The mineral sulfur (S) is found abundantly in nature, the foods we eat, and the human body. Although avoided by some for its pungent smell, sulfur can be skin's best friend by helping heal a variety of conditions. Naturally antiseptic and antibacterial, sulfur is one of nature's most important minerals and one of man's oldest beauty remedies. As far back as Hippocrates' day, people have been using this pungent-smelling, bright yellow mineral to treat the skin for everything from rashes and warts to bedsores. Ancient Romans soaked in sulfuric waters to relieve pain and to stave off the signs of aging.
Sulfur puts up a toxic fight to fungi, inhibits the growth of acne and serves as a keratolytic agent.
Found in the keratin of our skin, hair and nails, sulfur comprises 25 percent of our bodies.
Sulfur plays a critical role in maintaining connective tissue, skin, bones, teeth, hair and muscles. You can take this mineral both orally and topically, though it is most often found in topical formulations for the skin.
As a general health remedy, sulfur stimulates the body's healing properties to improve a range of symptoms, increase circulation and quell inflammation.
Sulfur for the Skin
On the skin, sulfur heals and soothes many skin conditions while serving as a potent acne fighter.
Recognized as one of several approved over-the-counter (OTC) acne drug treatments by the FDA, sulfur helps clear skin of acne by fighting Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacteria, and improve dead skin cell turnover. If left unchecked, an accumulation of dead skin cells can block the hair follicle and lead to the formation of the P. acnes bacteria.
In clinical trials, lotions containing sulfur five percent with sodium sulfacetamide 10 percent have been found to be highly effective in reducing inflammatory acne lesions and comedones.
Another common usage for sulfur is to alleviate symptoms associated with psoriasis, eczema and folliculitis. Many physicians prescribe sulfur baths for these conditions.
Sulfonamide compounds inhibit the growth of Malassezia globosa fungus, which can lead to seborrhea and dandruff. A 2012 report in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry determined that sulfonamides were more effective in preventing the fungus' growth than a widely used antifungal medicine found in dandruff shampoos.
Already we find sulfur as a common ingredient in scalp creams to reduce sebum production, as well as shampoos for dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.
In another small but controlled study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, one sulfur-salicylic acid shampoo demonstrated effectiveness in treating tinea versicolor, a chronic fungal infection characterized by patches of discolored, scaly skin.
Although more studies are needed, sulfur may have an effect on Demodex mites, which many skin researchers believe play a role in the pathogenesis of rosacea. In a double-blind study comparing the effectiveness of a sulfur five percent and sodium sulfacetamide 10 percent lotion against a metronidazole 0.75 percent gel for rosacea, the sulfur/sodium sulfacetamide formulation significantly improved erythema and reduced the number of pustules compared to the metronidazole topical gel.
Typical sulfur topicals take the form of ointments, creams and mud-based masks, but sulfur can also be formulated in cleansers, gels and lotions. In formulations, we can combine sulfur with salicylic acid or alcohol to offset the mineral's strong odor.
Topically, sulfur should be used in moderation to avoid dryness or other side effects, including swelling and irritation.
We often live unaware of the important role sulfur plays in our health, but a sulfur deficiency will quickly remind us of its critical nature when the deficiency manifests in dry skin and brittle hair and nails. If left unattended, a sulfur deficiency can result in sore joints and muscles, allergies and even diabetes.
Sulfur is consumed through a variety of common foods, including eggs, meat, fish, dairy products, beans, garlic and onions.
You can also find supplements in the form of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), which may help treat arthritis.
Most healthy people do not need to supplement sulfur, as they get enough of the mineral through the foods they eat. However, vegans can be at risk since most of our sulfur is consumed through protein, of which meat is a common source.
With all the many applications sulfur plays in the skin, hair and body, it is easy to see why this bright yellow, albeit offensive-smelling mineral has still maintained its role as "nature's beauty mineral."
- Do not administer sulfur supplements to a child.
- Do not take DMSO internally except under your doctor's supervision. Side effects of taking DMSO internally include headache, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. Used topically, DMSO can cause skin irritation.
- If you have diabetes, asthma or conditions of the liver, kidney or heart, do not use DMSO. Do not take industrial-grade DMSO.
- DMSO should be avoided by pregnant or breastfeeding women.
There is no recommended dietary allowance for sulfur. Most people consume what they need from food. Vegans, however, may be at risk of a sulfur deficiency.
- Arthritis: Studies have used a dose by mouth of 500-3,000 mg MSM per day or topical doses of a cream or gel with 25 percent DMSO applied one to three times per day.
- Hayfever: One study used 2,600 mg per day.
- Amyloidosis: Case reports have used a dose by mouth of seven to 15 g DMSO per day or topical doses of 50-100 percent DMSO applied two times per week.
Dosage and Contraindications Source: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/sulfur-000328.htm#ixzz28GGnr0wp