Go ahead and set aside the farm-to-face herbal extracts and organic flower essences — just for a second. Right now, it's time to think back to chemistry class, and bring sulfur (atomic number 16, as you might recall) center stage in your skin-care routine.
The naturally-occurring mineral, found in everything from food to hot springs (via volcanoes) and the human body, is the underrated beauty ingredient we're stocking our bathroom cabinets with as we speak. Thanks to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, sulfur is ideal for targeting blemishes and balancing out excess sebum production, which makes it perfect for oily, clogged pore-prone summer skin.
"Sulfur is most commonly used in products formulated for skin that is oily and acne-prone," explains Elena Arboleda, head aesthetician for Mario Badescu. "It encourages clarity, making it a lifesaver for those who tend to break out, and it dissolves dead skin cells at the surface of the skin, discouraging excess oil production."
Of course, what you might also remember about sulfur from your school days is that it smells. Bad. The formulations vary, but most brands won't offer you something that smells uncannily like rotten eggs, so don't fret — your roommates won't call 311 out of concern there's a gas leak in the bathroom.
The only major concern with using sulfur to address breakouts is that it can be drying and cause skin to flake should you get overenthusiastic with your treatment. Kate Somerville, founder of her eponymous skin-care brand, recommends using spot treatments no more than a few days in a row to avoid irritation. She also suggests looking for sulfur products that are specifically intended for daily use, to ensure that they're formulated with moisturizing and hydrating ingredients to help combat any potential dryness.
Whether it's targeted treatments you dab on pesky spots with a cotton bud, intensive masks you can leave on to zap zits overnight, or daily-usage products that set the tone for the rest of your routine, sulfur is our new hero ingredient, banishing excess shine and calamitous spots from here on out. Click ahead to shop our favorite ways to use the periodic table's best-kept skin-care secret.