Bacitracin zinc for acne


Bacitracin is the generic form of the brand-name drug BACiiM, an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections.

The medicine can be given as an injection or applied topically.

Bacitracin is also given as an injection in infants to treat pneumonia and other infections.

As a topical ointment, bacitracin is used to prevent minor cuts, scrapes, and burns from becoming infected.

Bacitracin Black-Box Warning

Injection Warnings: When given as an injection, bacitracin carries a black-box warning because it can harm a baby’s kidneys.

This risk is greater if your baby also takes other drugs, especially other injected antibiotics.

Your doctor will probably perform kidney tests daily during your baby’s treatment with bacitracin.

Before your baby receives bacitracin, tell your doctor if he/she has kidney disease or has any allergies.

This drug won’t treat a viral infection such as the common cold or the flu.

Call your doctor if your baby has diarrhea that’s watery or bloody while taking bacitracin.

Make sure your baby receives injections of this medicine for the full prescribed amount of time. Skipping doses may increase the risk of further infection that may be resistant to antibiotics.

Topical Warnings: This medicine should only be used to treat minor skin injuries.

Don’t use topical bacitracin to treat deep cuts, puncture wounds, animal bites, serious burns, or any other injuries that affect large areas of the body.

Stop using the ointment and call your doctor if your symptoms don’t go away within one week.

Don’t apply topical bacitracin to a baby’s diaper area, unless your doctor tells you to do so.

Before using this drug, tell your doctor if you are allergic to bacitracin, zinc, or any other medication.

Bacitracin for Acne

Some people use topical bacitracin to treat acne outbreaks when pimples become infected.

The ointment is often combined with cleansers containing benzoyl peroxide to kill bacteria that might colonize an injured pimple.

However, topical bacitracin doesn’t always cure acne. Some people report no improvement — or even worse outbreaks — after applying this medicine.

Pregnancy and Bacitracin

Bacitracin is an FDA Pregnancy Category C drug, which means harm to an unborn baby is possible.

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using the topical ointment.

Call your doctor if you become pregnant while taking bacitracin.

Also, talk to your doctor about breastfeeding while using this medicine.

Should You Use Neosporin to Treat Acne?

It’s tempting to try out acne remedies that you can grab in your medicine cabinet. The idea that you could have something here, right now, that would be the miracle cure to treat that just-emerging zit seems ideal. Unfortunately, there are plenty of at-home remedies that don’t work.

I remember the first time I heard about Neosporin for acne. I stood in the mirror staring at a big, red pimple that had just popped up. One of the girls in the bathroom imparted the kind of woman-to-woman knowledge that happens at the restroom sink: “Put Neosporin on that.”

Neosporin is part of a group of infection-preventing creams and gels containing Polymyxin B Sulfate, Bacitracin Zinc, and Neomycin, which are known as Triple Antibiotic Ointments (TAOs). And while these topical ointments work well to prevent infection in wounds, they shouldn’t be used to treat acne. In fact, while they’re very effective for wounds, TAOs can do more harm than good when it comes to treating acne.

Are the Ingredients in Triple Antibiotic Ointments (TAO) Acne-Fighting?

It seems somehow logical that TAOs would work. After all, acne that’s caused by bacteria should be taken care of by a cream intended to kill bacteria, right? Unfortunately, that’s not entirely flawless logic, and not just because Neosporin is intended for wound care and not acne clearing.

Because of the nature of these ointments — intended for temporary wound healing and not regular acne use — applying them too regularly can cause the bacteria they’re intended to kill (and which live on your skin) to become immune to most treatments, which is a big problem later down the road.

Right down to ingredients, it’s evident that TAOs aren’t really acne-friendly. Neosporin contains: Polymyxin B Sulfate, Bacitracin Zinc, Neomycin, Cocoa Butter, Cottonseed Oil, Olive Oil, Sodium Pyruvate, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), White Petrolatum; with the first three being the active ingredients.

First and foremost, you might notice that certain ingredients like olive oil can clog pores and actually worsen acne.

Here are the bacteria that the three active ingredients are used to kill: Staphylococcus aureus, streptococci including Streptococcus pneumoniae, Escherichia coli, Haemophilus influenzae, Klebsiella/Enterobacter species, Neisseria species, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Daily Med).

While it’s possible for many types of bacteria to cause acne, Propionibacterium acnes is the type most commonly responsible for acne vulgaris (European Bioinformatics Institute). This means that from the get-go, we know that Neosporin’s active ingredients aren’t intended to fight the main acne-causing bacteria.

Why the Active Ingredients in Triple Antibiotic Ointments Don’t Work for Acne

Polymyxin B Sulfate

Polymyxin B Sulfate is an antibiotic that’s intended for gram-negative bacteria. These bacteria are commonly what cause infections in wounds and after surgery (CDC). These are often resistant to drugs and, more concerning, are able to adapt to become resistant to antibiotics, which is why you don’t want to use antibiotics for a prolonged period of time or too frequently.

So this ingredient can be ruled out quickly, not only because it can be unsafe to used for a prolonged period but also because Propionibacterium acnes is a gram-positive bacteria.

Bacitracin Zinc

Bacitracin does work against gram-postitive bacteria, but it really only works against S. aureus and streptococci. It also works as a superficial bacterial infection, meaning that it won’t penetrate the skin enough to really reach the cause of acne (MedScape).

And if you perked up at the mention of zinc because you’ve heard it in acne forums, think again.

Zinc is sometimes discussed in terms of acne because studies have shown that those with acne tend to have lower levels of zinc in their bodies. And while taking zinc has been shown to help to some extent with acne when taken orally, it’s still not as effective as oral antibiotics (NYU Medical). Studies done on topically applied zinc have found that it’s no better than the placebo (International Journal of Dermatology).


Neomycin works by getting in the way of protein synthesis and can be used on gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. But that doesn’t mean it works against P. acnes either. It’s primarily intended for gram-positive S. aureus, as well as E. coli.

And aside from that, it’s been shown to cause allergic contact dermatitis, as well as nonallergic irritant reactions, in some individuals (Pediatric Consultant Live, JAMA Network). Irritation and contact dermatitis on top of acne is, inevitably, a terrible thing, which makes this a poor choice for acne fighting.

Why Triple Antibiotic Ointments Might Help Sometimes

There’s a delicate balance with acne and moisturizing and that could explain why triple antibiotic ointments, such as Neosporin, can make your acne seem like it’s improving. Neosporin’s ingredients are intended as a wound-healing aid, which means while they won’t kill acne bacteria, they will help skin to heal.

Moisturizing helps to heal the appearance of scars, and works even better under something occlusive, like petrolatum (International Journal of Cosmetic Science). It can help skin that’s been damaged by acne regain proper barrier function, which makes the acne seem better, but is really the skin around it healing.

A much better option would be to use a moisturizer intended for acne-prone skin, such as Proactiv Solution Green Tea Moisture ($6,

Bottom Line

When it comes to acne, it’s best to stick with products that have been proven scientifically and which are recommended by dermatologists. Triple Antibiotic Ointments, such as Neosporin, not only contain pore-clogging ingredients that can exacerbate acne, but they can also cause the bacteria they’re intended to kill to become resistant if applied regularly. While these products are great for preventing infection and wound healing, they shouldn’t be used to treat acne.

It’s better to use ingredients like benzoyl peroxide on acne, which has been shown to kill P. acnes and can be found in products such as ZapZyt ($4.25,

Even when home remedies work, it can be more effective to find products that contain them as ingredients. This is because products formulated for your face and for acne are made to minimize irritation and be as effective as possible, whereas complications may arise with the homemade version.

Looking for the best skin care? FutureDerm is committed to having its customers find — and create — the best skin care for their individual skin type, concern, and based on your ingredient preferences. Learn more by visiting the FutureDerm shop!

The Science of Skincare: Triple Antibiotic Ointment for Acne Care

We’ll customize a product specifically for your acne care needs.

When it comes to acne, there’s a whole slew of misinformation regarding home remedies. From baking soda to Windex (à la My Big Fat Greek Wedding), millions of Americans are misled to think there’s a miracle cure-all to be found in a common household good. Unfortunately, when it comes to skincare, following an old wives’ tale can sometimes cause more harm than good.

Recently, people have been promoting triple antibiotic ointments, such as Neosporin®, for acne treatment. Triple antibiotic ointments (TAOs) are made up of three infection-fighting ingredients: Polymyxin B Sulfate, Bacitracin Zinc and Neomycin. While these three ingredients pack a powerful punch when it comes to wound care, they should be avoided when it comes to acne care.

But Isn’t Acne a Result of Bacteria?

Yes. But there are different types of bacteria—and the antibiotics in TAOs are not effective at fighting the acne-causing bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes.

Does it Really Hurt my Skin to Try Fighting Acne with a TAO?

Yes. TAOs are made up of antibacterials that are not designed to be used over prolonged periods of time. By regularly applying a TAO, you may build up resistance to wound-protecting antibacterials; this could make infection harder to prevent in the future. Additionally, some ingredients in over-the-counter TAOs can clog pores, leading to skin irritation or allergic reactions that can make difficult skin much worse.

But My Aunt Sally uses TAOs all the time. She Swears by Them.

Since TAOs are designed to promote wound healing and have ingredients that add moisture to the skin, they can, and do, help skin heal. While it may appear that your acne is improving, what you are likely seeing is the result of healed skin around the acne. In other words, your acne has not improved, but your overall skin condition has.

But there are better ways to achieve healthy skin. There are scientifically-proven treatments that can help you achieve the results you desire without clogging pores or putting you at risk of future infection.

At Hale Cosmeceuticals, we have several products that can help you control acne and promote healthy skin, such as: our GSL Cleanser, our O.R.A.C. Lifting Complex, our Re-Fine Milk Lotion and our Oil Control Masque. We invite you to try any of our acne-fighting products, free of risk. If one of our products does not work as expected, just give us a call. We work with you to find the best product for your needs—we’ll even blend a custom formula, unique to you, to address your specific skincare needs. We can be reached at 1-800-951-7005.

Children’s Antibiotic Ointments

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Emergency First Aid for Babies and Toddlers

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When my oldest son first began toddling, I made sure to keep cleaning products and medications well out of his reach. But one day when he was 2 years old, he began vomiting mint-green foam — and I realized that I’d forgotten all about one common product: toothpaste. The Poison Control Center soothed my frazzled nerves. As it turns out, a few mouthfuls of toothpaste aren’t generally dangerous, though they can cause a major tummy ache.

When it comes to anything beyond a simple scrape, even veteran parents can be thrown for a loop. And the most safety-savvy moms might be surprised by new first-aid and CPR guidelines from the American Red Cross and American Heart Association. While a mother’s kiss is certainly the best medicine, this guide will help you treat childhood injuries confidently.

Cuts and Animal Bites — DO:

  • Press gently on the wound with a piece of gauze or a clean cloth to control bleeding. Keep the cloth in place with a firmly wrapped elastic bandage.
  • When the bleeding slows, rinse out the wound with clear running water until you see no dirt or foreign material in the wound, and cover with a bandage. If the wound is superficial, a dab of triple-antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin, may help speed healing, says Greg Stockton, health and safety expert for the American Red Cross.
  • Look for signs of infection over the next few days. Some redness is normal, but if it starts to look inflamed, is oozing pus, if the skin around it is streaked with red, or if your child complains that it’s getting sorer, it could be infected and should be seen by a doctor, says Elizabeth Wertz, RN, of Pediatric Alliance, in Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
  • Report animal bites to your doctor. Animal bites can be infectious, and the animal may need to be tested for rabies.
  • Seek medical assistance for a puncture wound (like from a nail), if the cut is deep, if you can’t get it to stop bleeding, if there’s anything embedded in it that doesn’t come out when you clean it, if the edges won’t close together, or if you’re concerned about scarring.

Cuts and Animal Bites — DON’T:

  • Remove gauze or other cloth when severe bleeding slows down — taking it off could remove the scab underneath and cause the wound to start bleeding again, says Wertz. If the cloth soaks through, add another layer on top and add more pressure.
  • Apply a tourniquet to control bleeding. Research shows that it’s an ineffective device that can damage nerves and tissue.
  • Use alcohol or peroxide on a cut. They can kill off healthy cells that are working to heal wounds.

Burns & Insect Stings

Burns — DO:

  • Run a burn under cool water to bring the temperature down, because skin can keep burning after it’s removed from heat.
  • Cover the burn with a dry, clean piece of gauze or bandage.
  • Talk to your doctor about using a medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (e.g., infant or children’s Tylenol or Advil), to relieve pain.
  • Call your doctor if the burn covers an area larger than 2 inches across; is on the face, hands, feet, or genital area; or if you have any concerns or doubts about at-home treatment. “Even a sunburn can be serious if it covers enough of the body,” says Mark A. Brandenburg, MD, author of Child Safe: A Practical Guide for Preventing Childhood Injuries (Crown).
  • Seek immediate medical attention if the burn affects the mouth, nose, or airway. Check your child’s face: If he looks flushed, his tongue or lips are swollen, he’s coughing, his voice sounds hoarse or squeaky, or his eyelashes or nose hairs are singed, it could indicate that he’s breathed in steam or smoke that burned his airway, which might cut off his air supply.

Burns — DON’T:

  • Put salve, butter, or Vaseline on the burn. It could introduce bacteria or seal in heat, says Wertz.
  • Break blisters open. That could make them vulnerable to infection.
  • Put ice on a burn. It can decrease blood flow to the skin and cause more damage.

Stings — DO:

  • Wrap ice in a cloth and apply it to the site of the sting to decrease swelling.
  • Use calamine lotion to soothe itching. Talk to your child’s doctor before using antihistamines or topical steroids, such as Benadryl or Cortaid.
  • Head to the ER if your child develops welts or hives on her body.
  • Call 911 if your child starts to cough or if his tongue or lips swell. (His airway might be tightening up.) Allergic reactions to stings can quickly become serious. “In the time it takes to put him in the car and drive to the hospital, he could stop breathing,” says Wertz.

Stings — DON’T:

  • Try to pull on a stinger — that could squeeze more poison into the skin. Instead, scrape a piece of cardboard or a credit card gently over the stinger to remove it. Research has shown that speed of removal matters more than the method, so if you can’t get to a flat object quickly, use your fingernail to scrape the stinger away.

Poisoning, Head Injuries & Near Drowning

Poisoning — DO:

  • Call Poison Control at 800-222-1222 if your child is awake, alert, and you know what she’s consumed. “Nine times out of 10 the poison control center will tell you that it’s okay to stay home,” says G. Randall Bond, MD, medical director of the Cincinnati Drug and Poison Information Center. Otherwise, you’ll be told whether to go to the ER or call 911.
  • Head to the ER if you don’t know what your child took. Also, if she swallowed loose pills and you don’t know what they’re for, take any leftover medication with you to the hospital. Doctors may figure out what it is with software that analyzes the drug based on its attributes, such as color and size.
  • Call 911 whenever your child is unconscious, convulsing, or having difficulty breathing.

Poisoning — DON’T:

  • Give your child syrup of ipecac or activated charcoal. In 2003, the American Academy of Pediatrics stopped recommending that parents stock syrup of ipecac in the home, and while activated charcoal is being researched as a possible substitute, it’s not currently recommended.

Head Injuries — DO:

  • Apply an ice pack wrapped in a cloth to the bump.
  • Call your doctor if your child won’t stop crying, complains of neck or head pain, if she lost consciousness even for a few seconds, if her behavior seems “off,” if she can’t keep her balance, or if she is an infant — babies can’t tell you if they’re in pain or don’t feel well.
  • Go to the ER if she vomits, has a seizure, is unusually hyperactive or sleepy, or if her pupils are unevenly dilated or don’t seem to react to light.

Head Injuries — DON’T:

  • Move your child if she’s unconscious or can’t get up. If she has a spine injury, moving her can worsen it.

Near Drowning — DO:

  • Check for breathing, taking no longer than 10 seconds. If you don’t feel or hear normal breathing — not gasps or sporadic breaths — start CPR immediately.

Near Drowning — DON’T:

  • Worry about removing water from the airway — it won’t obstruct the effectiveness of the CPR.

Meagan Francis, the mother of four sons, lives in Williamston, Michigan.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, June 2006.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

  • By Meagan Francis

American Baby

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