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How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

Should you use hydrocortisone to treat rosacea?

Spoiler alert—no! But it can be effective in treating other skin concerns.

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Curology Team
Oct 24, 2022 · 5 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
  1. blog
  2. > Skin Concerns
  3. > Should you use hydrocortisone to treat rosacea?

You’re ready to head out the door for a busy day when you start to feel an uncomfortable warmness and itching on your face. You check the mirror, and there’s redness across your forehead, nose, and cheeks. Uh oh—you’re having a rosacea flare-up. We know you want to reach for a product that provides quick relief for your symptoms, but it’s important to understand that not every skincare product is a good rosacea treatment

Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that can cause frequent facial flushing or redness, visible blood vessels, and acne-like bumps. No one knows the exact cause (or causes), and currently, there’s no cure. We do know specific triggers can cause rosacea symptoms to appear—aka “flare-ups” (more on those here). 

If you’ve heard of hydrocortisone, you probably know it’s a topical steroid often used to treat skin concerns like irritation, swelling, or itching. Sounds a lot like rosacea, right? If you’re wondering whether you should give hydrocortisone a try to treat your symptoms then the answer is a firm no. Hydrocortisone is not a treatment for rosacea—and it can potentially make things worse. Here, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about hydrocortisone, including what it can treat and why it’s not the right treatment for rosacea. 

What is hydrocortisone used for?

Hydrocortisone cream is a low-potency topical corticosteroid. We know that's a mouthful. In short, what that means is hydrocortisone helps with skin inflammation. Doctors may prescribe it to address symptoms of certain skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis (but a medical provider should manage this treatment!).¹

The different forms of hydrocortisone

Hydrocortisone that’s used to treat skin conditions can come in several forms of topical medication, including:

  • Creams

  • Ointments

  • Lotions

The steroid can also be consumed in the form of oral tablets or injected by a medical provider. Oral tablets may be prescribed for conditions such as allergies, arthritis, asthma, and more.² Hydrocortisone injections can be used to treat symptoms of low corticosteroid levels in the body and severe allergic reactions, among other things. Again, only a medical provider should administer these injections!³

Hydrocortisone and rosacea

Because hydrocortisone treats many symptoms that are commonly associated with rosacea—like redness, swelling, and irritation—it may seem like a good treatment option for the condition. But hydrocortisone isn’t indicated to treat skin affected by rosacea. As a general rule, people should avoid putting hydrocortisone on their faces (especially for long periods!) unless directed to by a medical provider. 

Does hydrocortisone make rosacea worse? Sometimes—applying hydrocortisone to rosacea can potentially worsen the condition and its symptoms. In fact, the long-term use of topical corticosteroids like hydrocortisone can actually cause rosacea-like symptoms in people who don’t have rosacea.⁴

How do I use hydrocortisone?

You should only use topical hydrocortisone as directed by your medical provider, as negative side effects can happen when it’s misused. Here we’ve written up a basic guide for using it as a cream on your skin, but you should always follow your medical provider’s instructions. 

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water to avoid transferring dirt and bacteria from your hands to the affected area.

  2. Apply a thin layer to the affected area.

  3. Let the cream absorb into the skin—don’t cover or wrap the treated skin unless specifically instructed by your doctor.

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t use topical steroids on your face for long periods—but there are exceptions. That’s why it’s important to always listen to your medical provider!

Side effects of topical hydrocortisone

While it’s not indicated to treat rosacea, hydrocortisone can work wonders on other types of skin inflammation. But it can also cause or result in side effects, including those in the following list.⁵ Be sure to let your doctor know if these or any others develop:

  • Perioral dermatitis

  • Acne-like lesions 

  • Thinning of the skin

  • Stretch marks 

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Got rosacea? Curology can help

Founded in 2014 by a team of dermatologists looking to provide affordable skincare solutions, Curology is a full-service telemedicine company that offers customized skincare treatment plans to address skin concerns related to acne, anti-aging, hyperpigmentation, and rosacea. Becoming a member is easy. Just answer a few questions about your skin, snap some selfies, and if Curology is right for you, one of our licensed dermatology providers will evaluate your skin to create a customized treatment plan just for you. 

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Subject to consultation. 30-day trial. Just cover $4.95 in S&H.
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Curology can treat rosacea with proven effective ingredients like ivermectin, metronidazole, and azelaic acid, using a personalized prescription formula created by one of our licensed in-house dermatology providers. Good news—we’ll cover your first month! Just pay $4.95 (plus tax) to cover shipping and handling.*

FAQs

Does hydrocortisone treat rosacea?

Again, no, hydrocortisone shouldn’t be used to treat rosacea. In fact, when it comes to rosacea, hydrocortisone can potentially make things worse. To learn about effective and safe rosacea treatments, speak with a licensed dermatology provider. 

What is the best thing to put on your face for rosacea?

It’s natural to wonder, “What is the best prescription cream for rosacea?” Because your skin is unique, there’s no one-size-fits-all remedy for treating rosacea. Everyone’s experience with the condition is different. However, some popular ingredients⁶ for treating rosacea include:

Is hydrocortisone good for redness?

Hydrocortisone is used to reduce skin inflammation, so it can be effective in treating redness. However, you should consult with a medical professional before using it on your skin, especially the skin of your face. Using topical steroids for too long can cause negative side effects, so always keep your medical provider in the loop.

What is hydrocortisone used for?

Hydrocortisone cream is a low-potency topical corticosteroid. Doctors may prescribe it to address symptoms of certain skin conditions like eczema.

Hydrocortisone that’s used to treat skin conditions can come in several forms of topical medication, including:

  • Creams

  • Ointments

  • Lotions

How do I use hydrocortisone?

You should only use topical hydrocortisone as directed by your medical provider, as negative side effects can happen when it’s misused.

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water to avoid transferring dirt and bacteria from your hands to the affected area.

  2. Apply a thin layer to the affected area.

  3. Let the cream absorb into the skin—don’t cover or wrap the treated skin unless specifically instructed by your doctor.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Gabros, S., et al. Topical Corticosteroids. Statpearls. (2022, July 11).

  2. MedlinePlus. Hydrocortisone. National Library of Medicine. (2018, January 15).

  3. MedlinePlus. Hydrocortisone Injection.National Library of Medicine. (2016, May 15). 

  4. National Rosacea Society. The Great Impostor: Steroid-Induced Rosacea. National Rosacea Society. (2013, June 24).

  5. Coondo, A., et al. Side-effects of topical steroids: A long overdue revisit. Indian Dermatology Online Journal. (December 2014). 

  6. Thiboutot, D.,et al. Standard management options for rosacea: The 2019 update by the National Rosacea Society Expert Committee.Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2020). 

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Trial is 30 days. Results may vary.

* Curology doesn’t prescribe products containing hydrocortisone.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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