Sulfur is applied to the skin for dandruff and an itchy skin infection caused by mites (scabies). It is also applied to the skin for acne and skin redness (rosacea), and taken orally for many other conditions, but there is limited scientific evidence to support these uses.
How does it work ?
Uses & Effectiveness
Possibly Effective for
- Dandruff. Sulfur is an FDA-approved ingredient used in common over-the-counter products to treat dandruff. However, available research on its effectiveness is limited. Some research shows that using a shampoo containing sulfur and/or salicylic acid twice daily for 5 weeks reduces dandruff. Shampoo containing both sulfur and salicylic acid seems to be most effective.
- Itchy skin infection caused by mites (scabies). Applying a jelly containing sulfur to the skin appears to be an effective treatment for scabies in most people. Sulfur treatments are usually applied overnight for 3 to 6 nights. But this treatment is not pleasant due to the smell. Also, there are better and cheaper treatments available, including the drugs ivermectin and permethrin.
Insufficient Evidence for
- Acne. Sulfur is an FDA-approved ingredient used in common over-the-counter products to treat acne. However, there is limited research available on its effectiveness. Most products include sulfur in combination with benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or sodium sulfacetamide.
- Hay fever. Early research shows that using a nasal spray containing homeopathic (diluted) amounts of sulfur, luffa, Galphimia glauca, and histamine for 42 days is as effective as common cromolyn sodium nasal spray.
- A lung disease that makes it harder to breathe (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD). Early research shows that breathing in the air from warm sulfur water does not help the lungs to function in people with COPD.
- Common cold. Early research suggests that taking a homeopathic (diluted) product containing sulfur and German ipecac (Engystol, Heel GmbH) by mouth for up to 2 weeks during a cold helps relieve symptoms.
- High levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia). Early research suggests that drinking water from a sulfurous spring three times daily for 4 weeks reduces total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. However, it's not clear from this study alone if sulfur might reduce cholesterol.
- A skin condition that causes redness on the face (rosacea). Early research suggests that applying a cream containing sulfur to the face once daily for up to 8 weeks reduces fluid-filled bumps on the face and other symptoms caused by rosacea. Some early research shows that sulfur cream may be as effective as the antibiotic tetracycline.
- Shortness of breath.
- Sore throat (pharyngitis).
- Symptoms of menopause.
- Cold sores (herpes labialis).
- Rough, scaly skin on the scalp and face (seborrheic dermatitis).
- Poison oaky, ivy, and sumac infections.
- Other conditions.
When applied to the skin: Sulfur is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin appropriately, short-term. Products containing sulfur in concentrations up to 10% have been used safely for up to 8 weeks. In some people, applying sulfur products to the skin may cause the skin to become dry.
Special Precautions and Warnings
When applied to the skin: Sulfur is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin appropriately, short-term. Products containing sulfur in concentrations up to 10% have been used safely for up to 8 weeks. In some people, applying sulfur products to the skin may cause the skin to become dry. Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Sulfur is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin appropriately, short-term. Products containing sulfur in concentrations up to 6% have been applied safely every night for up to 6 nights. There isn't enough reliable information to know if sulfur is safe to take by mouth when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and don't take it by mouth.
Children: Sulfur is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin appropriately, short-term. Products containing sulfur in concentrations up to 6% have been used safely when applied nightly in children and adolescents for up to 6 nights. Products containing sulfur in concentrations up to 2% have been used safely when applied for 3 hours daily for up to 6 days in infants.
Sulfa allergy: It is commonly thought that people who are allergic to sulfa drugs might be allergic to sulfur containing products. This is not true. People with an allergy to "sulfa" react to the sulfonamide in some antibiotics and related drugs. They do not react to elemental sulfur.
We currently have no information for SULFUR overview.
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
- For dandruff: Shampoos containing 2% sulfur, alone or with 2% salicylic acid, have been used twice weekly for 5 weeks.
- For scabies: Treatments containing between 2% and 20% sulfur in jelly have been applied overnight for 3 to 6 nights.
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
- For scabies: Shampoos containing 2% sulfur, alone or with 2% salicylic acid, have been used twice weekly for 5 weeks.
CONDITIONS OF USE AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.
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© Therapeutic Research Faculty 2020.