Can I Use Peroxide and Alcohol on My Incision?

Caring for your incision

Unless your surgeon tells you to use peroxide or rubbing alcohol--and he or she likely won't recommend either--you should never use anything harsh on the healing skin of a surgical incision. Treating your surgical incision with harsh chemicals, scrubbing, being rough with your incision, or even slathering the healing incision with lotions and creams is a bad idea.

Man bandaging hand on staircase
Zero Creatives / Getty Images 

Think of your incision as the delicate skin on a baby's bottom, like skin that has to be treated as gently as possible, with the most gentle cleansers and lukewarm water. There is no need for hard chemicals, abrasive scrubs or even scented lotions or ointments unless they were prescribed. In fact, some lotions and ointments would increase the risk of infection or irritation, rather than soothing the area.

How to Treat Your Incision With Care

For the first few weeks of the healing process, you should use normal soap (not harsh soaps) and water to clean your incision gently and rinse with plain water. You should not scrub the incision, and you should not use any ointments, alcohol or peroxide to clean the incision unless otherwise instructed by your surgeon/doctor.

There are several reasons for this. Some ointments actually keep the wound moist, which makes a fertile environment for bacteria. Moist is not good for an incision. Clean and dry is your goal as you are healing. Not too clean, as alcohol and peroxide are too drying and irritating to the skin and will slow your healing. 

In addition, there are many ways to close an incision now that do not use sutures. Applications such as Dermabond and Steri-strips may fall off prematurely if exposed to alcohol, peroxide or scrubbing.

In addition to peroxide and alcohol, body lotions and powders should also be avoided in the area of your incision. They can increase the chances of infection and can cause irritation to the incision and surrounding skin. Scented products, in particular, are known to be highly irritating to the healing skin.

In general, treat your incision with gentle loving care, cover it with a bandage if it is draining or if it is rubbed by your clothing, and take a good look at it each day to make sure there are no signs of infection. It doesn't need any extra stuff applied to it unless you are directed to do so by your surgeon.

A Word From Verywell

Your skin may heal best when you do nothing other than keeping it clean and change your dressing as directed by your surgeon. Touching the incision frequently, and cleaning it too frequently, putting things on it other than prescribed medication, and being too aggressive with cleaning are all ways to cause serious skin irritation that will slow healing and increase the potential for scarring and infection.

Was this page helpful?
3 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. Cleveland Clinic. Handling injuries: From small cuts to serious wounds. Updated April 10, 2018.

  2. Fort Healthcare Wound and Edema Center. FAQs.

  3. C.S. Mott Children's Hospital Michigan Medicine. Incision care after surgery. Updated December 13, 2018.

Additional Reading
  • Dry Skin. National Institutes of Health