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?
- How Neosporin Can Make Your Acne Worse
- What Neosporin Really Does For Acne
- How Do You Treat Acne?
- Step 2. Spot Treat With Benzoyl Peroxide Or Sulfur
- Does Neosporin Help Acne?
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.
- Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboois Glycolic Night Serum: available at Cult Beauty, Sephora, SpaceNK
- Paula’s Choice Resist BHA 9 Targeted Solution ($43.00): available at Dermstore, Nordstrom, Paula’s Choice
- Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant ($29.00): available at Dermstore, Look Fantastic, Paula’s Choice and Selfridges
- The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2%: available at Adore Beauty, Beauty Bay and Cult Beauty
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.
- Epionce Purifying Spot Gel ($38.00): available at at Dermstore
- Indie Lee Blemish Lotion ($26.00): available at Blue Mercury, Dermstore and The Detox Market
- La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Treatment ($36.95): Dermstore and Feel Unique
- Paula’s Choice Clear Daily Skin Clearing Treatment With 5% benzoyl peroxide ($18.00): Dermstore, Nordstrom and Paula’s Choice
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.
Polymyxin B Sulfate, Bacitracin Zinc, Neomycin, Cocoa Butter, Cottonseed Oil, Olive Oil, Sodium Pyruvate, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), White Petrolatum.