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Neosporin is an antibiotic ointment that a person can use for minor skin injuries. However, it may not be a viable treatment option for acne.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting around 40–50 million people.

However, a person can manage this condition by using products formulated specifically for acne.

This article will look at whether or not Neosporin is an effective treatment option for acne. It also looks at some alternative acne treatments a person can try.

a woman using neosporin on her face for treating acneShare on Pinterest
Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are typically more effective at treating acne than Neosporin.

Gram-positive bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) commonly cause acne. When bacteria become trapped within layers of sebum, or oils under the skin, acne can form.

Closed acne, such as whiteheads, is more prone to inflammation, as P. acnes cannot escape to the surface of the skin. When this type of acne ruptures, the bacteria spread underneath the skin, leading to pustules and cystic acne.

The appearance of acne can vary, potentially appearing as:

  • whiteheads, which remain under the skin
  • blackheads, which appear on the surface on the skin
  • pimples, which are red bumps on the skin
  • pustules, which are red bumps filled with pus

Cystic acne is a severe form of acne that can cause scarring. These scars can appear as:

  • icepick scars, which are tiny but deep
  • larger pitted scars
  • keloid scarring, in which scars are raised

Some people use Neosporin to treat acne and reduce the appearance of scars.

Neosporin is a combination antibiotic that prevents infection in minor cuts and burns. Its active ingredients are neomycin, polymyxin, and bacitracin.

Two of these are not effective against P. acnes. Bacitracin may be effective, but people primarily use it for different bacteria. Two of these three ingredients can also cause allergic contact dermatitis.

The sections below will look at Neosporin’s three active ingredients in more detail and explain why they may not work against acne.

Neomycin

According to some research, neomycin is effective against Gram-negative bacteria. However, Gram-positive bacteria, such as P. acnes, are resistant to it.

Another concern regarding neomycin is the high rate of contact dermatitis. Around 1–6% of people who use neomycin experience an allergic reaction.

Those who are not allergic to neomycin should use it topically, as it can be toxic if a person ingests it.

Polymyxin

Polymyxin is also only effective against Gram-negative bacteria. P. acnes is a Gram-positive bacterium. Also, it is not usually effective against bacterial skin infections on its own.

Studies have also shown that it is not particularly effective against bacteria that cause staph infections.

Bacitracin

Bacitracin is effective against Gram-positive bacteria, especially Staphylococcus aureus (which causes infections and illnesses such as abscesses and pneumonia) and Streptococcus pyogenes (which can cause strep throat).

Bacitracin is also a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis.

Neosporin contains several ingredients, such as cocoa butter and petroleum jelly, that may soften acne scars.

According to a 2016 article, petroleum ointments moisturize the skin, which may help prevent scarring. The same article also suggests that cocoa butter does not work more effectively on postsurgical scars than petroleum ointments.

The main benefit seems to arise from massaging and moisturizing the scars.

However, a person can find the ingredients in Neosporin that soften the appearance of acne scars elsewhere.

Petroleum jelly is available online here.

Neosporin may cause allergic contact dermatitis if a person is allergic to any of the ingredients in it.

Allergy symptoms include:

  • itching
  • a rash
  • redness
  • swelling

It is important to seek medical attention immediately if a person experiences difficulty breathing or if they have ingested Neosporin.

A person can use topical ointments for the treatment of acne, though they can also use oral medications, such as oral antibiotics.

Two topical treatment options include benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.

Benzoyl peroxide is effective against P. acnes. It is available in a variety of strengths and can come in the form of a:

  • cream
  • gel
  • wash
  • foam
  • aqueous gel

These options tend to be available in both leave-on and wash-off formats.

Benzoyl peroxide reduces inflammation and stops the growth of the bacteria that cause acne. It can cause an allergic reaction, but a weaker strength, water-based solution may react better with sensitive skin. A person can use benzoyl peroxide one to three times per day.

Another topical treatment is salicylic acid. This is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction, but it tends to be a less effective treatment.

Salicylic acid comes in both wash-off and leave-on formats. A person can use salicylic acid one to three times per day and in conjunction with benzoyl peroxide.

Both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are over-the-counter topical treatments.

Other options for treating acne include:

  • oral antibiotics
  • comedone (pimple) extractions, which allow for the physical removal of the blockage from the skin
  • chemical peels
  • laser treatment

When treating acne, a person can follow these steps:

  • Cleanse the skin.
  • Medicate acne when necessary.
  • Moisturize the skin.
  • Protect against sunlight and UV exposure.

Additionally, the AAD suggest:

  • washing the skin twice per day
  • using gentle skin care products
  • not scrubbing the skin
  • rinsing with lukewarm water
  • shampooing regularly
  • not picking or popping acne
  • not touching acne with the fingers

Moisturizing and protecting the skin from sunlight and UV exposure is especially important.

Moisturizer helps reduce skin sensitivity and irritation. Using a combination sun protection factor 30 moisturizer and sun protector can help prevent hyperpigmentation, which results from skin irritation and inflammation.

However, a lot of sunscreens can cause skin irritation, and some moisturizers and sunscreens can block the pores, causing or exacerbating acne.

It is important to try different options to see which products suit particular skin types.

Acne can be a painful skin condition. If it adversely affects a person’s daily life, it is important to see a healthcare professional or dermatologist to plan a skin care regimen that will reduce the severity of the acne.

However, a person can treat mild acne at home. Cleansing, moisturizing, and protecting the skin from sunlight can help prevent mild acne without requiring medical intervention.

Acne is a condition that affects many people.

It can vary from mild to severe and may cause scarring. However, a person can reduce scarring by massaging the skin with petroleum ointments. Maintaining a good skin care regimen may help reduce acne.

Neosporin is not the most effective treatment for acne. Only one of the three active ingredients may be effective against P. acnes, which is the most common bacterium that causes acne. Two of the active ingredients in Neosporin can also cause allergic contact dermatitis.

Some other effective treatments include benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, especially when a person uses them in conjunction. Other treatments include oral antibiotics and chemical peels.