If you’ve been following Potency No. 710 for any amount of time, you know that we are not fans of mass-marketed chemical-filled products that line the shelves of nearly every department at the store. One product you are likely very familiar with that contains ingredients that fall within this category is none other than Neosporin.
Neosporin is known to many people as a triple antibiotic ointment. The product website says, “NEOSPORIN® is the number-one doctor-recommended brand of topical antibiotic in the US. As with other topical antibiotics, it’s typically used to treat skin infections and protect wounds from potential infection. NEOSPORIN® products treat minor wounds such as scrapes, cuts, and light burns. Products are also available to help minimize the appearance of scars, soothe pain, and heal chapped lips.”
Let’s explore this widely embraced topical antibiotic ointment and what its ingredients are, as well as some safer, natural alternatives!
Triple Antibiotic Awareness
Neosporin is known to many people as a triple antibiotic ointment. This product is known as a “triple” antibiotic ointment because it contains not one but three different topical antibiotic ingredients. These are Bacitracin, Neomycin, and Plymyxin.
- Bacitracin: This antibiotic is active primarily against gram-positive bacteria.
- Neomycin: This antibiotic is active primarily against gram-negative bacteria.
- Polymyxin B: This antibiotic is active against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.
A lot of us have grown up hearing the slogans of Neosporin, slogans like:
- “Kill The Germs, Fight The Pain”
- “When Life Comes With Cuts, We Come Prepared.”
- “Every Cut, Every Time.”
- “It’s A Dangerous World!”
It’s a Dangerous World Indeed
That last slogan, “It’s a dangerous world!” really speaks volumes. Neosporin is owned by Johnson & Johnson. Johnson and Johnson have shelled out a lot of money in fines over the years. Here are a few, and if you are curious to see a better snapshot of their violations since 2000, check out the violation tracker here.
- $2.2 billion: Criminal and Civil Liability Violations Related to the Prescription Drugs Risperdal, Invega, and Natrecor
- $4.69 billion: Settlement to those representing 22 women and their families who alleged that talc sold by the company contained asbestos and caused them to develop cancer.
- $8.9 billion: Settlement to tens of thousands of individuals alleging that talc in its iconic Baby Powder and other products caused cancer.
- $3,333,169,800: Drug/ Medical Equipment Safety Violations
- $556,555,368: False Claims Act Violations
- $9.75 million: Surgeon Kickbacks
A dangerous world indeed, especially if you stop to look at all the products that fall under the J&J umbrella. If that isn’t dangerous enough to think about, here are the common side effects of the three antibiotics within this widely utilized ointment.
- Bacitracin – Kidney Toxicity, Nausea, Vomiting, Itching, Sweating, Skin Rashes, Blood Dyscrasias
- Neomycin – Skin irritation, burning, rashes, redness, itching, difficulty hearing and decreased urination
- Polymyxin- Difficulty swallowing, dizziness, cough, fast heartbeat, hives, itching, skin rashes, tightness in the chest, unusual weakness and/or fatigue, and swelling of the face, eyes, lips and/or tongue
Going Inside the Tube
As we have learned, Neosporin has three antibiotic ingredients which also happen to be the only active ingredients in the product. According to My Health Alberta, “Active ingredients are substances in a product that have an effect on the body. They can affect one part of the body (such as the skin) or the entire body.”
- Bacitracin: 400 units
- Neomycin: 3.5 mg
- Polymyxin B: 5,000 units
It also includes six inactive ingredients. Banner Health says, “Inactive ingredients, also known as excipients, are components of medication that don’t have an effect on the body. They are used in the manufacturing process and/or are present in the final medication product.”
- Cocoa Butter
- Cottonseed Oil
- Olive Oil
- Sodium Pyruvate
- Vitamin E
- White Petrolatum
A Different POV About Those Active Ingredients
Aside from having a long list of side effects, the active ingredients in Neosporin may not be active in the way that you want them to be. The American Contact Dermatitis Society (ACDS) declared Neomycin “The Contact Allergen of the Year for 2010.”
According to Florida Skin Wellness, “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.”
Research published by the NCBI says Neomycin causes more than contact dermatitis. The study says, “Contact sensitivity to neomycin was found to be present with the other diagnoses, such as atopic dermatitis, seborrhoeic dermatitis, hypostasic dermatitis, and psoriasis vulgaris.”
It seems an ingredient like neomycin may do more harm than good. Now, let’s look at some of those inactive ingredients.
Inactive My A$$
Let’s talk about those inactive ingredients for a moment. Statista states, “In 2019, Neosporin Plus was the second leading first aid ointment brand in the United States, with sales of approximately $100.3 million.” It seems like these ingredients are pretty active at cultivating cash.
Inactive ingredients are described as “components of medication that don’t have an effect on the body.” A quick look at one of the inactive ingredients in Neosporin, white petrolatum, shows this inactive ingredient being quite active. According to Harvard Health, “A Harvard study published in Science Translational Medicine, inactive ingredients in medications have the potential to cause adverse reactions.”
White petrolatum can cause adverse health problems like redness of the skin and itching. If ingested, it can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and a burning sensation in the mouth or throat. Inhaling can lead to the irritation of mucous membranes, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. In some cases, a person may experience an allergic reaction to White petrolatum. The symptoms of an allergic reaction to white petrolatum are rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, and trouble breathing.
A Natural Alternative
Did you know that Cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to be a powerful antibiotic? CBD isn’t the only phytocannabinoid from cannabis that has been shown to offer anti-microbial benefits either. Cannabigerol, the precursor to all phytocannabinoids, including CBD and THC, has also been shown to offer potent antibacterial properties.
This 2023 research study states that “Cannabidiol–’s antimicrobial activity also stands out—specifically, its activity against a wide range of Gram-positive bacteria, including a variety of drug-resistant strains such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), multidrug-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae, Enterococcus faecalis, and the anaerobic bacteria.”
In 2021, researchers published a study that also found that while CBD isn’t as potent at killing a wide range of gram-negative bacteria, it was powerful against 4 types of these bacteria, all with a high prevalence of drug resistance and that come with life-threatening prognoses. These include the gram-negative bacteria that cause gonorrhea, meningitis, bronchitis, and legionnaires’ disease.
Additionally, a study from 2022 found that CBD may also be potent against another gram-negative bacteria known as Salmonella Typhimurium, which attacks the intestines and stomach. These breakthroughs in recent years are significant, seeing how a new class of antibiotics hasn’t been introduced to fight Gram-negative bacteria since the early 1960s.
Aside from cannabinoids, there are many natural ingredients that can be utilized with potent antibiotic, antimicrobial, antibacterial, and other beneficial properties for cases in which people would turn to a triple antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin.
Everything isn’t always the way it seems. A lot of people have success with Neosporin. Then there are those who don’t. It’s essential to understand what ingredients are in products that you’ll be applying to your skin. Many people aren’t aware of the potential danger of using a product like Neosporin that contains ingredients like Neomycin and white petrolatum. Be mindful of what you put on and in your body. Nature provides if you just know where to look!