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TOPICAL SULPHUR: FRIEND OR FOE? ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀
So this post was going to be my entry for #SkinEmmies2017 - Mask but then I ended up being waylaid by a literature search on topical Sulphur…and life, in general. Anyway better late than never, right? ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀
If you’ve followed my feed for long enough - you’ll note that I am a fan of ZO Sulphur mask - it is my belated winning entry for best mask but it has always been a curiosity as to why it is not in greater use in skincare products. Paula’s Choice has this to say “Can be a potent skin sensitizer. Sulfur also has a high pH, which can encourage the growth of bacteria on skin. Sulfur has more negatives than positives for skin, and its use to treat skin concerns should be seen as a last resort if other ingredients (such as benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid, and salicylic acid) don't work as well as you had hoped.” ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀
Already alarm bells are ringing - not least because I don’t understand what they mean by Sulphur having a high pH (pH is not an intrinsic quality of an element (or compound for that matter, unless it’s water)). That said, I acknowledge that the Sulphur mask has a pH of 8.0 - which is very typical of clay masks, particularly any that are heavy in Bentonite. Moreover, a lazy search on Sulphur indicated that Sulphur is often added to soil suspensions to lower their pH to the acidic range (although it’s hard to know whether they were referring to elemental Sulphur…) ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀
Nevertheless, nitpicking aside, I followed the info in the citation through to its original source (they cite a paper which cites another paper…), but then again if I were Paula’s Choice I probably wouldn’t cite the original paper either since this is what it says: ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ “Salicylic acid and sulphur have been used for many years on the basis of their keratolytic action but based on evidence they are probably best avoided.”  ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀
So it seems like some people have beef against Sulphur (and against mine and Paula’s beloved salicylic acid too…) Anyway, wanting to get to the bottom of this, I wanted to seek out why some are so sceptical of the usage of Sulphur in skincare. There appears to be three main sources of negativity: ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀
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