Facts Checked By Freewill Beauty Experts - Written by Rithi Choudhury (Journalist) on 23rd Oct 2020

Is Sulphur Good For Hair? How to include it in your hair care routine?

Is Sulphur Good For Hair

Onion juice makes the hair grow. You ever wondered how this viral home remedy works? Well, the good news is that this Tik Tok / Reels / Shorts trick is not just a clickbait and has science to back up its claim. The answer to how onion juice works is its rich SULPHUR content. Yes, you read that the third most abundant mineral besides calcium and phosphorus is how onion juice aids in hair growth. 

Sulphur 101 

From a nutritional standpoint, our bodies need essential vitamins and minerals so that our organs and body function properly. Sulphur is a crucial mineral that helps synthesize proteins and maintain healthy skin, hair and nails. Sulphur is also required for the synthesis of glutathione, which acts as a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants are essential to scavenge free radicals in the body.

Science Refresh: Free radicals are unpaired electrons that try to take electrons from the cells, wreaking havoc in the process by altering the DNA. Excess free radicals in the human body lead to oxidative stress resulting in premature aging, hair fall, cardiac ailments, etc. 

Sulphur For Hair Growth 

Hair is composed mainly of a dead protein called 'keratin.' Since keratin is the building block of hair, it is essential to maintain the hair's strength and gloss. Keratin is again rich in sulfur, and therefore a deficiency of sulfur in the body often leads to dry, brittle, and lackluster hair. Thus sulfur contributes to hair growth as well as overall hair and scalp health. 

Benefits Of Sulphur For Hair 

  • Promotes Hair Growth: Being an essential mineral that makes up keratin, sulfur is proven to aid in hair growth during the growing phase. Remember that the life cycle of hair has three stages - growing, resting, and shedding. Sulphur is present in keratin in the form of the amino-acid, cystine.  
  • Treats Dandruff: Sulphur has shown mild antifungal activity and, therefore, is used to treat dandruff. It also reduces itchy and flaky scalp as a result of dandruff being anti-inflammatory. Sulfur is a common ingredient in most anti-dandruff shampoos. 
  • Treats Scalp Folliculitis: Folliculitis is a scalp condition where the hair follicles (pores through which) hair grows become inflamed. It is characterized by tiny bumps on the scalp, which is itchy and oozes out when they break open. Sulphur reduces inflammation, and it is also a keratolytic agent. It helps shed dead skin cells by dissolving the substance that makes the cells stick together. 
  • Treats Scalp Eczema: Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that results in red, itchy, scaly skin. Sulphur due helps treat eczema owing to its keratolytic and anti-inflammatory activity.  
  • Treats Scalp Psoriasis: Scalp psoriasis-like skin psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition that causes red lesions, scaly and itchy patches on the scalp. Sulphur helps reduce the resulting itching and inflammation. 

What is MSM? 

Sulphur is often used synonymously with MSM, which stands for Methylsulfonylmethane. MSM is often taken as a dietary supplement for sulfur to treat various skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea, and other inflammatory skin conditions; to relieve arthritis and joint pain; to boost immunity, etc. It can be either derived from plant and animal sources or produced synthetically as well in labs. 

Other Benefits of Sulphur 

The benefits of sulphur are not just limited to the hair but also extends to the skin. In fact, from ancient times, sulphur has been in use to treat various skin ailments.  

  • Clear Skin: Sulphur has shown antibacterial properties, and therefore, it is effective in treating acne.  
  • Clean Pores: Because it is a keratolytic agent (dissolves dead skin cells from the stratum corneum), it is also useful for treating comedones: whiteheads and their annoying cousins, blackheads.  
  • Soothes Skin: Anti Inflammatory properties of sulfur are effective in treating inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, rosacea. 

Tip:

Sulphur can be drying and, therefore, always follow up with a moisturizer after a topical application of sulphur-based ointment. It can also irritate your eyes if it ever comes in contact, so make sure not to get sulphur-based products in your eye. 

Sources of Sulphur 

Apart from onions, other rich sources of sulphur include: 

  • Garlic 
  • Kale 
  • Cabbage 
  • Asparagus 
  • Broccoli 
  • Turnips 
  • Radish 
  • Oats 
  • Wheat 
  • Coconut milk 
  • Poultry 
  • Fish 
  • Shrimps and certain kinds of seafood 
  • Kidney beans
  • Black beans 
  • Pumpkin seeds 
  • Sesame 
  • Almonds 
  • Fermented Foods
  • Wine etc. 

Did You Know:

The pungent odor of garlic and onions is due to its sulphur content. 

Should You Take Sulphur Supplements For Hair? 

Here is the thing about supplements - take them when you are experiencing a deficiency or not getting enough from your diet.

Supplements are an excellent way to aid in hair and skin health, but you also need to make sure you are getting enough sulphur from your diet.

Since sulphur is an essential mineral, it will be reserved for synthesizing proteins for the vital organs when there will be a deficiency. Hair and nails are secondary. At least this is how our bodies are tuned. So any supplement you take during a defect will be used up for carrying out other vital functions of the body. The excess of the sulphur will be directed to the hair and nails. Thus make sure you get enough sulfur from your dietary sources.

Also, remember that hair loss or dryness and brittle hair can be caused due to several factors like a family history of hair fall, genetics, taking certain other medications, underlying health conditions, nutritional deficiency, stress, and environmental aggressors, to list a few. This is why it is best to get yourself diagnosed by a licensed physician to determine the underlying cause behind your hair loss or dryness, before taking supplements.  

Side Effects of Sulphur Supplements and Topical Application 

  • Generally, sulphur ingestion is safe, and so is the topical application. Overdosing on oral supplements may cause diarrhea.  
  • The topical application of sulphur is generally safe even during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but it’s always good to consult your doctor before using it. It has been found that sulfur penetrates the skin within two hours and completely disappears after twenty-four hours. Thus it needs to be reapplied regularly when used to create a specific skin or hair condition. 
  • Usually, sulphur does not cause allergies, but some people might be allergic to sulfacetamide, a topical agent often used in formulations with sulphur. Hence a patch is recommended before trying a topical treatment with sulphur. 
  • Sulphur based formulations should not be used on broken or wounded skin.

Are Sulphur Enriched Hair Products Effective?

Sulphur is generally used in shampoos and other hair products, especially for treating dandruff and other itchy, irritated scalp conditions.

Sulphur based shampoos are not commonly found in markets but can be found in pharmacies. Shampoos with sulphur are often formulated in conjunction with salicylic acid to break down the dead skin cells and promote flaky scalp healing.

Final Note:  

Sulphur takes at least two hours to penetrate the scalp to work. Therefore while sulphur-enriched shampoos help reduce inflammation when nursing an inflamed scalp, it isn't going to solve the issue. Look for shampoos that have salicylic acid along with sulphur as salicylic acid penetrates the skin much faster and breaks down dead skin cells and clogged hair follicles.