Should I Use Neosporin on a Cut? (2023)

Neosporin can help keep a cut from getting infected, but it should not be used on every type of open wound. A minor cut, burn, or scrape might be fine to treat with antibiotic ointment, but it is not a treatment for deeper wounds.

This article explains what Neosporin is, the types of wounds you can treat with Neosporin, the side effects of Neosporin, and when to see a healthcare provider instead of treating a cut at home.

How to Tell If a Cut Is Infected

When to Use Neosporin

Neosporin is an over-the-counter (OTC) triple-antibiotic ointment. It contains three antibacterial agents: neomycin, bacitracin, and polymyxin. Triple-antibiotic ointments are commonly used to prevent infection and encourage healing.

Using a triple-antibiotic ointment may help minor cuts and scrapes heal quickly and with less pain. However, the ointments are not necessary for every kind of wound. You can often get the same results by bandaging the cut, keeping it moist, and changing the dressing often.

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Neosporin vs. Petroleum Jelly

An antibiotic ointment like Neosporin is basically petroleum jelly with antibiotics added to it.

In the 1990s, researchers compared antibiotic ointment to petroleum jelly to see which treatment was best for wound healing. The study found that there was no statistical difference between using petroleum jelly with an antibiotic and using the jelly without an antibiotic.

Most people with healthy immune systems can heal from a minor cut, burn, or scrape without using an ointment like Neosporin.

However, if you have a medical condition that increases your risk for infections or affects your body's ability to heal (such as diabetes) ask your healthcare provider about how you should treat wounds.

How to Take Care of a Wound Step-by-Step

Neosporin Side Effects and Considerations

Neosporin can have side effects, and there are some important things you should know before you use it.

Some people develop an allergic reaction to Neosporin that causes redness, itching, and burning of their skin (contact dermatitis). They might think the skin reaction is a sign of infection and put on more Neosporin, which actually makes the inflammation worse rather than better.

The neomycin in the ointment is most often the cause of the allergic reaction. If a person has a reaction, a double-antibiotic ointment like Polymycin (which only has bacitracin and polymyxin in it) can be used instead.

Another major concern about Neosporin is that using the product too much or for too long may lead to the antibiotics not working as well or not working at all (antibiotic resistance).

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria are no longer effectively "wiped out" by the antibiotics that are usually used to treat them. This can happen after they have been exposed to the antibiotic many times.

For example, astudy published in Emerging Infectious Diseases suggested that OTC topical antibiotics have contributed to the rise of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections.

The occasional use of Neosporin is unlikely to cause any harm, but you don't want to (or need to) use the ointment for every cut, bite, or scrape.

(Video) Neosporin to treat minor cut.

Can Neosporin Be Used on Large or Deep Wounds?

You should never use Neosporin on large areas of skin. If you get a large or deep cut or burn, it needs to be treated by healthcare provider or at an urgent care facility.

Can You Treat a Laceration at Home?

How to Dress a Wound

Treating a minor cut or scratch is mostly about keeping it clean—but the only thing you really need for this is water.

Should I Use Neosporin on a Cut? (1)

Here are step-by-step instructions for caring for a wound at home:

  • First, rinse the wound with water to make sure all dirt and particles are removed. These substances can be sources of germs that lead to infection.
  • Soap can help if the wound is grimy. Make sure that any grit or dirt is completely rinsed away. Do not use alcohol, iodine, peroxide, or anything harsh. These products can damage the tissues and delay healing.
  • After cleansing, decide whether to apply a thin layer of Neosporin or just a little petroleum jelly to keep the skin moist.
  • Next, dress the wound with anadhesive bandage or a sterile dressing.
  • Change the dressing every day. You'll need to change it more often if the bandage gets dirty or wet.
  • Once the wound has healed and there is no more exposed tissue, remove the bandage.
  • Do not pick the scab, just let it fall off on its own.

Basic First Aid for a Finger Cut

Summary

Neosporin is a triple antibiotic ointment that's available without a prescription at most pharmacies and grocery stores.

Neosporin ointment can help treat minor cuts, abrasions, and burns, and may help speed healing and ease the pain. However, proper wound care can do the same thing without the need for a topical antibiotic, which comes with side effects and risks.

Neosporin is generally safe but is not always necessary. It's also not appropriate to use on large areas of injury or deep cuts or burns. These wounds need to be treated by a healthcare provider.

When to See a Healthcare Provider for an Infected Cut

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is Neosporin good for treating burns?

    Neosporin may help treat a minor burn, but it should never be used on a large area of skin, especially if you have a chronic skin condition. Serious burns or deep cuts should be treated by a healthcare provider.

  • Can you put Neosporin on a deep cut?

    (Video) Dr. Sugai Explains: Common Wound Care Mistakes Part 1 #shorts

    Neosporin should only be used for minor skin wounds. If a large area of skin is injured or the wound is deep, it needs to be treated by a healthcare provider. You may need to be seen at an urgent care clinic or emergency room.

  • Does Neosporin draw out infection?

    The best way to prevent a wound infection is to make sure that you clean the wound of any debris, like dirt. Neosporin (and even just petroleum jelly) can help keep the skin moist and promote healing. The antibiotic part of Neosporin can also help prevent infection.

  • What ointment is usually recommend for minor cuts?

    According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, petroleum jelly is usually the best ointment for minor cuts.

    Apply it continuously to keep the wound moist until it heals. It also helps to use petroleum jelly from a tube instead of a jar to limit the spread of germs.

  • What is bacitracin?

    Bacitracin is one of three antibacterial agents in Neosporin. The other two are neomycin and polymyxin.

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14 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Heal CF, Banks JL, Lepper PD, Kontopantelis E, van Driel ML. Topical antibiotics for preventing surgical site infection in wounds healing by primary intention.Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016;11(11):CD011426. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011426.pub2

  2. Jones RN, Li Q, Kohut B, Biedenbach DJ, Bell J, Turnidge JD. Contemporary antimicrobial activity of triple antibiotic ointment: a multiphased study of recent clinical isolates in the United States and Australia. Diagn Microbiol Infect Dis. 2006;54(1):63-71. doi:10.1016/j.diagmicrobio.2005.08.009

  3. Tong QJ, Hammer KD, Johnson EM, Zegarra M, Goto M, Lo TS. A systematic review and meta-analysis on the use of prophylactic topical antibiotics for the prevention of uncomplicated wound infections.Infect Drug Resist. 2018;11:417–425. doi:10.2147/IDR.S151293

  4. Smack DP, Harrington AC, Dunn C, et al. Infection and allergy incidence in ambulatory surgery patients using white petrolatum vs bacitracin ointment. A randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 1996;276(12):972-7. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540120050033

  5. Shahbazian JH, Hartzell TL, Pandey AK, Azari KK. Allergic dermatitis due to topical antibiotics.West J Emerg Med. 2012;13(4):380–382. doi:10.5811/westjem.2011.9.6851

  6. Moore NA, Czyz CN, Carter TD, Foster JA, Cahill KV. Neomycin, polymyxin B, and dexamethasone allergic reactions following periocular surgery.J Ophthalmic Inflamm Infect. 2017;7(1):15. doi:10.1186/s12348-017-0133-4

  7. Chokshi A, Sifri Z, Cennimo D, Horng H. Global contributors to antibiotic resistance [published correction appears in J Glob Infect Dis. 2019 Jul-Sep;11(3):131].J Glob Infect Dis. 2019;11(1):36–42. doi:10.4103/jgid.jgid_110_18

  8. Suzuki M, Yamada K, Nagao M, et al. Antimicrobial ointments and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus USA300.Emerg Infect Dis. 2011;17(10):1917–1920. doi:10.3201/eid1710.101365

  9. Williamson DA, Carter GP, Howden BP. Current and emerging topical antibacterials and antiseptics: Agents, action, and resistance patterns.Clin Microbiol Rev. 2017;30(3):827–860. doi:10.1128/CMR.00112-16

  10. Drexler M; Institute of Medicine (US). What you need to know about infectious disease. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US).

  11. Negut I, Grumezescu V, Grumezescu AM. Treatment strategies for infected wounds.Molecules. 2018;23(9):2392.doi:10.3390/molecules23092392

  12. Sood A, Granick MS, Tomaselli NL. Wound dressings and comparative effectiveness data.Adv Wound Care (New Rochelle). 2014;3(8):511–529. doi:10.1089/wound.2012.0401

  13. Dhivya S, Padma VV, Santhini E. Wound dressings - a review.Biomedicine (Taipei). 2015;5(4):22. doi:10.7603/s40681-015-0022-9

  14. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to treat minor cuts.

    (Video) Stop Using Triple Antibiotic Ointment | Wound Care | Voyage Direct Primary Care

(Video) What should you not use Neosporin for

Should I Use Neosporin on a Cut? (2)

By Rod Brouhard, EMT-P
Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.

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FAQs

Is Neosporin enough for a cut? ›

Neosporin ointment can help treat minor cuts, abrasions, and burns, and may help speed healing and ease the pain. However, proper wound care can do the same thing without the need for a topical antibiotic, which comes with side effects and risks. Neosporin is generally safe but is not always necessary.

Should you cover a cut with Neosporin? ›

Caring for Everyday Injuries. Wounds actually require moisture to heal properly, so using a topical antibiotic ointment and keeping them covered is the way to go.

How many days do you put Neosporin on a cut? ›

Do not use this product for longer than 1 week unless directed by your doctor.

How often should you put Neosporin on a wound? ›

Repeat wound care once a day until wound is completely healed with no open or draining areas. 7. If you choose to use an antibiotic ointment such as Bacitracin or Polysporin, we advise switching to Vaseline or Aquaphor after the first 2 weeks.

Can you put too much Neosporin on a wound? ›

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.

When should Neosporin not be used? ›

Do not apply the ointment over large skin areas. Do not use on a deep cut, an animal bite, or a serious burn. Contact your doctor for instructions on how to treat these more severe skin injuries. This medication can be applied up to 3 times each day, or as directed on the medicine label.

Is Vaseline or Neosporin better for cuts? ›

Alternatives. Petroleum jelly products, such as Vaseline, can be good alternatives to bacitracin or Neosporin. The jelly keeps wounds from drying out, which can prevent or ease itching and other unpleasant symptoms.

Do cuts heal faster covered or uncovered? ›

A handful of studies have found that when wounds are kept moist and covered, blood vessels regenerate faster and the number of cells that cause inflammation drop more rapidly than they do in wounds allowed to air out. It is best to keep a wound moist and covered for at least five days.

Do cuts heal better covered or uncovered? ›

Once you stop the bleeding and clean the wound, you should apply a clean bandage. Here's why: Air dries out the wound and promotes cell death, not healing. Covering the wound maintains the natural moisture that helps keep cells alive.

Will Neosporin help cuts heal faster? ›

Antibiotic ointments (such as Neosporin) help wounds heal by keeping out infection and by keeping the wound clean and moist.

What happens if you use Neosporin too long? ›

Rarely, use of this medication for prolonged or repeated periods may result in a fungal infection or a different bacterial skin infection. Contact your doctor if you notice any new unusual skin symptoms (such as scaling, swelling, hot skin) while using this medication. A different medication may need to be used.

What should I put on a cut? ›

Remove any dirt or debris with a tweezers cleaned with alcohol. See a doctor if you can't remove all debris. Apply an antibiotic or petroleum jelly. Apply a thin layer of an antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly to keep the surface moist and help prevent scarring.

What is the fastest way to heal an open wound? ›

Strategies to Speed Up Wound Healing Process
  1. Apply Antibacterial Ointment on Wounds. ...
  2. Application of Aloe Vera Gel. ...
  3. Application of Honey on Wound. ...
  4. Turmeric Paste Application on Wound. ...
  5. Garlic Has Positive Effect on Wound Healing. ...
  6. Apply Coconut Oil to Speed Up Healing.
13 May 2022

What is a natural alternative to Neosporin? ›

1. Aloe vera. Perhaps you've used aloe vera in the past for a sunburn, yet the gel-like substance from the leaves of this subtropical plant may be used for other skin problems, too.

Does Neosporin slow healing? ›

The commonly used ointment Neosporin may disrupt skin's regenerative microbiome, delaying healing. The patchwork of new skin that closes an animal's open sore might seem like the product of the immune system working alone, but researchers found that bacteria are crucial players in skin regeneration.

Can bacteria grow in Neosporin? ›

The antibiotic in Bacitracin stops bacterial growth, while the antibiotics in Neosporin stop bacterial growth and also kill existing bacteria. Neosporin can also fight against a wider range of bacteria than Bacitracin can.
...
What they do.
Active ingredientsBacitracinNeosporin
bacitracinXX
neomycinX
polymixin bX

What is the best ointment for open wounds? ›

Studies show that petroleum jelly is just as effective as an antibiotic ointment for non-infected wounds. Don't douse a minor wound with antiseptics like iodine or hydrogen peroxide.

What is better than Neosporin for cuts? ›

OTC alternatives to bacitracin and Neosporin

Vaseline, also known as petroleum jelly or white petrolatum, can often be used as an alternative to bacitracin or Neosporin. Vaseline can help keep the wound from drying out, help keep the wound clean, and is generally well-tolerated.

Why do dermatologists use Vaseline instead of Neosporin? ›

Again, studies have shown that gentle daily soap/water cleansing + Vaseline is MORE effective against wound infections compared to a topical antibiotic such as Neosporin or bacitracin. Patients treated with Neosporin and bacitracin actually had a higher rate of allergic contact dermatitis that inhibited wound healing.

What is better than Neosporin? ›

Mupirocin is usually more effective than OTC antibiotic ointments because it's better at killing bacteria that typically cause skin infections.

Should you sleep with a bandaid on? ›

Keep your wound covered with clean gauze or an adhesive bandage during waking hours. You can leave it uncovered while you sleep if it isn't oozing or painful. Don't soak your wound for long periods when bathing.

Is peroxide good for cuts? ›

"Hydrogen peroxide is actually detrimental to wound healing," says Dr. Yaakovian. "It prevents healing rather than promoting it." That's because its reactive power isn't specific to germs.

Do cuts heal faster dry or moist? ›

If the wound environment is dry, the cells will have to find moisture deep in the wound bed so that they can migrate. This slows down the healing process. In fact, studies show that moist wounds heal 50 % faster than dry wounds.

What can I use instead of bandaids? ›

You can try:
  • Skin barrier film. This is a spray or wipe that forms a protective layer between your skin and the bandage. ...
  • Hypoallergenic tape. This includes cloth surgical tape or paper tape. ...
  • Gauze. Cut a piece of gauze and place it over your wound, then use an elastic tubular band to hold the gauze in place.
21 May 2020

How long should you leave a bandaid on a cut? ›

Leave the bandage in place and dry for 24 hours. When removing the bandage after 24 hours, and it feels like the bandage is sticking to your wound, pour water onto the bandage to get it wet and gently and slowly remove the bandage. If you rip the bandage off while it is stuck it can start bleeding.

When should you stop covering a wound? ›

Leaving a wound uncovered helps it stay dry and helps it heal. If the wound isn't in an area that will get dirty or be rubbed by clothing, you don't have to cover it.

What makes deep cuts heal faster? ›

Wounds heal faster if they are kept warm. Try to be quick when changing dressings. Exposing a wound to the open air can drop its temperature and may slow healing for a few hours. Don't use antiseptic creams, washes or sprays on a chronic wound.

› Health Resources ›

Wound Care Myths · Myth #1: Hydrogen peroxide is best for cleaning out a wound. Truth: It is recommended to use either both soap and water or a wound was...
Small cuts and scrapes can be left uncovered, but moisture is usually needed to help speed up the healing process. Apply petroleum jelly (Vaseline) and cover wi...
You've had an injury, and it's been treated. Now what? How you follow up with care is just as important as the initial treatment. Taking a few minutes e...

What antibiotic cream is best for cuts? ›

Polysporin, Neosporin, and bacitracin are all OTC antibiotic ointments that you can use to help treat or prevent infection for minor cuts or scrapes.

Does Neosporin speed up wound healing? ›

The commonly used ointment Neosporin may disrupt skin's regenerative microbiome, delaying healing. The patchwork of new skin that closes an animal's open sore might seem like the product of the immune system working alone, but researchers found that bacteria are crucial players in skin regeneration.

What is the best antiseptic for open wounds? ›

For more than a century, iodine has been regarded as one of the most efficacious antiseptic to reduce infectious complications and topical iodine forms have been used for wound treatment.

What is better than Neosporin for cuts? ›

OTC alternatives to bacitracin and Neosporin

Vaseline, also known as petroleum jelly or white petrolatum, can often be used as an alternative to bacitracin or Neosporin. Vaseline can help keep the wound from drying out, help keep the wound clean, and is generally well-tolerated.

What should I put on a cut? ›

Remove any dirt or debris with a tweezers cleaned with alcohol. See a doctor if you can't remove all debris. Apply an antibiotic or petroleum jelly. Apply a thin layer of an antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly to keep the surface moist and help prevent scarring.

Do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered? ›

A handful of studies have found that when wounds are kept moist and covered, blood vessels regenerate faster and the number of cells that cause inflammation drop more rapidly than they do in wounds allowed to air out. It is best to keep a wound moist and covered for at least five days.

Should you put hydrogen peroxide on a cut? ›

"Hydrogen peroxide is actually detrimental to wound healing," says Dr. Yaakovian. "It prevents healing rather than promoting it." That's because its reactive power isn't specific to germs.

What's better for a wound Vaseline or Neosporin? ›

Studies show that petroleum jelly is just as effective as an antibiotic ointment for non-infected wounds. Don't douse a minor wound with antiseptics like iodine or hydrogen peroxide. They're actually harmful to the skin and can delay healing.

Which ointment is best for wound healing? ›

Wound Care Step 5: Use Ointment

Gently rub a thin layer of antibiotic ointment like Neosporin or Polysporin over the cut. It won't help you heal faster, but it will keep an infection away. It also lets your skin stay moist.

What helps heal open wounds faster? ›

Methods for making a wound heal faster
  • Antibacterial ointment. A person can treat a wound with several over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial ointments, which can help prevent infections. ...
  • Aloe vera. Aloe vera is a plant belonging to the cactus family. ...
  • Honey. ...
  • Turmeric paste. ...
  • Garlic. ...
  • Coconut oil.
26 Nov 2020

What should you not put on an open wound? ›

5 Things You Should Never Put on a Wound
  1. HYDROGEN PEROXIDE. The use of hydrogen peroxide on wounds seems logical at first: the bubbling action removes debris from the wound that could potentially lead to an infection. ...
  2. RUBBING ALCOHOL. ...
  3. BETADINE. ...
  4. ICE. ...
  5. BUTTER.
22 Sept 2020

What do hospitals use to clean open wounds? ›

Antiseptic solutions, such as chlorhexidine, povidone-iodine, and hydrogen peroxide, are sometimes used to clean infected or newly contaminated wounds.

What do doctors put on open wounds? ›

Treat the wound with antibiotics: After cleaning the wound, apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment to prevent infection. Close and dress the wound: Closing clean wounds helps promote faster healing. Waterproof bandages and gauze work well for minor wounds. Deep open wounds may require stitches or staples.

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