Should You Use Neosporin To Treat Acne?

Written by Arshiya Syeda

Ask any teenager and they will tell you that acne is one of the worst side effects of growing up. Not only is it painful, but acne also leaves behind reminders of its existence in the form of scars.

Close to 9.4% of the global population battle acne at some point in their lives. Acne is the eighth-most prevalent disease in the world (1).

Hence, it is only natural that there are a plethora of home remedies for treating acne. While some of these remedies work, some others can instead aggravate the condition. Using Neosporin for acne is claimed to deliver results. But what does science say? Let’s find out!

What Is Neosporin?

Neosporin is an ointment typically used for treating skin injuries or bacterial eye infections. It is a combination of three antibiotics that keeps the wounds from getting infected. It is also known as a triple antibiotic ointment (or TAO).

The three antibiotics in Neosporin are as follows (2):

  • Neomycin

Neomycin is an antibiotic that can fight gram-negative aerobic bacilli and some anaerobic bacilli as well (3).

  • PolymyxinB

Polymyxin B is an antibiotic that can fight gram-negative bacterial infections. It can break down the cell membrane of the bacteria and kill them (4).

  • Bacitracin

Bacitracin is an antibiotic that can work on gram-positive bacteria by breaking down their cell walls and interfering with their synthesis. It stops bacterial proliferation (5).

Since Neosporin is a combination of these three antibiotics, it can fight both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.

Neosporin also contains cocoa butter, petroleum jelly, olive oil, and cottonseed oil (2). While the ingredients in Neosporin sound promising, how effective is the medication to treat acne? Let us find out.

Neosporin For Acne – Is It Effective?

Neosporin is not very effective for acne. In fact, anecdotal evidence suggests it may also cause adverse effects in some. It could be rather surprising that a medication designed to kill bacteria may not help treat a condition caused by bacteria.

However, it is important to note that while Neosporin may kill a wide range of bacteria, it does not work against others. A strain of bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes is responsible for acne in the vast majority of cases (6). While Neosporin works against Escherichia coli, and Neisseria species of bacteria, it may not be effective against P.acnes (3), (5).

While acne may also be caused by other minor strains of bacteria that Neosporin can work against, the chances are thin. Hence, we recommend against using Neosporin for treating your acne. Consulting your doctor to understand the specific bacteria that has caused your condition is ideal.

Also, note that using Neosporin for treating the most common forms of acne can cause adverse effects. We have covered the same in the next section.

Side Effects Of Using Neosporin For Acne

  • Increases The Antibiotic Resistance In Bacteria

Using the wrong medication for too long can cause the bacteria to build resistance against the antibiotics (7). The medication then would stop working even against those strains of bacteria it was previously effective against.

Even if it has no impact on your acne, excessive use of Neosporin where it is not needed can decrease its chances of being effective when you apply it to another wound or an injury.

  • May Damage Your Skin

Prolonged use of Neosporin for acne can have an adverse impact on your skin. Antibiotics, such as those present in Neosporin, alter the skin microbiome (8). They damage the upper layer of the skin and may leave it susceptible to acne and other infections.

Another component of Neosporin, called Neomycin, may cause allergic contact dermatitis (9).

  • May Aggravate Your Acne

Neosporin contains comedogenic components (that can clog your pores). Clogged pores also may cause acne and trigger folliculitis (10), (11).

Do these side effects mean you should never use Neosporin for treating acne? Not really. Certain situations warrant the use of Neosporin for acne treatment.

When To Use Neosporin For Acne?

Using Neosporin could be ideal only when your acne gets infected. It could be an excellent ointment for treating infected acne (12). The petroleum jelly in Neosporin is an emollient and may moisturize the skin surrounding the acne. However, information in this regard is limited. Consult your doctor for more information.

When To See A Doctor?

If your acne is getting too severe or painful, or the treatments are not delivering the right results, you must visit a dermatologist. You should also see a doctor if your acne appeared after taking any specific medication.

Visiting a doctor on time can arm you with the right information that can help resolve your issue faster.


Neosporin is not an effective treatment for acne. It is not designed to treat acne. It may also have adverse reactions. Consult a dermatologist to further understand what is causing your acne and follow the right treatment methods. That way, you should be able to reduce your acne and achieve healthier skin over time.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you tell if your acne is infected?

Infected pimples or acne will be larger and redder than usual. They may also feel warm and are usually very painful and sensitive. They also may be filled with pus. Infected pimples have a higher chance of popping or bleeding.

How can I apply Neosporin on infected acne?

Firstly, consult your doctor to check if you can apply Neosporin to your infected acne. While the ointment seems to heal the acne infection in some cases, information is unclear.

Clean the infected area and gently pat it dry. Wash your hands and take a small amount of the ointment on your fingers. Dab the ointment on the infected pimple.

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  1. A global perspective on the epidemiology of acne,severe%20forms%20of%20the%20disease.
  2. NEOSPORIN ORIGINAL- bacitracin zinc, neomycin sulfate, and polymyxin b sulfate ointment Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc
  3. Chapter 20 Anaerobic Gram-Negative Bacilli
  4. Polymyxin B Identified as an Inhibitor of Alternative NADH Dehydrogenase and Malate: Quinone Oxidoreductase from the Gram-positive Bacterium Mycobacterium smegmatis
  5. Bacitracin Topical
  7. Systematic review of antibiotic resistance in acne: an increasing topical and oral threat
  8. Topical Antimicrobial Treatments Can Elicit Shifts to Resident Skin Bacterial Communities and Reduce Colonization by Staphylococcus aureus Competitors
  9. Topical antibiotics in dermatology: An update
  10. Acne,canals%20and%20large%20sebaceous%20glands.
  11. Moisturizers: The Slippery Road
  12. Topical Treatment of Various Skin Infections with an Antibiotic Polymyxin B-Bacitracin-Neomycin Ointment
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Arshiya Syeda is an editor and certified counselor. Ever the lover of the written word, she served on the editorial boards of her school and college newsletters. Writing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and nutrition helped her combine her love for reading, writing, and research. As an editor, she helps her team members deliver polished and meticulously researched content. Arshiya is fluent in English, Urdu, and Hindi and aims to become a multilinguist by learning German and teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL).