Person applying cream to finger

Hydrocortisone Side Effects + Alternative Treatments


So, you’ve got eczema. It’s just the worst, isn’t it? 

The itch, the scratch, the stress - it’s tough. And even more so when it begins to affect simple tasks in your everyday life. 

So of course you go to the doctor (as any rational person would) and yay! At last they prescribe you hydrocortisone cream. 

You rush home, slather some on, and bingo! Your symptoms clear up in just a few days. 

And whilst we would never directly argue against using steroids (of course they can be a viable solution for many) we thought we’d play devil's advocate for a moment and run through some of the possible side effects you might want to be aware of. 

As when it comes to your skin you want to be informed, right? (Of course you do). 

So in this article, you’ll find: 

1. What is hydrocortisone cream?

2. When should it be used?

3. Tips on how to apply

4. Hydrocortisone side effects

5. Alternative treatment options

6. Final word 

So, what is hydrocortisone cream? 

Hydrocortisone cream is a type of medicine known as a corticosteroid, which is an anti-inflammatory treatment used to address a range of different conditions. 

They’re different from and should not be confused with anabolic steroids. 

The strength of hydrocortisone creams can vary from 0.1% to 2.5% depending on the severity of the symptoms you’re experiencing, however pharmacies in the UK will only ever sell hydrocortisone up to the strength of 1% for safety reasons. 

When should it be used? 

Hydrocortisone cream can be used to treat a number of different symptoms, namely: 

- Swelling of the skin

- Itching

- Redness and inflammation 

And typically for the following conditions: 

- Eczema

- Psoriasis

- Insect bites

- Prickly heat 

Tips on how to apply

When it comes to steroid cream, it’s important you only apply a very light, thin layer of cream to the affected area either 1 or 2 times a day. 

If you have particularly bad eczema on your face, make sure you’re using the lowest strength possible and never continually use it over a long period of time. 

Once the symptoms you’ve been experiencing clear up, it’s important you taper off the medication slowly, never immediately halt use. 

Overall when it comes to the use of steroid creams it’s about being sensible. Only use them in short bursts, on affected areas of your body and compliment them with the use of a more generic moisturiser. 

Hydrocortisone side effects

We know the idea of slathering on steroid cream all over your body can seem tempting, but there are potential serious side effects should you choose to do so. 

If hydrocortisone cream is used incorrectly and abused over long periods, it can lead to what is known as topical steroid withdrawal or red skin syndrome

This is where the skin begins to burn, sting or turn bright red. The symptoms usually occur within days to weeks after stopping the use of steroids and can be extremely hard to cope with for those suffering, both physically and mentally. 

Hydrocortisone side effects can also include a range of the following: 

- Acne

- Unwanted hair growth

- Skin color changes

- Tiny red bumps

- A rash

- Swelling or signs of infection 

As ever, if you are experiencing severe side effects it’s imperative you see a doctor immediately and seek medical advice. 

Alternative treatment options 

We know you came for an upfront and honest opinion on steroid creams, but below are some alternative options you might want to consider the next time you’re in a flare up

1. Yan-Yee Skincare Mugwort Mist

Well, what did you expect?!

Our very own Mugwort Mist has been designed to target and treat itchy, dry, irritated skin. Inspired by Chinese Herbal Medicine, our unique blend contains a mix of 3 traditional herbs used for 1000’s of years to fight back the symptoms of a flare up. 

Effective at stopping the need to itch and soothing dry skin, it’s also steroid, paraben and sulphate free! 

Basically, it’s the bee's knees. 

2. Habit reversal

Now bare with us here. 

Have you ever felt like your scratching might be more habit than anything else? More often than not, it comes to that time of the evening and you subconsciously begin to scratch...but are you actually itchy? 

One of the top tips we can recommend is understanding and implementing a process around habit reversal. 

So in moments when you know you usually scratch (bedtime or when you’re stressed for example) grab a stress toy and squeeze that instead. 

TRUST US, it can make a difference and is totally worth a shot if it helps you reduce scratching by even 5%. 

3. Relax and de-stress

When you’re stressed, your body releases a number of hormones into the bloodstream that can cause inflammation. 

These in turn can then directly affect your skin and worsen eczema symptoms. 

We like to preach meditation and mindfulness as great tools to help with this - jump over to our social pages @yanyeeskincare for a nudge in the right direction. 

4. Avoid your triggers

This one’s a biggy. It’s vital you try to understand what sets off your skin and is causing flare ups. 

We know it’s tough, but things like an elimination diet and patch test can help start you off in the right direction if you’re struggling. 

When you do find the culprits? Avoid them, forever! 

5. Eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of water and get in your 8 hours! 

We know, this is basic stuff. But definitely important enough to reiterate. 

You HAVE to view eczema with a holistic mindset. This isn’t just about some itchy skin and dry patches. If you view it as such, it will be so difficult to ever make real progress. 

This is about your lifestyle - eating healthily and getting enough sleep being so important in that - and changing the way you live to ensure your best placed to fight off flare ups. 

Yes of course products (especially ours) can help, but the moment you take a more complete approach to the treatment of your skin, is the moment you’ll hopefully see more drastic, lasting changes. 

Final word

We did it! Hydrocortisone side effects sliced, diced and served on a platter. 

What did we miss? Feel free to jump over to our Twitter page and share your personal stories :) 

With care, 

The yan-yee team


- Steroids. (2020). Link

- Hydrocortisone for skin. (2020). Link

- Prescription topicals. (n.d.). Link

- Corticosteroids defined. (n.d.). Link

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