People use Neosporin for a wide variety of skin conditions as a way to prevent and treat infections from open wounds. Given that scratching itchy eczema patches can lead to sores that may or may not become infected, people living with eczema understandably wonder whether using Neosporin is safe for them.
The answer to that is more complex than may first appear. Here’s what you need to know about Neosporin so you can decide if it’s right for you. You should also talk to your doctor to find out more about this medication and whether they recommend it for you.
When people talk about Neosporin, they’re usually referring to a topical antibiotic ointment or cream that can be spread on open wounds to prevent or treat minor infections.
However, it can get confusing because several products fall under Johnson & Johnson’s Neosporin brand. The antibiotic treatment itself comes in cream and gel forms. It may or may not include ingredients to help with pain. The company also makes an anti-itch cream (which contains a topical steroid), and it previously sold products from the Neosporin Eczema Essentials line, including the Neosporin Eczema Essentials Daily Moisturizing Cream. However, that has recently been discontinued.
This article discusses the original antibiotic ointment, Neosporin Original. Any Neosporin product with the same active ingredients can be expected to work similarly, though they may contain other active and inactive ingredients to which you may have sensitivities.
Neosporin Original’s active ingredients, all of which are antibiotics, include:
Together, they work to prevent and treat infections on small areas of skin that have been damaged. They will not prevent all infections, but overall they’re generally effective at preventing and treating most bacterial infections that can contaminate a wound.
Many people wonder whether they can put Neosporin on skin affected by eczema or if the ointment actually helps eczema symptoms.
There is some debate as to whether Neosporin should be used on skin with eczema. On the one hand, it’s common for areas of the skin affected by eczema to become infected. This is especially true if the skin has cracked open or if itching and scratching has caused it to open. Once it’s open, bacteria can get inside and cause infection more easily. On top of this, people living with eczema can also develop cuts, scrapes, and burns that have nothing to do with eczema but are still susceptible to infection.
Despite the connection between eczema and skin infections, most health experts don’t recommend Neosporin for people with eczema, mostly because either the active ingredients or the inactive ones could cause a reaction that could worsen the skin condition or cause another one.
In fact, Neosporin is a common ingredient in many home remedies for eczema, and several members of MyEczemaTeam say they found it useful:
While these are not medical recommendations, they do indicate that some individuals with eczema have seen positive results when using Neosporin. Your success with these concoctions may vary, and you should definitely speak to your doctor to get medical advice before you try anything new.
There’s not any research to support either using or not using Neosporin if you’re living with eczema, nor is there data on how Neosporin might directly help or hurt your eczema. You will need to work with your health care provider to determine whether or not you want to try it to treat eczema or prevent infections.
One danger of using Neosporin is that it can cause contact dermatitis — a skin reaction to something that irritates it. All sorts of substances can cause this skin irritation, and it can affect anyone, regardless of whether they have eczema.
However, research suggests that people who’ve been diagnosed with atopic dermatitis (the most common form of eczema) seem to be at a greater risk of developing contact dermatitis. This means you may want to use caution when it comes to Neosporin.
While your skin could react to any of the ingredients in Neosporin, the antibiotic neomycin may be the most likely culprit. It’s known for causing contact dermatitis reactions. Many over-the-counter products contain neomycin, so determining what percentage of people respond negatively to it is difficult. However, the American Contact Dermatitis Society named neomycin Contact Allergen of the Year in 2010, demonstrating that many people have had undesirable reactions to it.
Several MyEczemaTeam members have had these kinds of responses. One said, “I had an eczema flare-up on my hands, which led to an infection around my nail bed. I tried some salve, which inflamed it horribly! It’s better now but still pretty sore. Ugh. Also happens with Neosporin. Does anyone else have allergic reactions to ointments?”
Another responded, “I am allergic to Neosporin. It causes redness and enlargement of the area.”
While having a diagnosis of eczema does not guarantee a negative response to Neosporin, it is something you should look out for.
If you have cuts, scrapes, burns, or open wounds on your skin and want to try Neosporin, talk to your doctor or dermatologist first. They’ll be able to help you evaluate whether or not it’s right for you. They can also recommend and prescribe other options if you decide not to try Neosporin.
If you decide to proceed with trying Neosporin, you can usually find it anywhere there’s a pharmacy. If you don’t see it, ask a pharmacist where it’s located. Make sure you get the original ointment. Then, follow the directions on the package. If you have any questions or need to use Neosporin over a large area of skin, check back with your doctor before applying it.
Your dermatology team may recommend a skin patch test. To do this:
On MyEczemaTeam, the social network for people with eczema and their loved ones, more than 48,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with eczema.
Are you considering Neosporin for eczema? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.