3: Sulfur is a keratolytic.

Sulfur is believed to have an exfoliating effect on the upper layers of the epidermis, meaning it removes dead cells from the skin's surface that cause pore blockage. This could potentially reduce the formation of both open and closed comedones. However, the precise mechanism of this effect is unknown, but according to some studies, it likely depends on the interaction of sulfur with cysteine, an amino acid present in keratinocytes, leading to the production of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and cystine.

Sulfur + 2 cysteine ==> cystine + hydrogen sulfide

Indeed, hydrogen sulfide is believed to have a keratolytic activity by breaking down keratin, especially when sulfur is applied at higher concentrations. Similarly, the smaller the sulfur particles, the greater this interaction and the higher the efficacy. As for the formed cystine, it is a constituent of the horny layer and this reaction would promote the normal keratinization of skin cells. Therefore, sulfur-based products could potentially be an effective alternative to products containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, especially if you have sensitive skin and cannot tolerate these ingredients.

Benefit #4: Sulfur absorbs excess sebum.

Sulfur is believed to purify the skin by absorbing excess sebum. This removal of sebum from the sebaceous glands could help to minimize pore congestion, thereby preventing and reducing skin breakouts (pimples, blackheads, etc.).

Benefit #5: Sulfur is an antifungal.

Seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff, and pityriasis versicolor are common chronic skin infections caused by yeasts of the genus Malassezia. However, sulfur is believed to have a potential antifungal effect, an effect that has been primarily studied by botanists interested in plant fungal infections. Researchers have revealed that pentathionic acid (H2SsO6), which is toxic to fungi, is formed by bacteria of the skin microbiota, as well as by keratinocytes from locally applied sulfur.

Hydrogen sulfide also appears to play a role. However, studies in vitro suggest that sulfur has little to no antifungal activities, but rather, these would result from its keratolytic effects by promoting the removal of fungal spores from the stratum corneum. Sulfur is often used in conjunction with salicylic acid for the treatment of these conditions, as they have a synergistic keratolytic action.

Benefit #6: Sulfur acts as an anti-parasitic agent.

Although data is scarce, sulfur is believed to have a parasiticidal effect on Sarcoptes scabiei, the mite responsible for scabies, or even Demodex folliculorum, the skin parasite considered one of the main causes of rosacea. This toxicity of sulfur has been attributed to the formation of hydrogen sulfide and pentathionic acid. As in fungal infections, the keratolytic effect of sulfur may also help dislodge parasites from the stratum corneum.

Benefit #7: Sulfur is an antioxidant.

Hydrogen sulfide could have an antioxidant application through its conversion into hydrogen sulfide. It would counteract oxidative stress by acting as a scavenger of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS), and would improve the levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione, thereby strengthening the antioxidant status and providing protection against oxidative damage to DNA and proteins.

Its antioxidant effects exist, in part, because it contributes to the synthesis of methionine, an amino acid that fights against cellular aging. As for cysteine, this amino acid participates in the synthesis of proteins necessary for the skin, such as collagen and melanin.


  • Document fournisseur.

  • CARTER D. & al. Sulfur revisited. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (1988).

  • NICOL K. & al. The use of sulfur in dermatology. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology (2004).

  • ORTEGA-RINCÓN & al. Balneotherapy, immune system, and stress response: A hormetic strategy? International Journal of Molecular Sciences (2018).

  • NATAF S. & al. Molecular mapping of hydrogen sulfide targets in normal human keratinocytes. International Journal of Molecular Sciences (2020).


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