Sulfur vs Salicylic Acid: Which Will Work Better on Your Acne?

by Hailei Kim on Apr 05, 2020

  One day you have flawless porcelain skin but the next day, out of nowhere, you see a tiny red spot that eventually grows into a pimple. The fight against acne is a never-ending one regardless of your skin type. Sulfur and salicylic acid both are acne-fighting ingredients known for its effectiveness in treating and preventing acne. In order to choose the right skincare product that is best for you, first, you need to know your skin type and determine what type of acne you have.  

Step 1. Dry skin vs. Oily skin


1. Dry Skin with acne

  You are wrong if you think that only people with oily skin type are likely to get acne. Dry skin can also be the cause of acne due to the dead skin cells clogging up your pores. Normally, people with dry skin get acne because they have not thoroughly exfoliated their skin, causing dead skin cells to accumulate on the surface of their skin. In other words, people with dry skin can treat acne simply by exfoliating. Treating acne for people with dry skin could be relatively quick and easy when treated right with an appropriate defoliator.   

2. Oily Skin with acne

  Oily skin are typically the skin type that we know as acne-prone skin. People with oily skin mostly get acne from excess sebum. Sebum is oily substance produced from the glands of your skin. It is natural for our skin to produce sebum because the waxy nature of sebum works as a barrier that can protect our skin. It only becomes a problem, however, when there is too much sebum —otherwise known as excess sebum. It not only causes our pores to clog up but also clings onto dust and dead skin cells, creating whiteheads and blackheads.    

Step 2. Salicylic acid vs. Sulfur

If you have figured out your skin type, now it is time for you to choose between Salicylic acid and Sulfur. But what is Salicylic acid? What is sulfur? How are they different? 

1. Salicylic acid

  Salicylic acid originally comes from the bark of a willow tree. Willow trees have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities which make salicylic acid a perfect ingredient for fighting acne. Skin care products with salicylic acid chemically exfoliate your skin. Chemical exfoliators are powerful acne treatments that can bring about direct and immediate change. People with dry skin, in panic over a sudden burst of pimples, would see positive results right away after using products with salicylic acid as its key ingredient. Salicylic acid is also shown effective for controlling sebum secretion and getting rid of blackheads and whiteheads.  Salicylic acid usually comes in liquid form and is often seen in water-based products. When applying salicylic acid to your skin, cotton pads are recommended because you want to rub it on your face evenly. You also have to make sure not to rub it too hard or leave the cotton pad on too long because sensitive skin could get a chemical burn from misusing salicylic acid.Because chemical exfoliators should not be used everyday, salicylic acid should also be used for only a short period of time with caution. Consider salicylic acid as more of an emergency kit that you only use rather than a viable long term solution. (Consider products with sulfur if you want to add either salicylic acid or sulfur to your daily skincare regimen.)  


2. Sulfur

  Sulfur is usually found in volcanic areas and has a long history of being used as acne treatment. Sulfur is mild and gentle compared to salicylic acid but is an effective tool used to fight acne because sulfurs can absorb excess sebum and oil on the surface of your skin. Unlike salicylic acid, sulfurs can be applied daily for people with oily, acne-prone skin to consistently help control the production of excess sebum to maintain the right balance between moisture and oil. Although sulfur may not be as a strong exfoliator as salicylic acid, it still has some exfoliating qualities. By gently exfoliating the top layers of your skin, sulfur can help you have clear, smooth skin.  Sulfur can also help you have smooth skin by reducing the size of your pores. The logic is pretty simple — sulfur absorbs the oil and controls sebum production, causing less activities done by the pores. Also because less debris and dust is caught in the pores (sebum works as a glue that holds them together within the pores), it allows the size of your pores to shrink naturally.  Skincare products that contain sulfur come in many forms such as facial masks, soaps and foaming cleansers.

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