Topical Antisepsis

What is Topical Antiseptic?

Topical antiseptics are antimicrobial substances used topically, such as on the skin, mucous membranes and wounds, to reduce the risk of infection. These topical agents contain active ingredients, such as alcohol, chlorine, iodine, silver, surfactants or quaternary ammonium compounds, that kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms.

Topical antiseptics are generally applied in the form of creams, ointments, solutions, sprays, gels, and other preparations. These can be purchased over the counter or prescribed by a healthcare professional. Commonly used antiseptics include hydrogen peroxide, iodine, and alcohol.

Uses of Topical Antiseptics

Antiseptics are widely used to help prevent infection and promote wound healing - they act by killing or inhibiting the growth of microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses on the skin and mucous membranes. Examples of common uses for antiseptics include:

  • Surgical wound care
  • Abrasions
  • Burns
  • Lacerations
  • Cuts
  • Infected scrapes
  • Ulcers
  • Scalp infections
  • Infected piercings
  • Infected tattoos

Advantages of Topical Antiseptics

Topical antiseptics can help reduce the risk of wound infection, promote faster healing, and reduce pain caused by cuts and scrapes. In addition, most topical antiseptics are easy to use and can be kept on hand for first aid when needed. Finally, many topical antiseptics have moisturizing properties, which can keep the skin around a wound from drying out.


Topical antiseptics should not be used on deep, open wounds, severe burns, or on skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. It is also important to read the instructions carefully before use and follow the directions. Finally, topical antiseptics should never be ingested.