Woman talking(l+r), Neosporin(c)

The Image Party/Shutterstock @shereeneidriss/Tiktok (Licensed)

‘It’s not the holy grail’: Expert warns against Neosporin for cuts and wounds. She reveals what to use instead

‘I feel so vindicated right now.’


Tangie Mitchell


Scrape a toe? Cut your finger while cooking? Your instinct may be to grab that handy tube of Neosporin in your bathroom cabinet to soothe the pain and avoid infection. However, a dermatologist has gone viral for preaching otherwise.

In a TikTok with over 1.6 million views, Dr. Shereene Idriss (@shereeneidriss) sends a PSA from her local CVS Pharmacy about the potential risks of Neosporin and offers a hopeful alternative. 

“Neosporin, AKA neomycin, which is an antibiotic, is not the holy grail for cuts, wounds, and pimples,” says Dr. Idriss as she scans the ointment aisle.

Dr. Idriss goes on to say that Neosporin users have a “higher incidence of getting an allergic reaction or irritation or even developing a new allergic reaction,” especially with “overuse.”

She instead recommends the “much better” CVS Health Bacitracin Ointment, calling the product “pure,” “simpler,” and “a much better bang for your buck, especially if you have a cut or wound on your face.” 

“Bacitracin does help with staph,” the dermatologist notes. “[It is] less likely to cause any sort of irritation or allergic reaction.”

Is bacitracin really better?

While Dr. Idriss is clear about which ointment has her “seal of approval” for minor cuts, wounds, and burns, evidence suggests that both products have their pros and cons. According to Healthline, while Bacitracin is named after its only active ingredient, Neosporin has three: neomycin, bacitracin, and polymyxin b. Neomycin, as Dr. Idriss mentioned, is linked to a higher risk of an allergic reaction. It can also potentially cause skin irritation and redness for some of its users.

On the other hand, while both ointments stop bacterial growth, Neosporin can also kill existing bacteria. Additionally, Neosporin fights against a wider range of bacteria than Bacitracin can. 

Apart from the bacitracin vs. Neosporin debate, some dermatologists warn against the use of any kind of antibiotic ointment. Bloomberg reports that the active ingredients in topical ointments can all cause allergic reactions, with neomycin and bacitracin both having been named Allergen of the Year by the American Contact Dermatitis Society. 

Further, a 2021 study found that Neosporin could actually make wounds heal more slowly, as the product could also kill healthy bacteria that aid in the healing process. 

Instead of topical antibiotics for wounds, many dermatologists suggest using Vaseline. As PM Pediatric Care reports, the inactive ingredient in all antibiotic ointments is petroleum. By taking away the antibiotics that run the risk of allergic reactions and/or dermatitis and instead simply keeping the healing properties of petroleum (including keeping a wound moist, a key proponent for healing), consumers may set themselves up for a more effective healing process.

@shereeneidriss Why I don’t like Neosporin and what to use instead #skincaretips #skintips #woundcare #neosporin #drugstore #skinhacks #dermatologist #shereeneidriss #dridriss @ShereeneIdriss ♬ original sound – ShereeneIdriss

Despite the possible risks, viewers of Dr. Idriss’ video swear by their respective ointment of choice in the comments.

“I grew up with Neosporin, never had a problem. After having major surgery last year, my doctor recommended Bacitracin for my allergic reaction to medical glue and it’s all I’ll use now. Great stuff,” one viewer wrote. 

“As someone who is allergic to Neosporin and spent my clumsy childhood fending off well-meaning school nurses, I feel so vindicated right now,” another viewer expressed.

“I’m going to keep using Neosporin,” chimed in another viewer, adding, “it works for me.”

“Doctor told me to only use Vaseline,” yet another wrote.

“I got contact dermatitis and several blisters on my hand from using Neosporin on cuts,” a fifth person shared.

The Daily Dot has reached out to Dr. Shereene Idriss and Neosporin via email for more information. 

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