Medicine
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How Effective Is Mupirocin for Acne?

Erik J.J. Goserud
Erik J.J. Goserud

The effectiveness of mupirocin for acne is largely dependent upon the individual, the cause of the acne, and the specifics of the prescription. This variation results in a disparity of results, meaning the success for one person does not necessarily translate into success for a different individual. For this reason, it is difficult to generalize the effectiveness of mupirocin.

Acne is a common skin disease characterized by a number of aesthetically compromising physical effects, including scaly skin, redness, and the presence of infected pustules. The cause of acne involves genetic susceptibility, hormonal changes, and personal hygiene, which may contribute to the existence of acne-causing bacteria. Some people are born with acne-prone skin, whereas others may seldom experience a breakout. Hormonal changes brought on by the onset of puberty contribute to acne forming, and because bacteria is the culprit for this skin disease, poor hygiene may also be at fault in some sufferers.

Mupirocin is effective in treating acne-causing bacteria.
Mupirocin is effective in treating acne-causing bacteria.

Mupirocin is a commonly used antibiotic for the treatment of many bacteria-driven issues. This antibiotic is marketed most commonly as Bactroban® and is typically applied topically for the treatment of infections. It is composed as a medley of pseudonomic acids, effectively targeting bacteria through a mechanism that utilizes the prevention of RNA synthesis. RNA is a critical component of transferring genetic material, and its inhibition prevents bacterial replication, in turn eliminating the potential for spreading the infection.

Antibiotic cream is often used in conjunction with medicated facial wash to reduce breakouts.
Antibiotic cream is often used in conjunction with medicated facial wash to reduce breakouts.

Although using mupirocin for acne and other conditions is sometimes very useful, its use is also accompanied with potentially adverse effects. Skin irritation and allergic reactions are both possible, but the most dangerous reaction typical of mupirocin use is bacteria resistance. Similar to the process of natural selection, bacteria treated with antibiotics over time can evolve in a manner that leaves resistant species. These resistant species may not be affected by antibiotics, leaving them able to spread beyond control.

Mupirocin is typically applied topically, in a thin layer on the affected area.
Mupirocin is typically applied topically, in a thin layer on the affected area.

A great deal of variation exists for the effectiveness of mupirocin for treating acne among those who have used it. The majority experience success, as this antibiotic is very good at killing acne-causing bacteria. This success is most often short-lived, however, due to the immediate onset of resistant strains. Additionally, the expenses related to mupirocin make it difficult to afford for more chronic use. The potential risks and benefits should be assessed by each person with the help of a healthcare professional.

Acne is a condition that plagues 9.4% of the world’s population. It’s painful and difficult to deal with but thankfully, there are several medications for it such as Mupirocin. 

How long should you use it? What are the side effects? Is it okay for pregnant women? These are all valid questions to which this guide provides the answers.

How Long Can You Use Mupirocin?

You shouldn’t use Mupirocin for more than ten days at a time. You should start to see your acne clearing up throughout these ten days. Your acne may seem slightly clearer than before you started it, or you may see a more drastic difference. 

You can only get Mupirocin with a prescription from a doctor. They’ll direct you on how to use the ointment and how long you need to use it. 

Infected pustules are common with acne.
Infected pustules are common with acne.

Everyone reacts to medicine differently, but most doctors instruct their patients to use Mupirocin three times a day for ten days. When using it, you’ll only need to apply a thin layer at a time. This is the general rule for everyone over three months old.

What Are the Side Effects of Mupirocin?

While the most common side effects of taking Mupirocin include skin irritation or slight burning, there are other, more severe side effects that you need to be aware of before beginning the medication for acne.

Mupirocin is a topical acne treatment, but the side effects can be internal too. One of the most severe yet rare side effects of taking this medication is an intestinal condition caused by the bacteria C. difficile. 

Drinking plenty of water can help keep the skin hydrated and reduce the occurrence of acne.
Drinking plenty of water can help keep the skin hydrated and reduce the occurrence of acne.

Since the ointment has antibacterial properties, it may eliminate the bacteria which naturally control the population of C. difficile. This bacterium can infect the large intestine and cause intestinal conditions, so you may experience cramping, diarrhea, stomach pain, and/or blood in your stool.

If you experience any of those symptoms, you need to speak with your doctor as soon as possible. You shouldn’t try to treat these symptoms with antidiarrheals or any opioid products because they often make the symptoms worse.

You should immediately talk to your doctor whether you experience any intestinal symptoms, burning, itching, or something else. They’ll be able to assess the situation and decide whether Mupirocin is still an appropriate treatment for your acne.

What Are Some Mupirocin Alternatives

Whether you’ve tried Mupirocin for acne or are simply interested in what other alternatives there are that are similar, you’re in luck. A few topical ointments are commonly used as alternatives to Mupirocin. The four most common alternatives to Mupirocin include: 

  • Duac
  • Acanya
  • Benyzamycin
  • BenzaClin

Each one of these alternatives has benzoyl peroxide in them. This ingredient is used to help treat acne by helping inhibit bacterial growth. 

What Else Does Mupirocin Treat?

While Mupirocin is a known acne treatment, it’s more commonly used to treat Impetigo. Impetigo is a highly contagious skin infection that mainly affects children and infants. It’s characterized by crusty yellow growths around the mouth or other parts of the body that spread quickly.

Other conditions that Mupirocin can help treat are mild skin inflammation, inflamed hair follicles, boils, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in one’s nose.

Can Pregnant Women Use Mupirocin?

Fortunately, no recent evidence suggests it’s unsafe for pregnant women to use for their acne.

Physicians deem it safe for women to use while they’re breastfeeding. Since it’s a topical treatment, less than 1% is absorbed, and it won’t cause issues for the breastfeeding infant.

Are Mupirocin and Neosporin the Same?

Mupirocin and Neosporin have similarities, but they’re not the same. Neosporin is an over-the-counter topical treatment, while Mupirocin requires a prescription from a doctor. 

Other differences between the two include that Neosporin is used to treat mild infections or prevent them, while Mupriocin is designed to help with more severe bacterial infections. Unlike Mupirocin, Neosporin doesn’t kill the most common acne-causing bacteria. So, while you can put it on your face, it’s not going to help with acne.

Neosporin can help with open wounds like minor cuts and blisters, but Mupirocin isn’t something you should use on burns or any open wounds and is intended for acne and other skin infections. 

Can You Use Mupirocin With Acne Face Wash?

Since you’ll be applying the ointment to your face, most people wonder whether they can continue to wash their face how they typically would while using Mupirocin for acne. You can still use your acne face wash with Mupirocin. Only apply Mupirocin after rinsing and drying off the face wash. Do not get the ointment on your eyes, mouth, vagina, or any open wounds.

There haven’t been any reports of any interactions, but that doesn’t mean that interactions don’t exist. If you notice any additional skin irritation or other symptoms, immediately stop using your face wash and Mupirocin together and contact your doctor.

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Discussion Comments

anon993422

I tried mupirocin and it works great. Not only is my face all cleared up, I have not had any new ones for three weeks now.

anon310776

I began using Bactroban Topical Ointment 2 percent USP, as prescribed by my doctor. I had been picking at a blemish and it had spread almost to the entire right side of my face. I looked awful. I never had acne as a teenager, and always mild as an adult.

I'm 24 now, and my acne seems to be acting up like never before all of a sudden. But I digress. After picking at my face, it became very infected and painful. Within 72 hours after using Bactroban twice a day the scabs had healed, and no new acne has formed. I will, however, continue to use it sparingly. I would hate to build up a tolerance, being that it has worked so well for me.

I guess the trick is to use only as needed, sparingly.

Mykol

I have used mupirocin for acne, but get the best results when it is combined with an oral antibiotic.

I don't understand why acne can be so stubborn to treat. Not only do you have to worry about building up resistance, but it is also easy to get a yeast infection if you take an oral antibiotic on a long term basis.

I don't know which is worse - fighting with the acne or the side effects of the medication.

I like the way the mupirocin helps keep my face clear, but I do notice it seems really dry when I use it every day.

That is probably one of the reasons it works because it keeps my skin from being so oily. In the winter it can be hard because my face gets too dry.

It is hard to find a balance between keeping your skin oil free to avoid the acne, without being too dry and flaky.

golf07

@sunshined - My experience with antibiotics, whether oral or topical, has been building up resistance to them. That may be the biggest reason you have not had the long term results you were hoping for with mupirocin.

I was not able to take mupirocin for very long. I found it made my face even more red than it was. Having an itchy, red face when you already have acne did not help my situation any.

This is the first antibiotic cream that I had a reaction like this to. I wasn't even able to use it long enough to see if it would clear up my acne, as these symptoms appeared within a couple of days.

As soon as I stopped applying it to my face, the symptoms went away, but the acne was still there. I had to go with another antibiotic to clear up the acne.

sunshined

I know what it is like to struggle with acne and have used many different kinds of topical and oral medications trying to keep my acne under control.

Even though acne is most common for teenagers, I still struggle with it as an adult.

If I can get the results I want using a topical cream, I would rather do that than use an oral antibiotic. That is the biggest reason I have asked for mupirocin more than once.

The times I have used mupirocin I have noticed good results in a short amount of time. The most frustrating thing is that it doesn't seem like the results last very long.

I have not had any allergic reactions to using the cream, but wish the results would last longer than they do.

candyquilt

@alisha-- That's such a great point! I didn't know all this and used Bactroban for like three months. I was amazed with how quickly it worked. My pimples that had been around for weeks went away in six days with Bactroban. After my face cleared up, I continued using it to prevent new pimples from forming. I would apply a small amount over my problem areas every couple of days.

At the end of the three months, one day I woke up with four new pimples. I applied Bactroban again but it did nothing! The pimples kept getting worse and worse. I had to go to my dermatologist who scolded me for using it too much.

I think Bactroban should only be used rarely for acne and that too if it's like cystic. Even though it helps so much in the beginning, it stops working eventually. It's a temporary treatment, not a solution. I found out the hard way.

ysmina

I've tried mupirocin for acne as well but it didn't work for me because I was allergic to it. That's what I think anyway, because after I applied it on my skin, it started to itch really bad and my skin turned red.

I washed my face right away and phoned my doctor who told me not to use it. He had prescribed it for me because my acne was getting worse and worse and I did not want to use oral antibiotics.

It's too bad, I don't really know if mupirocin would have worked for my acne or not. I never had a chance to find out because of the allergic reaction.

discographer

I've used mupirocin as a spot treatment for my acne in the past. It has worked well for me but I didn't use it continuously. My doctor warned me about antibiotic resistance this article mentioned about. He said that it's okay to use the cream several times a month but that I shouldn't overdo it.

I do want to use it more often than that because it really has been effective for me. I apply it on the pimple at night and by morning it's pretty much dried up and the redness and swelling has gone down.

But if I use it too often, I feel like I would be hurting other people's health as well by building resistance to the antibiotic. My doctor said that mupirocin is also used for serious infections like staph infection. So if bacteria build resistance to the antibiotic because of people with acne overusing it, those with more serious infections will suffer too.

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    • Mupirocin is effective in treating acne-causing bacteria.
      By: FirstBlood
      Mupirocin is effective in treating acne-causing bacteria.
    • Antibiotic cream is often used in conjunction with medicated facial wash to reduce breakouts.
      By: ipag
      Antibiotic cream is often used in conjunction with medicated facial wash to reduce breakouts.
    • Mupirocin is typically applied topically, in a thin layer on the affected area.
      By: Budimir Jevtic
      Mupirocin is typically applied topically, in a thin layer on the affected area.
    • Infected pustules are common with acne.
      By: Ocskay Bence
      Infected pustules are common with acne.
    • Drinking plenty of water can help keep the skin hydrated and reduce the occurrence of acne.
      By: vgstudio
      Drinking plenty of water can help keep the skin hydrated and reduce the occurrence of acne.