How to Apply Topical Corticosteroids

Topical corticosteroids are used for localized or generalized skin conditions. The effects depend on the type of skin you have and the medication you use.
How to Apply Topical Corticosteroids

Last update: 04 May, 2022

Be cautious if you use topical corticosteroids for some skin conditions. There are two common situations. One is the fear of using these drugs, and the other is the possible reactions that can occur by abusing them.

The fear of using corticosteroids comes from thinking that even if applied topically, they could have similar side effects to systematic corticosteroids.

Some of the side effects from systematic corticosteroids are swelling, weight gain, and the risk of developing osteoporosis. However, you should know that if you abuse topical corticosteroids, they can cause similar effects. In fact, this is especially true if they’re very powerful or if you have to use them on larger areas.

On the other hand, the tachyphylaxis that you can experience comes from abusing corticosteroids. This happens because when you apply it, it helps, and you feel good. Because of this, you repeat and repeat it, even though there are consequences.

Side effects of applying topical corticosteroids

The side effects from using topical corticosteroids are mainly on the skin because of how you apply it. For example, the most common side effect is atrophy on the outer layer of the skin. However, some less common side effects are stretch marks, excessive hair growth or acne.

If you’re using topical corticosteroids and don’t see an improvement, go to the doctor right away. He will check your injury and might change your treatment.

A man applying topical corticosteroids.

What factors affect the absorption of topical corticosteroids?

When using topical corticosteroids, keep in mind that their effect and active ingredient depend on a few different factors. For example, some of those are:

Skin permeability

Regarding how it absorbs into your skin, there are a few factors that affect his:

  • Age. The skin is more permeable in kids and the elderly. In fact, the more permeable it is, the greater the effects.
  • Location of the condition. Different areas will have different effects. The most permeable areas are the mucous membranes.
  • Type of condition and condition of the skin. When there are skin lesions, it’s easier to absorb the drug. However, for chronic lesions, the skin thickens. Then, it’s harder to absorb it into your skin.

Type of product

There are different types of products for topical corticosteroids. Among other things, it has to look good, which helps the patient with their treatment.

Solutions and gels usually treat acute dermatitis. However, emulsions and creams are used in subacute lesions. Generally, ointments treat chronic conditions like xerosis.

A person using topical corticosteroids on his arm.

Are all topical corticosteroids the same?

Each medication is made up of a different type of corticosteroid and strength. Your specialist will tell you which treatment is best for you. In addition, they will take into account the strength and possible side effects of each treatment. Choosing a medication includes thinking about the type of patient, the location, and the type of lesion.

Low-power corticosteroids treat facial injuries, and you use them for a maximum of five days. However, if you have to treat an area of the body, they’re usually medium power and you use them for a maximum of ten days.

You should never end a treatment suddenly. If it’s not working, you may have to go from a higher potency to a lower potency. In fact, some doctors recommend alternating with emollient creams to prevent the rebound effect.

Choosing the best one for you

When you have to apply topical corticosteroids, it’s important to choose the best one for you, depending on your treatment. As we explained, an acute pathology isn’t the same as the chronic one, and not all locations are the same.

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