September is Skin Care Awareness Month. This month reminds us to learn about more effective ways to care for our skin and its needs. This doesn’t just mean that I want to give product recommendations, but advice, common-sense tips, as well as informative how-to’s and tutorials.
This month we have a Four Part Series of Skin Care Myths We All Need to Know.
Myth #1: If you have a cut or a scrape, you should put Neosporin® on it. False.
Ask your dermatologist about what to do after a minor cut, scrape or burn and you will learn that Neosporin® isn’t man’s best friend. Topical triple antibiotics include the chemicals neomycin and bacitracin; both chemicals are highly allergenic–so allergenic in fact that both chemicals have received the glorious Allergen of the Year award from the American Contact Dermatitis Society. Neomycin and bacitracin are so allergenic that anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, is not uncommon. Neomycin and bacitracin are also included in immunizations as the preservative system and in severely allergic people, they can also cause severe reactions.
As a practicing dermatologist, one thing I always want to avoid is that midnight phone call saying, “my wound looks infected.” The vast majority of the time, the wound is not infected, but is having a severe weeping, crusting allergic reaction that looks like a severe infection to the untrained eye.
Well, what about the risk of infection? Don’t I need a topical antibiotic any time I scrape my skin?
The scientifically proven answer is NO! Countless studies have compared the rates of wound infection and the rates of wound healing in non-antibiotic ointments versus topical antibiotics. The non-antibiotic ointments win out every time; wounds heal faster or just as fast. They don’t have an allergic reaction, and they look great.
What is a safe alternative to topical neomycin and bacitracin?
I recommend an alternative to topical antibiotics to protect the skin after minor cuts, scrapes, burns and after 99% of my in-office surgeries. I use a skin barrier optimizing ointment that I created through years of trial and error with my own patients. The best way to use a wound healing ointment is to apply it frequently enough so the wound NEVER dries out. I always say “No scab equals no scar.” By keeping the skin at the perfect level of moisture with a skin barrier optimizing ointment, the skin doesn’t scab and seldom scars. It also heals faster, is less likely to turn dark after it heals, and it is less likely to get infected. The flip side of the coin is to avoid too much moisture and occlusion of wounds as this can also encourage infection. It is really a perfect dance of not too wet and not too dry. By applying a skin protective non-antibiotic ointment to the skin after a cut, scrape or burn, you can count on having minimal, if any, scarring.
When is it a good idea to use a topical antibiotic?
I do recommend topical antibiotic use when a wound clearly looks infected, it it’s a dirty wound–and then, only for a few days to avoid the likelihood of developing allergy–or if it is in an area that is prone to infection (the feet or around the groin area). For all other scenarios, a perfect skin barrier optimizing ointment is the ticket to beautifully healed skin.
How can I avoid dark pigmentation in darker skin types after a cut, scrape or burn?
One more tip for darker skin types to avoid dark pigmentation after a cut, scrape or burn is by using a skin protective ointment as directed above is numero uno in importance. As an added benefit, I use the molecule 18-B glycyrrhetinic acid in my wound healing ointment. This molecule isolated from licorice root has numerous skin-friendly features including natural anti-inflammatory qualities, anti-redness qualities, and most importantly of all, it also helps to brighten the skin at the same time. This being said, if a wound is a month or older and is healed up but looks dark, you will get much less improvement with pigmentation with any product in the world than you would if you prevented the hyperpigmentation in the first place by taking care of your cuts and scrapes with a skin protective ointment that contains 18-B glycyrrhetinic acid.
Results from using TrueLipids Double Action Boo Boo & Bum Balm, a product that is the alternative to topical antibiotics to protect the skin after minor cuts, scrapes, burns.