Can You Use Neosporin To Treat Acne?

by Gio
neosporin treats acne

Remember how your mum used to gently rub Neosporin on your scraped knees when you fell down?

Now you’re all grown up, you may want to rub it all over your pimples to make them go away faster.

It makes sense: acne is caused by a bacteria (blame Propionibacterium acnes), so what’s better than an anti-bacterial ointment to kill it?

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.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at what you were about to put onto your face:

Polymyxin B Sulfate, Bacitracin Zinc, & Neomycin

The three active ingredients in Neosporin are Polymyxin B Sulfate, Bacitracin Zinc, and Neomycin.

Polymyxin B Sulfate and Neomycin can only kill gram-negative bacteria. But P. Acnes is a gram-positive bacteria. Translation: they can’t kill it.

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.

But what about Bacitracin Zinc? 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!

Cocoa Butter, Cottonseed Oil and Olive Oil

The good news: cocoa butter, cottonseed oil and olive oil are super moisturising. Usually, I would be raving about how good they are for your skin. But in this case…

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

White Petrolatum

This isn’t bad for the reason you think. Yes, it’s derived from petroleum BUT it undergoes a strict purifying process to remove all the toxins and other crap in it.

The real problem is that it helps comedogenic ingredients clog your pores. White petrolatum creates a protective barrier on the skin that traps everything – water, creams and whatever else is on your skin – underneath it.

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

What Neosporin Really Does For Acne

So, 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. Your fave beauty story is full of stuff that can do that – and kicks acne in the butt too.

The Bottom Line

Neosporin can treat wounds, but not acne. Turns out, it actually makes that 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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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.


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.

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.

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. 🙂

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.

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.


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