What are Sulfur and Salicylic Acid Used to Treat?

Article Details
  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 11 June 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
Over half of the lawmakers in Nevada's legislature are women; it is the first female-majority US state legislature.  more...

June 18 ,  1981 :  Medical professionals officially recognize the AIDS epidemic.  more...

Sulfur and salicylic acid are used in combination primarily as a treatment for skin conditions, particularly dandruff and acne. They work together by eliminating bacteria from the skin’s surface while simultaneously promoting the softening and shedding of old skin cells. Products containing a mixture of these active ingredients generally take the form of a shampoo, soap, or lotion, and are often available without a prescription. Users should note that these treatments may initially cause some side effects, including redness, burning, and peeling of the skin.

One of the primary uses of sulfur and salicylic acid is the treatment of dandruff, the unsightly flaking of the scalp’s outer layers of skin. When used to combat dandruff, sulfur acts to soften and moisturize the affected area. Meanwhile, the salicylic acid gradually destroys the proteins that hold together the dead cells of the skin’s outer layers, allowing these cells to be washed away.

Dandruff treatments containing these ingredients are generally found in non-prescription shampoo form, although very strong formulations may require a prescription. Depending on the severity of an individual’s dandruff, this shampoo should be used anywhere from once each day to once each week. After wet hair has been lathered with the treatment, users should wait approximately five minutes before rinsing. Noticeable results should become visible after three or four uses.


The other primary use of sulfur and salicylic acid is the treatment of acne. Here, the salicylic acid again works to promote the shedding of dead cells, while the sulfur kills acne-causing bacteria found on the skin’s surface. These acne treatments usually take the form of non-prescription soaps or lotions. In most cases, they should be used once or twice daily, though users should consult product packaging for exact instructions. It may take three months or more of consistent usage for clearer skin to become visible.

Users should note that sulfur and salicylic acid may cause some side effects, especially in the early stages of treatment. This can include itching, burning, peeling, or redness at and around the treated area. In many cases, side effects will disappear as the skin becomes accustomed to the treatment. If adverse effects persist for more than a couple of weeks, however, or if the user experiences swelling, extreme discomfort, faintness, or shortness of breath, he should discontinue use of the product and contact a medical professional to rule out an allergy.


You might also Like


Discuss this Article

Post 3

My dermatologist prescribed a sulfur and salicylic acid ointment for my facial acne. He said that because the salicylic acid is able to promote shedding, it can reduce blockages of pores and prevent breakouts.

I found the smell to be quite strong, so I only use it at night. I don’t want to go to work smelling like sulfur, which reminds me of rotten eggs.

When I first started using it, I did develop some redness. It burned at first, and I itched a little. However, after a few days, my skin became accustomed to it and the reactions went away.

Post 2

I use dandruff shampoo on my eyebrows. Though I use a gentle face wash and wipe over them daily, they don’t get a thorough cleaning from it. After a while, I get flakes underneath them. If I try to scratch them off, I never can get them all.

I am careful to keep the shampoo out of my eyes, because it could really burn with those active ingredients. I take a pea-sized amount on my fingertip. With my other hand, I wet my eyebrows with water. I scrub the eyebrow back and forth with my shampoo-laden fingertip. I use my fingernail to rub in a circular motion.

After I have scratched up the dandruff well and my eyebrows are frothy, I splash water on them sideways to rinse, being careful not to wash the lather into my eyes. I dry them with a towel, and I notice an immediate softening of the area.

Post 1

Dandruff shampoos containing sulfur and salicylic acid have always worked wonders for me. I must admit that the smell of the sulfur is unpleasant, and I usually wash with a good-smelling shampoo afterward to get rid of the smell. As long as I leave the stuff on my scalp for five minutes, it does its job.

I love scratching and rubbing the shampoo into my scalp. I can’t scratch it when my hair is dry, because the flakes will get caught up in my hair and show. When I’m in the shower, I can scratch all I want.

I use the shampoo every other day during times when I have a lot of dandruff. Often, it will disappear for months after treatment, but I always keep a bottle on hand just in case it reappears.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?