Deflating Neosporin

Dermatologist Dr. Anne Marie Tremaine Explains Why You Should Choose Something Else

What do you reach for to treat an open cut or a wound? Thanks to Johnson & Johnson’s successful marketing, many people say Neosporin. While I do want you to use a product to keep the wound moist, you need to know why it shouldn’t be Neosporin.  

Neosporin was created in the 1950s. However, it was not approved for use by the FDA until 1971. It is an over-the-counter topical antibiotic containing neomycin sulfate, polymyxin B, and bacitracin. So why do we dermatologists in Naples, FL—and around the country—despise this product? It’s the neomycin!

Neomycin frequently causes allergic reactions of the skin called contact dermatitis. It can cause the skin to become red, scaly, and itchy. The more Neosporin you use, the worse the skin reaction gets.   Neomycin is such a common allergen that it was named Allergen of the Year in 2010. The goal of this award is to bring awareness to commonly used products that are under-recognized as common allergens. Polymyxin B and bacitracin can cause contact dermatitis as well.

It’s also important to understand that Neosporin does not speed up wound healing compared to petrolatum. In 1996, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study comparing antibiotic ointment with plain petrolatum jelly. There was no statistically significant difference in the rate of infection between the groups. The only differences seen between the two groups was that a small number of patients in the antibiotic group developed allergic reactions. Meanwhile, no allergic reactions were reported in the petrolatum group.

In reality, the most important component of antibiotic ointments is the petrolatum. Therefore, please skip the over-the-counter antibiotics. Instead, just use the petrolatum ointment.

To find out more, contact Skin Wellness Physicians by calling (239) 732-0044 or send a message online.

Dr. Anne Marie Tremaine

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