If you have skin that likes to act a little contrary, then you’re not alone. Here at Sönd, we have non conformist, acne prone skin, so we know exactly what it’s like. Having acne prone skin or other skin conditions such as eczema may mean that you’re constantly on the lookout for skin care products that not only soothe your skin, but support the unique needs of your skin, too.
It may also mean that you’re familiar with hydrocortisone products, too. Hydrocortisone is an ingredient added to some skin care creams and ointments designed to help certain skin conditions.
But there’s some common confusion surrounding the use of hydrocortisone, especially on the face. Can you use hydrocortisone on the face? If so, how long can you use it for? Can it make some skin conditions worse? Or is it beneficial?
Ever the fact finders, here’s the truth about hydrocortisone, and everything you need to know about using it.
What is hydrocortisone?
Hydrocortisone is a type of steroid called a corticosteroid. These are different from the kind of steroids we might associate with bodybuilders and gym goers. These types of ‘bulking’ steroids are called anabolic steroids, meaning that they build up muscle.
Corticosteroids on the other hand are a type of anti-inflammatory steroid. They mimic the action of certain hormones that are produced by the adrenal glands in the body that help to reduce inflammation and swelling. Corticosteroids are often also just known simply as steroids.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on a type of corticosteroid called hydrocortisone, that is a topical steroid. That is, it comes in gels, creams, lotions and ointments that are applied directly to the skin to help treat certain skin conditions.
Corticosteroids are also available in tablet form, as injections and as inhalers, to treat a wide range of different conditions such as inflammatory bowel conditions, painful joints and asthma.
What is hydrocortisone skin cream used for?
Hydrocortisone skin creams, lotions, gels and ointments are used to help reduce the swelling associated with inflammatory skin conditions. They also help to reduce itching and irritation.
These sorts of creams can be prescribed to help manage various skin conditions including acne, psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis. They can also be used to treat insect bites and stings and in some circumstances, under the guide of a doctor, to help manage severe nappy rash.
Can hydrocortisone be used on the face?
Mild hydrocortisone creams of 1% strength can be bought over the counter at pharmacies, whilst stronger ones, up to 2.5% strength can be prescribed by a doctor. However, pharmacists cannot sell hydrocortisone creams, however mild, for use on the face. This is because the skin on the face is much thinner than elsewhere on the body.
Using hydrocortisone creams on the delicate skin of the face will mean that more of the steroid ingredient will be absorbed, which could lead to side effects. Aside from that, long term use of topical steroids like hydrocortisone can cause damage to the skin on the face.
That said, sometimes, hydrocortisone creams are prescribed by doctors for use on the face. But this can only be done under the supervision of a doctor, in certain circumstances (usually when other treatments have failed to work) and only for short periods of time such as seven to 14 days.
In these cases, doctors will usually advise that they’re used once a day, sometimes twice, with a gap of at least eight to 12 hours between applications.
What side effects can topical hydrocortisone cause?
You should never use hydrocortisone creams (or any type of steroid cream) on your face unless you’ve been told to do so by a doctor.
Topical hydrocortisone should never be used around the eye area - a doctor will neve suggest that they’re used anywhere near the eyes. They should also never be applied to broken, bleeding, weeping or infected skin or on anyone under the age of ten years old.
There are times when hydrocortisone creams can make certain skin conditions such as acne, worse. They can also cause other skin conditions such as rosacea and impetigo worse. If you’ve been instructed by a doctor to use hydrocortisone on your face and you feel like your skin condition is getting worse, speak to your doctor as soon as you can.
Other side effects of using topical hydrocortisone include a thinning of the skin that bruises more easily and the possibility of skin infections.
In each case, your doctor will advise how and when to use your hydrocortisone cream and for how long. It’s important to follow this advice and to not follow what someone else with the same cream may be doing.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, trying to become pregnant or have a skin or eye infection, you should tell your doctor before using topical hydrocortisones.
Other ways of caring for your skin
If your doctor has prescribed hydrocortisone cream for your facial skin, then the chances are, you’ve tried everything to help manage your skin condition.
But if you’re considering hydrocortisone creams then you might benefit from a more holistic approach to managing your skin. In fact, even if you are using hydrocortisone creams on your face, all skin can benefit from a whole body approach.
Eating well, avoiding stress and sleeping well are all part of our recommended holistic way of managing our skin. Plus, our alkalising skin care range has been specifically developed by us (and tested on our contrary skin!) to support the needs of non conformist skin.
Topical hydrocortisones are usually a last line of treatment for managing facial eczema and psoriasis. Try the Sönd alkalising skin care range and see the difference it can make to your skin.