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How do I Use Hydrocortisone for Acne?

By Rebecca Harkin
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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One of the most common skin conditions is acne. Hydrocortisone cream, which is available in 0.5, 1.0 and 2.5% concentrations, can be an effective over-the-counter acne and acne scar treatment for many people. Short-term or one time use of hydrocortisone for acne to clear up an unsightly blemish before an important picture or event is typically safe, but if you are using hydrocortisone treatment long-term, a dermatologist should be consulted.

To use hydrocortisone for acne, begin by gently washing the face and the affected area with an emollient soap and warm water and then exfoliate, or gently remove, the superficial dead skin with a mildly abrasive cloth or sponge. Apply a tiny amount of 0.5% cream to the blemish only. Repeat this entire procedure no more than twice a day. In some people, hydrocortisone creams have been known to stimulate acne, so start with the lowest dose cream and watch carefully to see if it reduces the redness and size of the acne or makes it worse. If the acne becomes worse, stop using treatment.

Only over-the-counter hydrocortisone should be used to treat acne, and prescription-strength products prescribed for a purpose other than acne treatment should never be used as an acne treatment without first discussing it with a medical professional. Most prescription-strength creams come in higher doses that are not meant to be applied to the delicate skin of the face. Absorption rates differ, depending on where it is applied on the body. Doses of some prescription-strength hydrocortisone creams are intentionally high to provide adequate absorption at the application site, and when one is applied to the face, it can result in serious damage to the skin.

If short-term hydrocortisone treatments work well for you, you may want to consult a dermatologist to discuss safe ways for you to use this medication for long-term acne treatment or to obtain a prescription strength form. If you suffer from acne scarring and a one-time application of hydrocortisone improves your acne, you may also want to talk with a dermatologist about using it to treat the scars. A dermatologist can offer enhanced creams that contain additional acne fighting ingredients, such as benzoyl peroxide or tretinoin. Dermatologists can also directly inject hydrocortisone into the skin to quickly destroy acne and minimize the scarring associated with it.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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