Steroids for dermatitis

Steroids for dermatitis

Topical steroids are usually grouped into the following potency categories:


  • Class 1: hydrocortisone 1%
  • Class 2: clobetasone 0.05%; flumetasone 0.02%; hydrocortisone butyrate 0.1%; triamcinolone acetonide 0.1%
  • Class 3: betamethasone dipropionate 0.05%; betamethasone valerate 0.1%; desoximetasone 0.25%; diflucortolone 0.1%; fluticasone 0.05%; mometasone furoate 0.1%
  • Class 4: betamethasone dipropionate 0.05% in propylene glycol; clobetasol 0.05%

Click here for an overview of all corticosteroids and classes.

Based on these classes, the systemic effects due to suppression of the HPA axis can be predicted:


  • Class 1  - Virtually never 
  • Class 2 - Unlikely except in babies 
  • Class 3 & 4 - If used on extensive areas in large quantities over a long period especially in patients under 5 years of age. In general it is best not to use class 3 or 4 preparations in children.

Local effects such as thinning of the skin, striae, and telangiectasia are more likely to occur with the higher classes. To avoid both the systemic and local effects it is best to follow the following rules:


  1. Start with the lowest potency as possible.
  2. Avoid all except low and occasionally low medium to face.
  3. Prescribe the corticoid cream for a short period of time. (Use high and very high only for one week at a time.)
  4. Tachyphylaxis (saturation of the corticoid receptors): apply the corticosteroid for max. 5 days and treat with an indifferent cream for 2-4 days. Otherwise the steroid can be changed within the same potency group every week.
  5. Polythene occlusion: helpful in adults but rarely used in children.

For further information see: steroids for dermatitis


HPA suppression from long-term use of topical hydrocortisone in a 34 year old male with psorasis on his elbows is: 


The site of action for topical steroids is in the: 


The use of bandages (occlusion) in the treatment of atopic dermatitis helps to: 


What is not true in the management of dermatitis?