Acne is a common skin problem that affects over 80% of the world population. Unless genetics or various kinds of diseases are to blame, acne occurs when the body produces too much sebum – the skin’s oil. This leads to the excess oil and environmental dust clogging pores and creating a favorable environment for P.acnes – the acne-causing bacteria that is naturally present on the skin, yet breeds exceptionally well in an anaerobic environment – to breed due to the skin not being able to get enough oxygen.

As you may have heard, antibiotics are considered a beneficial acne-treatment method, primarily due to their bacteriostatic effects. However, antibiotics generally carry a lot of side effects and their effectiveness varies greatly from case to case. This is why an antibiotic treatment may prove to be effective for some, and completely useless for others.

Today, we will explore Mupirocin and Neosporin, understand how they work and should you consider them for acne at all.

What is Mupirocin and How Does it Work?

2% Mupirocin, available under the brand name Bactropan, is an antibiotic ointment used to treat bacterial skin infections. The product works by inhibiting RNA protein synthesis, which plays a major role in transporting genetic material and skin cells, nullifying the potential of the infection to spread.

In the vast majority of cases, Mupirocin is highly effective against many, both positive and negative types of bacteria, but it doesn’t work against bacteria that are a part of the normal skin flora. Since P.acnes are naturally a part of the skin’s flora, they aren’t affected by Mupirocin.

However, depending on the individual case, various circumstances and the specifics of the prescription, Mupirocin can sometimes be somewhat effective in reducing breakouts and eliminating the underlying infection that is causing acne.

Side Effects and Risks of Mupirocin

Like all other antibiotics, Mupirocin carries a lot of side effects, even when used topically. The most common side effects include skin irritation, redness, itchiness and allergic reactions. Using antibiotics for a long time also causes you to become vulnerable to fungal infections, which should be countered by using anti-fungal medication during the whole treatment period.

In terms of acne-causing bacteria though, the biggest risk associated with Mupirocin is bacteria resistance. Similar to natural selection, bacteria treated with antibiotics, especially with small doses, can develop resistant species. These will no longer be affected by antibiotics, allowing the infection to spread even faster than before.

Results of Mupirocin Treatment

The results of treatment via Bactropan vary greatly from case to case, and there is no sure way to tell whether it will be helpful for you. In the majority of cases, the treatment is somewhat successful, but the success is often short-lived, due to the rapid development of resistant strains. If you’re considering using Mupirocin for acne, make absolutely sure to consult a qualified professional who will help you assess the potential risks and benefits of the treatment for your case.

What is Neosporin and How Does it Work?

Neosporin is a popular, topical, triple antibiotic ointment. The active ingredients in Neosporin are bacitracin (effective against Gram-positive bacteria), neomycin (good against infections), polymixin-B (effective against Gram-negative bacteria) and Zinc. It is specifically designed to prevent infections in minor cuts, scrapes, and burns, and also accelerate cell regeneration and prevent scarring.

Although it is an antibiotic and helps eliminate various types of bacteria by clogging pores, it doesn’t attack the particular strains of bacteria that cause acne. The beneficial effect of Neosporin as a spot treatment for acne occurs due to the product moisturizing and soothing the pimple, making it look better.

The small, anti-acne aspect of Neosporin is connected with Zinc, which, when used as a supplement (or even topically) has the ability to positively impact acne breakouts and calm the skin. Also, since a freshly popped pimple is somewhat similar to a cut, quick and light applications of Neosporin can help improve the skin’s appearance, reduce the chances of scarring, as well as protect the lesion from various bacteria. However, it is important to mention that Neosporin will be absolutely helpless against cystic acne, to a point where it may actually worsen your condition.

Side Effects and Risks of Neosporin

While Neosporin can be used to treat newly popped pimples to a somewhat beneficial extent, there are a number of issues connected with this.

Clogging Pores

Neosporin’s base is petroleum jelly, which blocks oxygen. While the layer that Neosporin creates has the ability to protect a wound from infections, the blockade also clogs skin pores, which creates a favorable environment for acne-causing bacteria to breed. Also, as many studies have found out, Neosporin doesn’t reach the base of the skin, where bacteria resides, and can’t eliminate it. So using Neosporin as a spot treatment does more harm than good.

Damaging Your Skin

When used for extended periods of time (more than a week) Neosporin will start to break your skin’s essential elements, responsible for resisting various types of bacteria and infections. Even if Neosporin proves to be effective as a spot treatment, prolonged use is highly inadvisable since the destruction of essential elements will bring acne back, along with a bunch of other skin conditions.

Antibiotic Resistance

Similar to Mupirocin, Neosporin, especially when used in small doses for an extensive period of time, can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains, which will cause you even more problems than before.

What Antibiotics Should I Use Then?

In contrast to Mupirocin and Neosporin, there are a number of antibiotics that can deal with acne pretty effectively. Doxycycline and Erythromycin are two of the most popular choices that can be used to treat moderate to severe breakouts. There are also options like Accutane for dealing with extremely severe cases, but those should only be used as a last resort and under the constant oversight of a qualified professional.

Doxycycline for Acne

Doxycycline is an oral antibiotic that comes in the form of tabs or capsules. When taken properly, it can successfully target and eliminate acne-causing bacteria and soothe inflammation. The treatment course is almost always accompanied by benzoyl peroxide and topical retinoids – derivatives of Vitamin A. While a number of studies have proven that bacteria are less likely to develop resistance to oral antibiotics compared to topical ones, it is still recommended to use Doxycycline for a short period of time to avoid complications.

Doxycycline is only available through prescription. The antibiotic is very powerful and it’s important to follow the directions of your doctor precisely to avoid trouble. A few notes here:

  • Doxycycline can make you more sensitive to the sun. Make sure to apply oil-free sunscreen when you go outside.
  • Avoid dairy products since those can diminish the effectiveness of the drug.
  • Different people have different chemistry, which is important for the treatment. Make sure to follow the directions of your physician carefully, even if your friends claim that their course was different yet helped them get rid of their acne.
  • Allergic reactions are rare but they can happen. Symptoms include hives, difficulty breathing and swelling of lips, face, tongue or throat. In such cases, contact your doctor immediately.

Erythromycin for Acne

Robimycin, aka oral erythromycin, is used to treat moderate to severe inflammatory acne that doesn’t get better with other treatments. While it isn’t the most powerful choice, it can be safely taken by pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under 10, since the chemicals aren’t as aggressive as in other products in the same category.

Erythromycin works by eliminating acne-causing bacteria and shouldn’t be used for extensive periods of time. It is only available through prescription and is often combined with other, usually topical, acne-combating products to increase the efficiency and make it long lasting. Similar to other antibiotics, it’s essential for you to follow the directions of your physician precisely and never miss a dose. Antibiotics work best when there is a steady supply in the body. Possible side effects include nausea, diarrhea, upset stomach, and vomiting, but nothing too serious.


It’s important to realize that when you take antibiotics, you have to go through the whole course as prescribed. As the medication starts doing its job and the skin begins to clear up, many people get relieved and abort the course too soon. This can lead to acne coming back and also help bacteria develop resistant strains, which will make it a lot harder to deal with blemishes in the future.