Sulfur & Petroleum for Scabies

Updated July 19, 2017

A mixture of sulphur and petroleum jelly is an over-the-counter medication used to treat the skin condition known as scabies. It can be purchased at many pharmacists and is an alternative to prescribed medication.


Scabies is a skin condition that has affected people for close to 2,500 years. It is cause by a tic called a scabies mite, which burrows into the skin. Female mites lay eggs in these burrows; the eggs hatch into larvae in three to four days, which then burrow closer to the surface. Scabies is a series of itching lesions on the skin that are caused by these mites, as well as by an allergic reaction to the activities and secretions of the mites.


Sulphur has long been a treatment of scabies in many parts of the world. It can usually be found in ointment form. Five per cent and 10 per cent sulphur ointments are the most common forms. These ointments are made by mixing sulphur and petroleum jelly. This mixture is also sometimes used to treat lice.

Reasons for Use

Sulphur and petroleum ointments are often used on children under two months old, breast-feeding mothers and pregnant women. The ointment is often used where it is inadvisable to use other medications. Sulphur and petroleum is also one of the more effective over-the-counter scabies medications, and those uncomfortable with prescribed medicines may find it a more acceptable alternative.


While sulphur and petroleum is a safe treatment of scabies, it has not been definitively proven to be effective against the mite that causes the skin condition. The ointment eases the itching caused by the condition and may also relieve the skin lesions, but it has not been proven to kill the scabies mite. That said, sulphur and petroleum ointment has been known to cure the condition.


Prescription medications for scabies are very similar to sulphur and petroleum ointment and have generally proven more definitively effective. No matter what medication you choose, it is important to make sure that any family members or people that you are regularly in close contact with also use it, even if they are not currently exhibiting symptoms.

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About the Author

Alexander Kennard started writing in 2003. He has written music reviews and articles for "The Reflector" at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Canada, and has been published on He has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Victoria.