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What is Sulfur Shampoo?

Anna T.
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Sulfur shampoo is a type of shampoo that is often used for the treatment of dandruff and other scalp conditions that cause flaking. It might also help to relieve itching associated with a flaky scalp. Sulfur tends to be effective for dealing with itchy, flaky scalp problems because it can kill the bacteria that cause these problems. Many dandruff shampoos contain sulfur as an active ingredient, but there are also specialized sulfur shampoos. Not all drug stores carry sulfur shampoo, so a person who is interested in buying it may need to either order it online or check with her local beauty supply store to see if it is in stock.

A person who wants to use sulfur shampoo for the purpose of eliminating dandruff and itchy scalp will probably need to initially use it about three times a week for three weeks until the problems start to subside. After the dandruff and itchiness begin to go away, usage can most likely be limited to just once a week to prevent future scalp problems from occurring. Sulfur shampoo is applied in much the same way as regular shampoo, but directions may vary depending on the manufacturer. Most of these products recommend leaving the product on for about five minutes after they are lathered into the scalp, and then rinsing thoroughly.

Sulfur is considered a natural substance and very rarely causes adverse reactions in people who use it for scalp treatment. People have been using sulfur as a remedy for dandruff and other scalp disorders since roughly the 1930s. It is also considered safe to use on dogs as a form of treatment for mange and other skin conditions. Even though side effects are rare, a person should probably discontinue use of any sulfur products if itching and flaking become worse rather than improve.

If sulfur shampoo is used and no improvement is noticeable after a few weeks, a doctor's visit might be necessary. Some scalp disorders may be serious enough that they do not respond to shampoos containing sulfur, and prescription medication may be needed. These prescription remedies may be in the form of either medicated shampoos or capsules depending on the individual problem. A person may want to try switching sulfur products before consulting a doctor, but it is probably not a good idea to let itchy scalp symptoms persist for too long because the problem may continue to get much worse.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Anna T.
By Anna T.
Anna Thurman is a skilled writer who lends her talents to The Health Board. Her ability to research and present information in an engaging and accessible manner allows her to create content that resonates with readers across a wide range of subjects.
Discussion Comments
By anon1001153 — On Mar 17, 2019

Sulfur and sulfate are basically the same thing. An atom of sulfur never travels alone. In the case of sulfate, the sulfur is traveling with 4 oxygens, as SO4.

By anon287803 — On Aug 27, 2012

Can anyone recommend which sulfur shampoo to buy?

By candyquilt — On Aug 16, 2011

I personally don't use sulfur shampoo but I have used sulfur shampoo for pets on my dog a couple of times. Sulfur is really good for various pet skin conditions. It's also good for pets skin after tick, flea and pet mite treatments. Apparently, even helps get rid of skin fungi.

Last year, my dog got fleas and we did take him to the Vet and got him medicine for it. Even after the fleas were gone though, his skin was very itchy and red. I think my dog has very sensitive skin in general. A friend of mine suggested sulfur shampoo then. I washed him with it and immediately his skin started looking better.

It's widely available too. Every pet store I've been to carried it.

By fify — On Aug 15, 2011

@ysmina-- I've never heard of that before. I think you might be confusing sulfate with sulfur. I don't think that they are the same thing. It is said that sulfate causes color treated hair to fade more quickly and many shampoos have sulfate, but sulfur is something different.

I have an itchy and oily scalp and sulfur shampoo is so good for it. I try and avoid scratching my head but unfortunately, it happens a lot and then I get flakes and my head becomes so oily.

The sulfur shampoo I use washes all of the dead skin off my scalp and is also very soothing. I don't scratch my head as much and there is little or no flakes when I do. I think it helps with the oil too because before, the odor of the oil would bother me even though I wash my hair everyday. Now it's fine and looks and smells clean right up until I wash it.

I'm sure that sulfur shampoo will help you too. Even if it does fade out your color, which I doubt, I think it's worth it. Itchy, flaky scalp is not a normal condition after all. It needs treatment and sulfur shampoo is a very affordable treatment I think.

By ysmina — On Aug 15, 2011

I have very itchy flaky skin and some dandruff as well. I've tried practically all of the shampoos made for this condition at the store but none of them have helped me.

I've heard about sulfur shampoo before but was hesitant to try it because I think that sulfur is bad for color treated hair although I don't know for sure.

My hair is color treated, should I not use sulfur shampoo?

Anna T.
Anna T.
Anna Thurman is a skilled writer who lends her talents to The Health Board. Her ability to research and present information in an engaging and accessible manner allows her to create content that resonates with readers across a wide range of subjects.
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