Hydrocortisone – steroids are a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
I get it, I do. There’s nothing more frustrating than an itch that you can’t scratch.
You see; I come from a place where I have had to treat my own painful, inflammatory skin conditions and the irritation that comes with it, which reduced my skin’s ability to heal.
The inflammation and scratching, they make it so easy to reach for that tube of hydrocortisone cream. But I want to let you into a little beauty secret; it’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
One of my biggest frustrations is when my clients tell me they’ve been recommended the long-term use of cortisone.
I know the personal care marketplace is completely and utterly overwhelming, and that you’re relying on a prescription from your doctor to help you find the right solution for your skin.
So, I’m here to show you the facts, in a bid to help you to move forward with confidence if you have been prescribed hydrocortisone cream.
What are steroids?
Steroids are hormones that decrease inflammation; they act on the body’s immune cells.
There are numerous topical steroids or cortisone’s available, and these medications are divided into four groups based on their potency and chemical structure.
- betamethasone 0.1% and 0.05% are very potent
- betamethasone 0.025% moderate
- hydrocortisone 1% mild
Cortisone, ointments, and gels are medicines, and like all medications, they are associated with potential side effects – especially if they are used long-term. So, there are genuine cortisone dangers you need to be aware of.
What are the potential side effects?
Topical steroid addiction. This is a big problem and well documented. If you repeatedly use topical steroids over a prolonged period of time, your body can become addicted to them. This can cause painful and debilitating symptoms and can make your skin conditions even worse.
The following article is a fascinating insight, into one women’s journey using topical steroids over a prolonged period of time, and how she finally conquered her addiction.
Perioral Dermatitis: Some hydrocortisone creams create a rash around the mouth, referred to as perioral dermatitis. This condition presents itself as tiny blisters, commonly found around the nose and mouth, but can extend up to the chin, and once you have this skin condition, it can be complicated to treat.
Steroid atrophy: This is where topically-applied cortisone medicines, even low-potency ones, will eventually thin out the skin. It is possible to reverse the damage done in the short term, but thinning can become permanent if used over a long period of time.
I have seen first-hand what steroid atrophy can do to the skin, including “broken capillaries,” skin weakness, and fine lines. Long-term use on the body can lead to bruising, tearing of the skin, and stretch marks.
Inflammatory skin conditions: Using hydrocortisone cream over prolonged periods of time can aggravate certain skin conditions; particularly dermatitis, pustular psoriasis, steroid acne, and steroid rosacea. The risk of these side effects depends on the strength and specific steroid, the length of application, the site treated, whether it is occluded, and the nature of the skin problem.
Eye Damage: Topical steroids can cause irreversible damage to the visual field. The blinking motion can cause the steroid to travel up the face towards the eye, where it can cause thinning of the cornea, leading to a risk of glaucoma.
What happens when we scratch our skin?
This study has shed light, on what actually happens to our body when we want to scratch an itch. A specialised group of cells, known as “inhibitory spinal interneurons”, which exist in the spine act as a gateway between our skin and our brain. These inhibitory cells work by either allowing the itchy sensation to travel up to our brain or stop it in its path by inhibiting the message.
Long-term, this research could lead to treatments for many thousands of people suffering from a chronic itch, a disorder causing an intense desire to scratch.
Chronic itching reduces your skin’s ability to heal, causing your skin to break down and become more vulnerable to environmental damage – even a risk of infection. None of this is desirable, and it’s detrimental to the health of your skin, both short term and long term. This is why, as an immediate quick fix for a couple of days, hydrocortisone does have its place.
But after seeing the side effects of prolonged use, this is not going to be the answer long term. The key is to minimise your exposure to cortisone; the cornerstone to managing your inflammatory skin conditions, repairing your skin barrier, and preventing long-term damage.
Having been able to combat my own skin problems, and having helped many clients with their own skin conditions, I have formulated a range of easy-to-implement natural treatments that you can use to soothe your skin.
These products include Nectar, a natural balm infused with botanical oils and healing herbs, that will help to instantly diffuse areas of irritation; once the rash and inflammation have calmed down.
Once healing has begun, you can transition to a more elegant treatment like Bio lipid complex to facilitate the healing further. Fortify barrier repair cream, is an intelligent, skin-identical formula that will also help to diffuse redness; calm irritation, and sensitivity, that can be used alone or with Nectar and Bio lipid.
I would also advise seeing a dermatologist, who will work with you to get to the route cause of your skin problems, and they may recommend a course of immunosuppressants to help calm down some of your inflammation, that will start you on your journey to happy, healthy and hopefully calm skin.