Sulfur treatments for rosacea can help alleviate redness, reduce inflammation, and promote exfoliation.

Rosacea is a chronic skin condition marked by persistent facial inflammation, redness, flushing, and lesions.

Healthcare professionals use various treatments, including oral medications, injections, and advanced electromagnetic wave-based therapies such as lasers and light treatments, to help treat the condition.

Topical sulfur treatments, which date back to ancient Egypt, are also available and offer significant benefits. They carry a lower risk of side effects than oral medications and may be more cost-effective than specialized treatments.

We explore the pros and cons of topical sulfur treatments for rosacea.

Sulfur can be an effective treatment for some individuals with rosacea.

Sulfur combines anti-inflammatory and exfoliation properties, which helps:

  • alleviate redness and inflammation
  • promote skin turnover
  • reduce the presence of Demodex mites, tiny tick-like creatures that live in human and other mammal hair follicles and oil-producing glands

In a 2023 study involving 47 Japanese participants with two types of rosacea — erythematotelangiectatic rosacea and papulopustular rosacea — found that a topical sulfur preparation (TSP) was as effective as a topical metronidazole preparation (TMP), an anti-inflammatory antibiotic, over an 8-week treatment period.

The study found significant reductions in symptoms and improvements in rosacea symptoms with no notable differences in effectiveness between TSP and TMP. The participants using TSP did experience contact dermatitis, or skin irritation, more frequently than those taking TMP.

Sulfur is often combined with the antibiotic sodium sulfacetamide, typically in formulations like sodium sulfacetamide 10% and sulfur 5%. Research from 2022 confirms that this combination significantly improves redness, inflammatory lesions, and overall severity of the disease within an 8-week treatment period.

Common side effects of sulfur creams, particularly when used as a treatment for rosacea, may include:

  • Odor: Sulfur has a distinctive and often unpleasant odor, often described as resembling rotten eggs.
  • Dryness: Sulfur may cause dryness, especially in individuals with naturally dry or sensitive skin.
  • Peeling: Sulfur’s keratolytic properties may promote exfoliation, potentially causing peeling or flakiness of the skin.
  • Redness: Some individuals may experience temporary redness or irritation at the application site. This is often a mild and temporary side effect.
  • Itching or burning sensation: Sulfur preparations may cause itching or a mild burning sensation, especially in individuals with sensitive skin. This is generally temporary and may subside with continued use.

How to get the best sulfur-based rosacea treatments

Over-the-counter sulfur products for rosacea are available in various formulations, such as creams and cleansers. These are suitable for mild cases and are easily accessible.

Prescription-strength sulfur creams, recommended by dermatologists, contain higher concentrations for more severe cases.

To choose the right sulfur product, assess the severity of your rosacea, your skin sensitivity, and your personal preferences. For personalized advice, consult a dermatologist who can recommend the best option based on your specific needs.

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How often do you use sulfur soap for rosacea?

Generally, healthcare professionals advise starting with a lower frequency, such as once a day, and monitor how your skin responds. If well tolerated, you may gradually increase your use, but it’s important to follow the product’s instructions and consult with a dermatologist for personalized advice.

How long does sulfur take to work on rosacea?

The time it takes for the sulfur treatment to show results can vary among individuals. While some people may notice improvement in just a few days, it can take up to 2–3 weeks or longer.

Do you put sulfur on before or after moisturizer?

Healthcare professionals generally recommended applying sulfur-based treatments before moisturizing. This allows the active ingredients in the sulfur product to be in direct contact with the skin.

Can you put sulfur all over your face?

Sulfur treatments for rosacea are often meant for specific areas of the body, but some cleansers or masks may be used more on the face.

Rosacea is a persistent skin condition marked by facial redness, swelling, and inflammation. Sulfur, known for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, can be beneficial for managing rosacea symptoms.

Over-the-counter sulfur products for rosacea include cleansers, creams, and masks. Common prescription sulfur formulations include sodium sulfacetamide 10% and sulfur 5%.

If you’re experiencing rosacea symptoms, consult a dermatologist for personalized guidance on sulfur-based options or other types of treatments.