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Clobetasol

1. About clobetasol

Clobetasol propionate is a medicine that's used on the skin to treat swelling, itching and irritation. It can help with skin problems such as:

Clobetasol is available on prescription only. It's much stronger than other steroid creams such as hydrocortisone 1% strength.

It comes as a cream, ointment, scalp treatment and shampoo.

There is also a cream and ointment called clobetasone which sounds similar to clobetasol. Clobetasone is much milder and you can buy it from pharmacies or supermarkets.

2. Key facts

  • Clobetasol is a type of medicine known as a topical corticosteroid (steroid). Corticosteroids are not the same as anabolic steroids.
  • Do not put clobetasol on your face unless your doctor says it's OK. It can make some skin problems on the face worse.
  • Clobetasol (including scalp treatment and shampoo) is a very strong steroid.
  • Clobetasol can also be combined with an antibiotic (neomycin sulfate) and an antifungal (nystatin). This is only available on prescription.
  • Clobetasol is also called the brand names Dermovate, ClobaDerm and Etrivex.

3. Who can and cannot use clobetasol

Most adults and children over the age of 1 year can use clobetasol.

Do not use clobetasol on children under the age of 1 year.

Clobetasol may not be suitable for some people. Tell a pharmacist or doctor before taking it if you:

  • have ever had an allergic reaction to clobetasol, or to cetostearyl alcohol or chlorocresol (ingredients in clobetasol cream)
  • have ever had an allergic reaction to any other medicine in the past
  • have a skin infection, broken skin, cuts or itchy skin which isn’t inflamed or red. If you have a skin infection, using clobetasol can make it worse or cause it to spread
  • have an eye infection
  • have acne or rosacea
  • are trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or you're breastfeeding
  • have skin problems on your face (clobetasol can only be used on the face if a doctor prescribes it, for a maximum of 5 days)

4. How and when to use it

Always follow the instructions from a pharmacist, doctor or leaflet in the medicine packet.

Most people only need to use clobetasol 1 or 2 times a day for 1 week. A doctor may suggest that you use it for longer than 1 week.

If you use it 2 times a day, try to leave a gap of 8 to 12 hours after using it.

If it's been prescribed for your child under 12 years of age, do not use it on them for longer than 5 days unless the doctor has seen them again.

Clobetasol comes in a strength of 0.05%, with 5mg of clobetasol in each 10g of cream.

Cream or ointment?

Clobetasol is available as a cream and ointment (and also a scalp treatment and shampoo).

As a general rule:

  • clobetasol cream is better for skin which is moist or weepy
  • clobetasol ointment is thicker and greasier and is better for dry or flaky areas of skin

How to use cream or ointment

Sometimes, the amount of cream or ointment you're told to use is measured in fingertip units. This is the amount of cream or ointment you can squeeze onto your fingertip (the top of your finger down to the first bend in your finger).

As a general rule, a fingertip unit of cream should be enough to treat an area of skin that is double the size of the palm of your hand.

For babies and children, the right amount of cream depends on their age. A doctor or pharmacist can advise you.

A fingertip unit of cream or ointment is measured from the top of your finger down to the first bend in the finger
Credit:

Mark Thomas/Science Photo Library

A fingertip unit of cream
  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Spread the cream or ointment in a thin layer over the area of irritated skin.
  3. Carefully smooth it into your skin in the direction that your hair grows.
  4. Be careful not to get the cream or ointment into broken skin or cuts.
  5. Wash your hands afterwards (unless it's your hands that you're treating).
  6. Use the cream or ointment on all the irritated skin, not just the worst areas.

Do not use clobetasol at the same time as other creams or ointments such as a moisturiser. Wait at least 30 minutes between using clobetasol and any other product.

If you need to use a dressing like a bandage or plaster, wait at least 10 minutes after putting clobetasol on.

Do not cover the cream or ointment with dressings or bandages if you're treating a child.

How to use shampoo

The usual daily dose is 7.5ml – around half a tablespoon.

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Apply the shampoo directly to your dry scalp once a day, taking care to cover and massage all of the affected areas.
  3. Only use the recommended amount.
  4. Wash your hands thoroughly after applying the shampoo.
  5. Leave the shampoo to work for 15 minutes. Do not cover it with anything.
  6. Rinse the shampoo off with water and dry your hair as usual.

Use your usual shampoo after the clobetasol shampoo if you need to wash your hair. Do not use more clobetasol shampoo.

How to use scalp treatment

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Unscrew the bottle cap and place the nozzle directly on your scalp.
  3. Gently squeeze the bottle to cover the area with a thin and even layer of liquid.
  4. Do not use more than the recommended amount.
  5. You can rub this liquid in, but you don’t have to.
  6. Leave to dry. Your scalp will feel cool while the liquid is drying.
  7. Wash your hands again.

What if I forget to put it on?

If you forget to use clobetasol, do not worry. Use it as soon as you remember.

If you do not remember until it's within a few hours of your next dose, skip the missed dose and follow your normal routine.

5. Side effects

Some people feel burning or stinging for a few minutes when they put clobetasol cream on their skin. This stops happening after you've been using it for a few days.

Serious side effects

Serious side effects are rare. They happen to 1 in 10,000 people who use clobetasol. You're more likely to have a serious side effect if you use clobetasol on a large area of skin for a long time.

Using clobetasol for a long time can make your skin thinner or cause stretch marks. Stretch marks are likely to be permanent, but they usually fade over time.

Clobetasol cream contains cetostearyl alcohol, which may cause a skin reaction in the area you are treating, and chlorocresol, which may cause an allergic reaction.

Stop using clobetasol and tell a doctor straight away if:

  • your skin becomes redder or swollen, you get white patches on your skin or yellow fluid is weeping from your skin. These are signs of a new skin infection or an existing one getting worse
  • you are using clobetasol for psoriasis and you get raised bumps filled with pus (pustules) under the skin
  • you have a very upset stomach or vomiting, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, you feel dizzy, faint or very tired, or your mood changes. These can be signs of adrenal gland problems
  • you feel confused, sleepy, more thirsty or hungry than usual, pee more often, have hot flushes, start breathing quickly or your breath smells of fruit. These can be signs of high blood sugar
  • you have any new problems with your eyesight after starting to use clobetasol

Children and teenagers

In very rare cases, using clobetasol for a long time can slow down the normal growth of children and teenagers. This is because it is a steroid.

Your child's doctor will monitor their height and weight carefully while they are using this medicine. This way, any issues with their growth can be spotted quickly and their treatment changed if needed.

Talk to a doctor if you're worried. They will be able to explain the benefits and risks of your child using clobetasol.

Serious allergic reaction

In rare cases, clobetasol can cause a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if:

  • you get a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
  • you're wheezing
  • you get tightness in the chest or throat
  • you have trouble breathing or talking
  • your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling

You could be having a serious allergic reaction and may need immediate treatment in hospital.

These are not all the side effects of clobetasol. For a full list see the leaflet inside your medicine packet.

You can report any suspected side effect to the UK safety scheme.

6. Pregnancy and breastfeeding

There's not enough research into clobetasol to know if it's safe to use in pregnancy.

If you're pregnant, or trying for a baby, talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of using clobetasol.

Find out more from BUMPS about using corticosteroid creams in pregnancy.

Clobetasol and breastfeeding

Clobetasol is generally OK to use when breastfeeding.

If you are using clobetasol cream or ointment on your breasts, wash off any medicine from your breasts, then wash your hands before feeding your baby.

It's usually better to use cream rather than ointment when breastfeeding, as it's easier to wash off.

Important

Tell a pharmacist or doctor if you're trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or if you're breastfeeding.

7. Cautions with other medicines

It's very unlikely that other medicines will interfere with the way clobetasol works. This applies to prescription medicines as well as ones you buy from a pharmacy or shop.

However, tell a pharmacist or doctor if you're taking:

  • ritonavir (for HIV infection)
  • itraconazole (for a fungal infection)

These medicines can increase the levels of clobetasol in your body and increase the chances of side effects.

Mixing clobetasol with herbal remedies and supplements

There's very little information about taking herbal remedies and supplements while using clobetasol.

Important

Tell a pharmacist or doctor if you are taking any other medicines, including herbal medicines, vitamins or supplements.

8. Common questions

How does clobetasol work?

Clobetasol is a corticosteroid (steroid) which means it helps to reduce inflammation in the skin.

Skin gets inflamed when an allergic reaction or irritation causes various chemicals to be released in the skin. These make blood vessels widen and the irritated skin becomes red, swollen, itchy and painful.

Clobetasol works inside the skin cells to stop the release of these chemicals. This reduces the swelling, redness and itching.

When will my skin get better?

Your skin should start to get better after you've used clobetasol for a few days. You may need to use it for up to 4 weeks.

How long can I use clobetasol for?

It depends on why you're using it.

For contact dermatitis you'll probably only need to use clobetasol for up to 1 week.

For long-term skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis you may need to use the medicine for longer under the supervision of a doctor.

To reduce the risk of side effects a doctor may recommend that you only use clobetasol for a few weeks at a time.

Talk to a doctor if your skin or scalp problem gets worse or does not improve within 2 to 4 weeks.

Take a child under 12 years old back to the doctor if they aren't better after using clobetasol for 5 days.

Do not use clobetasol for more than 4 weeks without talking to a doctor. If you need treatment for a long time, a doctor may decide you need to use a milder cream or ointment.

If you have been using clobetasol for a long time, you may need to gradually reduce the amount you use and how often before stopping it completely. This reduces the chance of your symptoms coming back.

Talk to a doctor if you want to stop treatment after using clobetasol for a long time.

Why is it not recommended for faces?

Do not use clobetasol on your face unless a doctor says it's OK.

It's best to use it for no more than 5 days.

The skin on your face is delicate and thins easily. If clobetasol damages it by making it thinner, it's very noticeable and you may not be able to make it better.

If you do use it on your face, do not cover that area with a dressing or bandage.

Never apply clobetasol near the eyes or on your eyelids.

Some common skin problems that affect the face, such as impetigo, rosacea and acne, can be made worse by clobetasol.

Is it safe to use for a long time?

As a general rule, once your skin has settled down a doctor will recommend that you stop using this medicine.

If you have been using clobetasol for a long time a doctor may advise you to gradually reduce the amount you use before stopping completely.

You can do this by using less clobetasol each time or by using it less often.

Using clobetasol continuously for a long time can mean some of the medicine gets into your bloodstream. If this happens, there's a very small chance it can cause serious side effects.

Can I drink alcohol while using it?

Yes, you can drink alcohol while using clobetasol.

Can steroids make eczema worse?

If you feel your symptoms are getting worse after using clobetasol for 1 week, it's important to tell a doctor.

Steroids like clobetasol reduce inflammation in the skin to help manage the symptoms of a condition. They do not cure the condition.

When the treatment is stopped, skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis can flare up again.

You can avoid this by gradually reducing the amount of clobetasol you apply, or how often you apply it. Do this over 1 to 2 weeks before stopping it completely.

Can I still have vaccinations?

Using clobetasol doesn't stop you or your child having vaccinations.

But tell the doctor or nurse that you're using clobetasol so they can give the vaccine in an untreated area of skin.

Will it affect my fertility?

There's no evidence that clobetasol affects male or female fertility.

Will it affect my contraception?

Clobetasol does not interfere with any types of contraception including the combined pill or emergency contraception.

Is there any food or drink I need to avoid?

No, you can eat and drink normally while using clobetasol.

Can I drive or ride a bike?

Clobetasol does not make you sleepy so it's safe to drive or ride a bike when using this medicine.

But contact a doctor if you get any problems with your vision. Do not drive if you have problems with your eyesight after using clobetasol.

Page last reviewed: 29 August 2019
Next review due: 29 August 2022