Unless blessed with perfect skin, you've probably been hearing about salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide since you hit puberty. It's time to add a new, and surprising, ingredient to your zit-zapping arsenal: sulfur! While salicylic acid exfoliates and benzoyl peroxide dries, this age-old ingredient does a little of both—removing dead skin cells and oil to banish pimples fast. Read on for what formulas work best, what strengths you need, and how to properly apply the medicine.
Peter Thomas Roth Therapeutic Sulfur Masque ($40)
This serious mask should be used at the first sight of a pimple. It has the maximum amount of sulfur mixed with eucalyptus and clay to manage breakouts on oily skin or clear the t-zone if you have combination skin. Apply once a week all over the face, or as needed to spot treat.
bareMinerals Blemish Therapy ($18)
While most medicated concealers come in cream form (not ideal for midday touch-ups over makeup) this powder is easy to layer, plus it contains 3 percent sulfur and redness-diffusing minerals.
Murad Acne Spot Treatment ($18)
This spot treatment boasts 3 percent sulfur to knock out a zit quickly, without irritating the skin. Of course Dr. Murad added some extra ingredients: licorice extract to soothe skin, salicylic acid to exfoliate, and hydrolyzed oat flour to prevent drying.
Kate Somerville EradiKate Treatment ($22)
This product packs 10 percent sulfur and dries out zits that have come to the surface. It looks like calamine lotion upon application, so use this product at night to wake up to a smaller blemish.
Clearasil Adult Tinted Acne Treatment Cream ($6)
This formula has 8 percent sulfur and a light tint to conceal while it treats. It also contains 2 percent resorcinol, an ingredient that breaks down scaly or hardened skin and causes it to flake off. That may sound undesirable, but it's surprisingly gentle and helps to banish a blemish fast.
Olay Professional Pro-X Clear Intensive Refining Sulfur Mask ($30)
Best for oily skin, this maximum-strength sulfur mask soaks up oil and dries out zits. Apply to freshly washed skin and let dry for 5 to 10 minutes.