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Topical Corticosteroids for Skin Conditions

Written by
Dr. Suvash Sahu
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Dec 28, 2017 and last reviewed on Jan 03, 2020   -  2 min read


Topical corticosteroids are the cornerstone therapy for many inflammatory skin conditions. So, the judicious use of topical steroids is necessary. This article discusses the potency, uses, systemic and topical side effects of topical corticosteroids.

Topical Corticosteroids for Skin Conditions

What Are Corticosteroids?

Corticosteroids are naturally-occurring or synthetic compounds with cyclopentanoperhydrophenanthrene ring. The major naturally occurring corticosteroid is cortisol, which is synthesized by the adrenal cortex. The synthetic corticosteroids are of different types and are used to treat various problematic skin conditions.

How Do They Act?

Once applied to the skin, they are absorbed into the skin surface and thereby reduce the swelling, suppress immunity, and constrict the blood vessels of the skin.

Potency of Corticosteroids

Depending on the severity of the inflammation, following corticosteroids of different potencies can be used.

  1. Mild: Hydrocortisone 0.1 to 1 %.
  2. Moderate: Fluocinolone acetonide 0.1 %, Betamethasone valerate.
  3. Potent: Betamethasone dipropionate 0.05 %, Beclomethasone 0.025 %, Betamethasone 17 valerate 0.1 %.
  4. Very potent: Beclomethasone dipropionate 0.5 %, Clobetasol 0.5 %.


Topical corticosteroids are primarily used in the treatment of:

Topical corticosteroids are not recommended for use if there is a skin infection, acne, ulcers and open wounds. Abstain from using potent and very potent topical corticosteroids like Clobetasol, Halobetasol, and Betamethasone in children, on the face and neck, in body folds, for prolonged periods or over a large area.

Some Important Points to Remember When Using Them

Side Effects of Corticosteroids

Side effects are more commonly seen in the area of application. They may also be seen systemically (in the body).

Topical side effects:

  1. Itching, burning or stinging sensation.
  2. Stretch marks (striae).
  3. Thinning of skin (atrophy) and dryness.
  4. Localised increased hair thickness and length (hypertrichosis).

Systemic side effects:

  1. Growth failure in children.
  2. Osteoporosis.
  3. Avascular necrosis.
  4. Atherosclerosis.
  5. Suppression of hypothalamic-pituitary axis.
  6. Cushing's syndrome.
  7. Hypertension.
  8. Hyperglycemia.
  9. Peptic ulceration.
  10. Glaucoma and cataracts.

For more information consult a skin disorders specialist online -->


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Last reviewed at:
03 Jan 2020  -  2 min read



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