Neosporin is one of the most popular topical antibiotics on the market. Typically applied to small wounds in order to prevent infection, its use as an acne treatment has only recently become more popular due to the internet. However, while Neosporin may in fact be a very effective means to clear skin for some, this is a powerful antibiotic, and the side effects of long-term use could potentially be serious. If you’re in need of a strong spot-treatment, use Neosporin sparingly.
The benefits of Neosporin make sense to acne sufferers. It kills bacteria, speeds the healing of wounds, and can minimize the appearance of small scars. Neosporin’s combination of Bacitracin, Neomycin, and Polymixin-B kills a broad range of bacteria beyond the typical acne treatments such as benzoyl peroxide. Also, unlike BP, Neosporin is unlikely to cause drying since it uses an oil base (something that acne sufferers typically try to avoid – however, it’s actually the oil underneath the surface that your glands produce which is more likely to become a barrier to clear skin). From user testimony, many experience faster elimination of acne with Neosporin than other topical products that use BP or salicylic acid, and the reduction of redness makes spots less obvious.
Despite these benefits, users should take into account the precautions Pfizer themselves have printed on the bottle, such as “Do not use over large areas of the body” and “Do not use longer than 1 week unless directed by a doctor”. Neosporin kills more than just the P. Acnes bacteria that forms in pustules. It also kills many of the present agents that normally help your skin resist harmful bacteria. In addition, your skin may build up an antibiotic resistance that could make you more susceptible to serious infection down the road. Because of these considerations, the ongoing, regular use of a strong antibiotic like Neosporin is generally to be avoided. Pfizer is well aware of Neosporin’s use as an acne treatment, and the fact that they do not market or promote it as such should tell you a lot.
My recommendation would be to consider Neosporin as a spot treatment for those really serious pimples, provided your acne is mild enough that you don’t get these too often. Do not use Neosporin over large areas of your face, or for a prolonged period in any one place. The warnings are there for a reason. To take the red out of the occasional stubborn zit, Neosporin should be perfectly safe (I would recommend simply applying it once before bed), just don’t rely on it as an all-in-one clear skin solution.