Both brands, especially Neosporin, are synonymous with treating cuts, scrapes and wounds. They pride themselves on being the ultimate healers for a litany of skin concerns and providing a protective seal on your skin.
However, there are some surprising differences between these two products and some limitations that you should know before making your next purchase.
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Aquaphor vs Neosporin Healing Ointment
If you’ve ever suffered from anything involving dry, cracked skin, rashes, minor burns, scrapes or cuts, you know that you want to find immediate relief and protection for your skin. That's where a healing ointment comes in.
Aquaphor Healing Ointment is an emollient and occlusive meaning it soothes and softens your skin while encasing it in a protective layer to prevent water loss. It’s top two ingredients are petroleum (41%) and mineral oil.
Petroleum is the ultimate skin barrier protector. A 2006 study shows that it not only acted as an antimicrobial, keeping infections at bay, but helped speed up the skin’s healing process. Mineral oil gets a bad rep, but it’s been used in cosmetics for over 100 years. It’s another great hydrator that locks in the skin’s moisture and is known for being gentle on skin.
Neosporin Antibiotic Ointment is a topical antibiotic which means it’s a medicated ointment, unlike Aquaphor’s. It’s three active ingredients are bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin B—you may be familiar with their triple-antibiotic marketing.
Over the past 10 years, both bacitracin and neomycin have been put on the hot seat by dermatologists. Bacitracin and neomycin were named “Allergen of the Year” by the American Contact Dermatitis Society in 2003 and 2010, respectively. Common reactions include irritation, inflammation, itchiness and scaliness. Dr. Tremaine shares “the more Neosporin you use, the worse the skin reaction gets.”
Several studies have pitted Neosporin Antibiotic Ointment against Aquaphor Healing Ointment and the results completely shocked us! Aquaphor was found to reduce redness and swelling, increase the rate of new skin generation, and improve the general wound appearance compared to Neosporin. It also helped reduce water loss from the skin significantly more than Neosporin over a four-day period.
Some researchers also worry that overuse of Neosporin and other topical antibiotics is increasing antibiotic resistance. A 2011 study looked at a link between topical antibiotics and MRSA’s resistance to the key ingredients in Neosporin. They urge consumers to be more discriminatory when deciding to use a topical antibiotic and are looking to further research on the link. In other words, don’t immediately grab Neosporin every time you have a cut or a scratch, Aquaphor can handle that.
You’ll also notice that Aquaphor’s Healing Ointment is much thicker and robust than Neosporin’s Antibiotic Ointment. I don’t know about you, but every time I try to put Neosporin on a cut, I find it slides right off and I have to try to trap it to my skin with a Band-Aid. You won’t experience that with Aquaphor. In fact, Beyonce shares that Aquaphor is her go-to nighttime balm since it stays on and provides moisture all night long.
While we’re on the topic of celebs, Beyonce isn’t the only one earmarking Aquaphor as her favorite go-to. Other famous faces from Nicole Kidman to Lucy Liu say that they use it for everything from eczema, dry, cracked hands and feet, their babies’ diaper rash and even a highlighter substitute!
Zendaya shares on YouTube that Aquaphor is her “magic step” to getting the effortless glow, texture, and sheen you see on the red carpet. Just dab it on your cheek bones and brow bones before walking out the door or hopping on your next Zoom call. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, if Zendaya endorses Aquaphor’s Healing Ointment, we do too!
In all seriousness, Aquaphor will be the way to go for 99% of you reading this right now with any skin concerns demanding short-to-medium term relief.
Healing Ointment by Aquaphor
Our rating: ★★★★★
Uniquely formulated to restore smooth, healthy skin.
What makes it special? Aquaphor’s genius comes from keeping it simple. Their formula is packed with 41% petroleum—a skin healer and protectant that’s been used in skincare since the 1800’s. It’s fragrance-free and safe for even sensitive skin types. Aquaphor’s Healing Ointment is the #1 Dermatologist recommended brand for dry, cracked skin and has the Good Housekeeping Seal of approval.
Antibiotic Ointment by Neosporin
Our rating: ★★★★★
Provides long-lasting infection protection.
What makes it special? Neosporin combines three of the most common antibiotics—bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin B— in a medicated, over-the-counter salve. It aims to kill bacteria in, scrapes and cuts, and promote new skin cell generation. Neosporin’s Antibiotic Ointment also contains Cocoa Butter, Cottonseed Oil, Olive Oil, Sodium Pyruvate, Vitamin E and Petrolatum. These ingredients combine to give Neosporin additional hydrating and moisture-locking properties, as well as antioxidants and fatty acids to nourish and heal your skin. Please note that 10% of people are allergic to the active ingredients in Neosporin, please do a patch test and cease use if you experience a reaction.
This article was originally published on March 11th 2022, but it has been reviewed and updated with the latest available information on February 1st 2024 by Sara Mckay, MA.
Calum Torrington is the founder of FemmeNordic. He has worked as a beauty editor since 2020 and employs his analytical background in mathematics to thoroughly scrutinize complex INCI lists. Now, he helps over 1 million people per year to find the best beauty products.