Why can't hydrocortisone cream be used on the face?

Hydrocortisone is a steroid that is sometimes used to treat inflammation. You can buy hydrocortisone cream over the counter from a pharmacy for treating:

However, it may not be sold for use on the delicate skin of the face. Long-term use or high-strength steroids can damage the skin, which would be particularly noticeable on the face.

This problem is not known to occur commonly with hydrocortisone that is sold over the counter, but it's still sensible to avoid using it on your face unless absolutely necessary. Also, some common skin conditions that affect the face can be made worse by hydrocortisone – for example, impetigorosacea and acne.

If you have a skin condition that affects your face, you should go to see your GP first rather than treating it with hydrocortisone cream yourself. Your GP can prescribe hydrocortisone for use on your face, having first assessed whether it's the correct treatment and if it's safe for you to use.

You should not use over the counter hydrocortisone preparations on your face unless they're prescribed by a doctor. Pharmacists aren't allowed to sell them for this purpose.

Consult your GP or pharmacist if you're unsure.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 09/05/2013

Next review due: 08/05/2015