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Topical Use of Antibiotics

Robert G. Carney, MD
JAMA. 1963;186(7):646-648. doi:10.1001/jama.1963.63710070010010.
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THE GREATLY INCREASING USE of antibiotics on the skin, both in prescription drugs and in over-the-counter items, particularly cosmetics, has aroused some concern for a number of reasons. The potential hazards from the topical application of antibiotics include the following: (1) percutaneous absorption in sufficient quantities to produce systemic toxicity; (2) interference with the normal bacterial flora of the skin; (3) production of antibiotic-resistant strains of pathogens; and (4) contact sensitization.

Antibiotics in Cosmetics  Since axillary odor is produced by the action of bacteria on apocrine sweat, many antibacterial agents, including antibiotics, are employed in underarm deodorants as well as in other cosmetic preparations in which an antibacterial effect is presumed to be beneficial. Neomycin sulfate, which has proved to be an excellent deodorant substance, is included in many commercial deodorant preparations today. The reasons for inclusion of antibiotics in other types of cosmetics may be less tenable.Fear


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