Hydrocortisone is classed as a mild topical corticosteroid. Topical corticosteroids are also referred to as topical steroids . Topical steroids are used in addition to moisturisers (emollients) for treating inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis . A topical steroid can be used to relieve the symptoms when patches of eczema or dermatitis flare up. Hydrocortisone is also useful in reducing inflammation due insect bites and stings . A doctor may also prescribe hydrocortisone to treat nappy rash in a baby or infant.
You can buy some topical corticosteroids "over-the-counter" without a prescription. For example, for dermatitis, you can buy the steroid cream called hydrocortisone 1% from your pharmacy. Do not apply this to your face unless your doctor has told you to do so. This is because it may trigger a skin condition affecting the face ( acne or rosacea. ) Long-term use may also damage the skin. On your face this would be more noticeable than the rest of your body. So usually only weak steroids are used on the face. Those which are suitable are prescription-only.
Pharmacokinetics: The extent of percutaneous absorption of topical corticosteroids is determined by many factors including the vehicle and the integrity of the epidermal barrier. Occlusive dressings with hydrocortisone for up to 24 hours have not been demonstrated to increase penetration; however, occlusion of hydrocortisone for 96 hours markedly enhances penetration. Topical corticosteroids can be absorbed from normal intact skin. Inflammation and/or other disease processes in the skin may increase percutaneous absorption.