If you’re living with psoriasis, you’re likely familiar with the itchiness and dryness that can result from the condition. Many products are available to help manage psoriasis symptoms. Among them is hydrocortisone topical cream — available generically or under brand names like Cortizone-10.
Though hydrocortisone topicals are popular for treating itchiness and other psoriasis symptoms, some people aren’t sure how to best use these treatments. Here, we will explore how to use hydrocortisone topicals for psoriasis itch relief, as well as how the treatments work.
As always, consult your health care provider or dermatologist before trying a new treatment for psoriasis — even if it’s available without a prescription.
Topical hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid (steroid) cream, ointment, or lotion that you apply directly to the affected skin. Corticosteroids are a type of medication that work by suppressing inflammation, which is characteristic of autoimmune diseases like psoriasis. Topical steroids, in particular, can help alleviate itchiness and dry skin, as well as other symptoms caused by an overactive immune system, like redness and swelling.
Hydrocortisone is available both over the counter and as a prescription topical treatment. While the strength of hydrocortisone creams can range from 0.1 percent to 2.5 percent, only those with a strength of 1 percent or lower can be purchased over the counter. Stronger topical hydrocortisone treatments require a prescription from a doctor or dermatologist and have a higher concentration of steroid drug within them.
In some cases, your dermatologist might recommend that you receive corticosteroid injections, which are different from topical corticosteroids. Injectable versions of corticosteroids are known to reduce inflammation in certain people with psoriatic disease. Injections can be administered directly into the skin to deliver the steroid to the area of inflammation.
Talk to your dermatology team if you’re interested in exploring whether injections might help your symptoms. If you do pursue corticosteroid shots, confirm with your doctor whether you can use them along with topical steroid creams.
Cortizone-10 is a popular brand-name corticosteroid. It is marketed as a topical treatment for psoriasis and psoriasis-related symptoms, as well as other sources of itching, including eczema and insect bites.
Hydrocortisone products are available in various forms, including creams, lotions, gels, ointments, and liquids. Products containing 1 percent hydrocortisone or less are available over the counter without a prescription. For stronger versions — such as those containing 2 percent or 2.5 percent hydrocortisone — you’ll need a prescription.
Different formulations of hydrocortisone offer specific benefits. Ointments, for instance, are helpful in preventing moisture loss, which may benefit skin conditions like psoriasis that cause scaly, dry patches of skin. Gels and lotions tend to leave less residue on the skin than ointments. Some products also contain additional inactive ingredients, like aloe or lavender.
Some hydrocortisone products are designed to alleviate psoriasis-specific symptoms, like itching, irritation, rashes, and discomfort. These topical lotions may contain additional moisturizers to help hydrate dry, itchy skin. They also often contain no dyes or fragrances that could trigger itchiness. Some are also made without parabens, which are chemicals that serve as artificial preservatives for some cosmetics and body care products.
The National Psoriasis Foundation and NHS provide some tips and things to keep in mind when using topical steroid creams for psoriasis:
It’s important to use corticosteroid products as directed by the product’s packaging and your doctor’s recommendations. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone products are safe to use on the face as well as the body.
Side effects of hydrocortisone and other topical steroids can include irritation, burning, dryness, or rashes. Long-term use can thin the skin. Talk to your dermatology team or another health care professional if you experience side effects or if your symptoms do not improve with over-the-counter hydrocortisone.
As with any new psoriasis treatment, it is best to seek medical advice before trying corticosteroid products for the first time.
Notably, although over-the-counter hydrocortisone isn’t as strong as prescription-strength steroid creams or ointments, it can help relieve mild to moderate symptoms of psoriasis with a lower risk of side effects sometimes associated with prescription treatments. This includes thinning of the skin in particularly delicate areas.
Your dermatologist is your best resource when determining whether to incorporate a new product into your psoriasis skincare routine. They will be able to determine whether hydrocortisone products are right for you and your symptoms and advise you on which treatments will be the most effective in alleviating itching associated with psoriasis.
They can also help you determine whether you should use these topical products alongside your prescribed psoriasis medications and ensure that you don’t face any negative drug interactions.
Are you or a loved one living with psoriasis? Consider joining MyPsoriasisTeam today. Here, you’ll find a dedicated community of individuals looking to help out one another through their journey with psoriasis. You can ask and answer questions, offer support and advice, and connect with more than 111,000 members from around the world who understand life with psoriatic disease.
Have you tried hydrocortisone products like Cortizone-10 to relieve itchiness? What was your experience? Share your thoughts or tips in the comments below or by posting on MyPsoriasisTeam.