When we face skin irritation or inflammation we all look for quick fix solution that is easily available from chemist shop. But we forget that medicines if not used correctly and under correct supervision can do more harm than benefit. Steroids are one of the examples of the same. These are the medications that are our go to option when we are facing any skin irritation or inflammation that we can apply directly to our skin and get a quick relief. But its abuse is on the rise these days. As a patient we need to understand that steroids are the topical medications that should never be applied without the supervision of the dermatologist.

A lot of recent studies have shown that at present there are about 18 topical steroids that are available in the market. The potency of these steroids varies from mild to high. These are available under different brand names and different formulations. A few of them are available over the counter also at a lot of pharmacies which is been the reason of its increasing misuse. 

Dermatologist is the right person to recommend the correct steroid, it application and safe time period of use. As if not used correctly, it can lead to worsening side effects of steroids on the skin. Here are few of them that you should be aware of:    

1. Skin infection that is persistent can further worsen up   

2. Folliculitis can happen which basically means that hair follicles present in skin layers can get inflamed.    

3. It has been witnessed that if used for prolonged time period then it can lead to skin thinning on those specific areas. Thus there can be more chances of damage to skin.   

4. Topical corticosteroid can cause mild skin allergies on its application which is generally termed as contact dermatitis.

5. Excess application of steroids can lead to worsening of acne also.   

6. Red and flushed skin is also one of the outcomes of prolonged application of steroids of high potency also. This is termed as flare up of rosacea.   

7. A few people may also experience changing of skin color due to improper steroid application. Where skin becomes uneven, or dark patches appear on the areas where steroids are been applied. 

One Is More Likely To Have The Side Effects If:

1. Using steroids for more than prescribed time period. 

2. Using highly potent steroid than prescribed by dermatologist.

3. Elderly have been predominantly affected by the side effects of steroids as compared to young due to aged skin.

Steroid addiction: This is another issue that many of us face, where we get addicted to the instant relief whilst overlooking the side effects. They instantly calm down the situation, like rashes, redness, inflammation and acne. But once you stop them the condition reoccur and can also worsen up leading to problems like red burning skin syndrome. Ocular side effects: using topical steroid on sensitive areas like eyelid or near the mouth can lead to problems like periocular/ perioral dermatitis respectively. In severe cases it can cause glaucoma and cataract. 


Using a highly potent corticosteroid topically on larger body areas for longer period of time can also be equally harmful. Just like any topical medication prolonged use of steroids also can lead to its absorption in bloodstream leading to severe side effects inside the body. That is why it is highly recommended that one should consult a dermatologist before using any topical steroid for any skin concern. Also it should never be applied on open wounds. Never repeat your prescription if a problem has reoccurred without consulting your dermatologist as it can lead to worsening of situation. Also what has worked for your problem might not be solution for others. Before sharing your prescription with friends and relatives with similar looking skin issues consult your dermatologist. Never self treat yourself.

Preventing Side Effects of Topical Steroids   

1. Always seek expert advice, consult your dermatologist on the appropriate steroid and its strength.

2. Always get detailed instructions on frequency i.e; how many times it has to be applied in a day and duration i.e; for how long does it has to be applied.     

3. Never start or stop using steroid abruptly if the condition starts improving. Consult your dermatologist.   

4. Always read the labels, look for precautions and side effects of one medicine before applying. 

On the whole, it is necessary to pay attention to where and how of the topical steroid i.e; where it is being applied and how frequently it is being applied. Careful application can reduce side effects. Always consult your dermatologist. 

Keep healthy! Keep Glowing!