Neosporin for Cut Treatment

Can you put Neosporin on an open wound?

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.

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.

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 as post-procedure wound care treatments. The study found that using petroleum jelly with an antibiotic and using the jelly without an antibiotic were similarly effective for preventing infection after a procedure.

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.

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, a study 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.

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.

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.

How to dress a wound

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

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 an adhesive 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.


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.

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?

    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.

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.
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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.