zo skin health offects sulfur masque review

Stop the press: ZO Skin Health Complexion Clearing Masque is the best skincare product I’ve come across in a long time. You’d think now my skin is on the drier side, pimples would be only a bad, distant memory. Not such luck, my friends. I don’t get them as often as before, it’s true, but the occasional pimple rears its ugly head, especially during that time of the month (oh, the joys of being a woman). Usually, I fight those little buggers with salicylic acid, an exfoliant that can penetrate inside the pores, and remove all the crap that’s in there causing the drama.

But, lately, I changed tactics, and switched to sulfur. Why? ZO Skin Health Complexion Clearing Masque landed on my desk, and it would have been so rude of me not to try it, right? Besides, I was curious. I know that sulfur is an effective anti-acne treatment, but I never had the chance to try it before. How effective is it? And how does it compare to salicylic acid? There was only one way to find out. Put it to the test.

This masque used to be called Offects Sulphur Masque. It has a different name, but the formula is pretty much the same. The review below has been edited to cover the new formula – only the pictures are still old.

About The Brand: ZO Skin Health

ZO Skin Health was founded by researcher, educator, and world-renowned dermatologist Zein Obagi, MD. His philosophy is simple: instead of just treating disease and damage, Dr Obagi believes in creating healthy skin. He’s one of the world’s top experts on chemical peels and is highly skilled in treating skin of colour. He infuses his technological advances in his products. This line isn’t for the faint of skin. They use high concentrations of active ingredients to reduce wrinkles, treat acne, and fade away dark spots. They can be irritating and drying for some skin types, but there’s no doubt they work.

What’s In ZO Skin Health Complexion Clearing Masque?


Sulfur can help skin in different ways. According to a 2001 study published in Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, sulfur has anti-bacterial properties. Other studies have shown it also fights inflammation and redness in the skin. On paper, sulfur is an amazing anti-acne treatment. So, why don’t more brands use it?

It stinks. Like rotten eggs. Not exactly something you’d be that tempted to use, unless you were desperate. Luckily, Dr Zein Obagi, the man behind ZO Skin Health, has found a way to make the mask smell neutral. Phew! Another thing. Sulfur can be pretty drying, so shouldn’t be used on large areas of the skin. Not for long anyway. That’s why the instructions say to use it either as a wash-off mask or a spot treatment.

Related: Sulfur: Good For Acne, Bad For Skin?


Sulfur isn’t the only breakout-buster in the formula. ZO Skin Health Complexion Clearing Masque also contains kaolin and bentonite, two types of clay that absorb excess oil. Sebum is the favourite food of P.Acnes, the bacteria that’s giving you pimples. The more oils clays absorb, the less food P.Acnes can munch on. The goal is to starve it.

But, they can be drying, too, if left on the skin too long. Remember, sebum can seem like your worst enemy sometimes, but it’s also your skin’s natural moisturizer, so you only want to remove the excess, not all of it.

Related: The Complete Guide To Bentonite In Skincare

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You get it, the acne fighters in this mask can be drying. That’s where glycerin comes in. It’s a humectant that attracts moisture from the air into the skin. Its job is to keep your skin well-hydrated while the drying ingredients take care of excess oil and pimples.

Related: What Are Humectants And Why Do You Need Them?

The Rest Of The Formula & Ingredients

NOTE: The colours indicate the effectiveness of an ingredient. It is ILLEGAL to put toxic and harmful ingredients in skincare products.

  • Green: It’s effective, proven to work, and helps the product do the best possible job for your skin.
  • Yellow: There’s not much proof it works (at least, yet).
  • Red: What is this doing here?!
  • Aqua/Water/Eau: The main solvent, it helps dissolve other ingredients.
  • Talc: It’s an absorbent that soaks up excess oil, thus helping to prevent acne. Talc is safe when topically applied onto your skin, but can cause health issues when ingested/inhaled.
  • Propylene Glycol: A humectant that attracts water from the air into your skin, helping to keep it hydrated for longer.
  • Ethylene Brassylate: It imparts a musky odour to the mask. But, like many fragrance ingredient, it can cause irritations.
  • Caprylyl Glycol: Another humectant that increases your skin’s hydration levels and makes it softer.
  • Silica: A natural ingredient found in clays, it absorbs excess oil and thickens the texture of skincare products.
  • Tetrasodium EDTA: A chelating agent that prevents the trace elements present in water to attach to active ingredients, spoiling them.
  • Benzyl Alcohol: A gentle preservative with antibacterial and anti fungal properties that helps your mask last longer.
  • Chlorphenesin: A preservative that increases the shelf life of products by inhibiting bacterial contamination.
  • Phenoxyethanol: Another preservative that kills bacteria and germs in your cosmetics.
  • Ultramarines (CI 77007): A blue pigment used to impart colour to skincare products.


Grey in colour, this mask is a thickish, slightly dry paste. It’s quite easy to spread on the skin, although you want to use it on pimples only.


Technically, it’s fragrance-free. Fragrance makes skincare products smell good, but it’s one of the most irritating ingredients in skincare. A fragrance can easily be made up of hundreds of compounds and a few of them are common allergens. This mask doesn’t contain fragrance, but it contains Ethylene Brassylate, a fragrant ingredient that makes the mask smell like musk. It can be irritating for sensitive skin. But hey, at least you only have one ingredient to worry about, not 100. Still a step in the right direction.

How To Use It

Apply a small amount onto your pimples. Done. You can use it up to 3 times a day on pimples only. Don’t go overboard or apply it to clear areas of skin, as it could irritate you. For best results, apply it as close to clean skin as possible. After cleansing or anti-aging serum is ideal.


The mask comes in a sleek and practical white tube. It’s not the prettiest but it releases a good amount of product, preventing wastage. Plus, you need so little for each application, it’ll last you forever.

zo skin health offects sulfur masque

Performance & Personal Opinion

ZO Skin Health Complexion Clearing Masque is called a mask, but it’s actually a spot treatment. Anything with sulfur goes only on pimples – never on clear skin. Got it? As a spot treatment, it works wonder. I’m not kidding when I say that sulfur gets rid of pimples faster than anything else I’ve ever tried – including salicylic acid.

I had a gigantic zit a couple of weeks ago, so I decided to put this to the test. I applied a tiny amount of the grey goop before going to bed and leave it on all night. The next morning, my pimple had drastically shrinked to half its size. The area was less red, too. It looked much better, and was easier to cover with makeup, as well. The next night I used the mask again, and woke up to an almost clear face. The pimple was so small, it could hardly be seen.

Oh, by the way, the pimple was the only thing that got dried out. My skin looks just as normal, and doesn’t feel uncomfortable, either. Am I giving up on salicylic acid for this? Not entirely. I find salicylic acid is better at preventing pimples. But once one has reared its ugly head, switch to sulfur to kill it faster.

Related: Why Salicylic Acid Is The Key To Spot-Free Skin

What I Like About ZO Skin Health Complexion Clearing Masque

  • Gets rid of pimples faster than anything else I’ve tried
  • Practical packaging – so big, it lasts forever
  • Pleasant, easy-to-apply texture
  • Fragrance-free

What I DON’T Like About ZO Skin Health Complexion Clearing Masque

  • Sulphur can be drying

Who Should Use This?

Anyone with acne-prone skin. If you have the odd pimple now and then, you can still use it – the tube will last you forever.

Does ZO Skin Health Complexion Clearing Masque Live Up To Its Claims?

Natural, clay-based formula that treats and prevents acne. It’s clay-based, but not natural. It treats acne, but I don’t recommend to use it to prevent it.
Formula purifies pores and absorbs excess oil that can lead to future breakouts, while hydrating the skin to combat dryness. NOTHING topical can purify skin, but this mask can absorb excess oil to help prevent future breakouts without drying out skin.

Is ZO Skin Health Cruelty-Free?

Yes, the brand is cruelty-free. They don’t test on animals and, as of the time of this writing, they don’t use animal ingredients in their products either.

Price & Availability

£34.00 at pharmacies and dermatologists.

The Verdict: Should You Buy It?

Yes, yes, yes! If you have pimples, this is the real deal. It gets rid of them – and fast, too!

Dupes & Alternatives

  • Mario Badescu Drying Mask ($18.00): A clay mask enriched with sulfur to soak up excess oil and dry out pimples. It has cucumber extract to soothe irritations too. Available at Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty, and Ulta
  • Peter Thomas Roth Therapeutic Sulfur Masque ($52.00): A 10% sulfur mask enriched with oil-absorbing clays and soothing aloe vera to get rid of pimples fast. Available at Dermstore, Peter Thomas Roth, Revolve, and Ulta


Active Ingredient: 10% Sulfur

Inactive Ingredients: Aqua/Water/Eau, Talc, Kaolin, Glycerin, Bentonite, Propylene Glycol, Ethylene Brassylate, Caprylyl Glycol, Silica, Tetrasodium EDTA, Benzyl Alcohol, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol, Ultramarines (CI 77007).