Can You Use Neosporin To Treat Acne?

by Gio
neosporin treats acne

Does Neosporin help acne?

Yep, the thing your mum used to gently rub on your scraped knees when you fell down. Rumour has it, rubbing it on pimples can make them go away faster, too.

It makes sense: bacteria (P. Acnes, to be exact) cause acne, so what’s better than an anti-bacterial ointment to kill it?

Not so fast…

Truth bomb: not all anti-bacterial treatments kill ALL bacteria. Pick the wrong one and you may do more harm than good to your skin.

With that in mind, is Neosporin good for acne after all? Let’s find out:

Why Are People Using Neosporin For Acne?

The three active ingredients in Neosporin are Polymyxin B Sulfate, Bacitracin Zinc, and Neomycin. Their job is to kill bacteria, so it’s no wonder people think they’ll work against acne, too.

But… do they? Not really. Here’s why:

Polymyxin B Sulfate and Neomycin can only kill gram-negative bacteria. P. Acnes is a gram-positive bacteria. See the problem here? These two can’t kill it.

What about Bacitracin Zinc, I hear you ask? This one CAN kill gram-positive bacteria… BUT only S aureus and streptococci. Against P. Acnes, it’s useless.

P.S. It’s true that zinc is good at treating acne – when taken orally. When you put it on your skin, it’s no better than a placebo treatment!

Related: Does Zinc Help Treat Acne?


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How Neosporin Can Make Your Acne Worse

Not only Neosporin can’t help acne. It actually makes it worse. Here’s how:

1. Antibacterial Agents Can Cause Infections

The antibacterial actives in Neosporin can’t kill P. Acnes. But you know what they can do instead? Give you an infection. No kidding. Gram-negative bacteria are one of the main causes of infections in wounds after surgery.

To add insult to injury, they adapt to become resistant to antibiotics. In other words, if you use this stuff when you don’t need it, it  may not work anymore when you do need it!

One more thing: Neomycin can cause irritations and allergies. If that happens, your acne will get worse. Just saying…

2. Neosporin Is Loaded With Comedogenic Ingredients

A quick look at the ingredient list reveals that Neosporin is loaded with comedogenic ingredients.

Cocoa butter. Cottonseed oil. Olive oil. White petrolatum. They’re all super moisturizing. Their job is to create a barrier on the skin that slows down water loss, keeping it hydrated for longer.

The bad news: they can clog pores. Do you really want to slather them all over your acne?!

One word about petrolatum. It may be derived from petroleum BUT it undergoes a strict purifying process to remove all the toxins and other crap in it.

Plus, it’s not comedogenic in itself. But it helps comedogenic ingredients clog your pores. The barrier it creates traps everything – water, creams and whatever else is on your skin – underneath your skin.

Trapping water is good. It hydrates your skin. Trapping cocoa butter isn’t good. It’s a recipe for more breakouts.

Related: What Ingredients Give You Pimples?

What Neosporin Really Does For Acne

If Neosporin is so bad for acne, why do people swear it helps? Is it some sort of placebo effect?

Here’s the deal: all the moisturising goodies in Neosporin help repair your skin’s protective barrier so it looks smoother and softer. It improves the appearance of scars, too.

But I still wouldn’t recommend it.

Or better, I do recommend you use hydrating products even if you’re dealing with acne. An oil-free moisturiser or Hyaluronic Acid serum are usually enough to give your skin all the moisture it needs, so it can help faster.

Just not Neosporin. It causes more trouble than it solves…

Related: Do You Need An Oil-Free Moisturiser (Plus, My Fave Picks)

How Do You Treat Acne?

If Neosporin doesn’t work, how do you treat acne? The right way is a combination of exfoliation + right antibacterial agent (you know, one that actually works against P.Acnes…):

Step 1: Exfoliate With Salicylic Acid

Also called BHA, salicylic acid is an exfoliant on steroids. Here’s how it gets rid of pimples:

  • Exfoliates: It dissolves the glue that holds skin cells together, so they can get off your skin, instead of falling into your pores and clogging them up (clogged pores = pimples).
  • Unclogs: It gets inside the pores, removing all the dead cells, excess sebum, and other gunk that’s clogging them up and giving you pimples.
  • Soothes: It has anti-inflammatory properties that soothe the inflammation and redness that always comes along with a pimple.

Salicylic acid doesn’t just get rid of pimples. With regular use, it prevents them from forming, too.

How To Use It: Every other night, after cleansing. If your skin is very oily, you can use it every night.

Best Picks:

Step 2. Spot Treat With Benzoyl Peroxide Or Sulfur

Once you start exfoliating regularly, you won’t get that many pimple anymore. But when one rears its ugly head, you want to get rid of it quickly.

You have two options here: Benzoyl Peroxide or Sulfur. Here’s all you need to know about them:

  • Benzoyl Peroxide: It kills P.Acnes by generating free radicals (yep, the nasty molecules that speed up the aging process). Plus, it’s harsh on the skin. Use it on pimples ONLY.
  • Sulfur: It kills P.Acnes, dries out blemishes, and helps reduce excess oil. In my experience, it works faster than BP, but it’s harsh and drying. Again, use it on pimples only.

Best Picks:

Does Neosporin Help Acne?

Neosporin can treat wounds, but it can’t help acne. Turns out, it actually makes it worse. Keep it off your faces, ladies!

Have you ever used Neosporin to treat acne or get rid of a pimple? Share your experience in the comments below.

Ingredients

Polymyxin B Sulfate, Bacitracin Zinc, Neomycin, Cocoa Butter, Cottonseed Oil, Olive Oil, Sodium Pyruvate, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), White Petrolatum.

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6 comments

MonicaP April 16, 2014 - 4:14 pm

Only if I’ve been naughty and picked .. then I add Neosporin. I’ve found that using Proactive’s mask with sulphur can heal a pimple before it gets out of hand quite well.

Monica.

Reply
Gio April 16, 2014 - 8:51 pm

Monica, you shouldn’t pick pimples! But it’s hard to resist the temptation, isn’t it?

I’ve never tried Proactive, but I will keep it in mind next time I get a zit. Thanks for the suggestion.

Reply
Jen April 16, 2014 - 4:16 pm

I have used Neosporin for years on the occasional pimple and swear by it. However, your article has me reconsidering using it.

Reply
Gio April 16, 2014 - 8:56 pm

Jen, if you use it every now and then, it’s unlikely to do any serious harm, but it also won’t do much good either. There are much more effective options that don’t have side effects you can instead. 🙂

Reply
Rachel Rivard March 27, 2019 - 10:55 pm

I have only used it to help pimples heal once exposed, and to avoid scars. Funny though I used it recently on a pimple on my chest and it made it did seem to make it worse. I will stick to tea tree oil and Persa-gel (benzoyl perioxide) next time. Wondering if rosehip oil would help also? I just started use it on my face and I’m really liking it.

Reply
Gio March 29, 2019 - 2:19 pm

Yes, stick to tea tree oil and benzoyl peroxide. They’re safer and more effective. Rosehip oil can help heal small pimples faster too.

Reply

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