Although sulfur is not widely found in acne cleansers and soap, it actually addresses each aspect of acne from excess keratin and oil, to bacteria, and inflammation. There can be an odor associated with sulfur-containing products that can make them less favorable to some. Read more...
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What exactly is sulfur soap?
Although sulfur is not widely found in acne cleansers, it actually addresses each aspect of acne from excess keratin and oil, to bacteria, and inflammation. There can be an odor associated with sulfur-containing products that can make them less favorable to some.
Why is sulfur soap typically used to treat acne?
I find that there is a niche of patients that tends to respond nicely to sulfur in the management of acne. Sulfur can address excess keratin, oil, bacteria, and inflammation associated with acne while also managing other common facial inflammatory conditions. It is common to find overlapping diagnoses in patients. Sometimes patients can have both acne and seborrhea, or both acne and rosacea. The challenge in managing these patients with acne regimens alone is that traditional acne products may inflame or irritate their skin. Sulfur works well in many of these cases by managing both conditions effectively.
Are there any reasons to avoid sulfur soap?
If you have an allergy to sulfur then it should not be used. There can be an odor of sulfur containing products. If you find this nauseating or offensive it is best to avoid use.
Are there any side effects to using sulfur soap?
Sulfur can be well tolerated however I have had patients complain of dryness or irritation from use. Even if not allergic, some may have sensitivities to the product.
Do you recommend sulfur soap to your patients?
I routinely recommend sulfur products to patients but find that there are not many to choose from. There are prescription options with varying insurance coverage. Over the counter, there are limited commercially available options.
What is tretinoin?
There is a fairly good chance that if you have visited a Dermatologist in the past 40 years for acne tretinoin may have been discussed and/or prescribed during your visit. Tretinoin is a retinoid, a vitamin A derivative. It is also known as all-trans retinoic acid. Since we cannot synthesize our own vitamin A, we must obtain Vitamin A from our diet and/or topical formulations. Back in World War I, vitamin A deficiency was noted to be associated with skin-related changes such as dry skin and rough hair bumps. By the 1960s through 1980s, topical formulations were found to have many uses in dermatology. Tretinoin is a retinoid. Retinoids work by acting on receptors in our cells called retinoic acid receptors (RARs) that work with retinoid X receptors (RXRs) to exert an effect on the cell. The effects can range from an increase in cell turnover that can lead to chemical exfoliation of the skin, fade discoloration, contribute to softening or smoothing of the skin, and increase collagen production to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Tretinoin can also play a role in the chemoprevention of skin cancer by modulating DNA repair.
What is the difference between tretinoin and sulfur soap in terms of treating acne?
Tretinoin and sulfur have two different mechanisms of action in managing acne. Tretinoin is focused more on the production of oil and sebum while sulfur tends to have a more anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial response.
Are there any benefits to using tretinoin versus sulfur soap to treat acne?
Tretinoin as a retinoid is considered to be an essential ingredient to treat and manage acne specifically by addressing how acne forms- excess oil and sebum production. Sulfur is focused on the inflammatory response to excess oil and sebum. Each plays a separate role.
Can the tretinoin and sulfur be used together to treat acne?
Both tretinoin and sulfur can be used together to address different aspects of acne. Often a sulfur cleanser along with tretinoin or a sulfur lotion alternating with tretinoin can help create a balanced routine.