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Clobetasone

1. About clobetasone

Clobetasone is a medicince used on the skin to treat swelling, itching and irritation.

It can help with skin problems such as:
- eczema, including contact dermatitis
- psoriasis
- prickly heat rash
- insect bites and stings
- nappy rash

Clobetasone comes as cream or ointment. You can buy it from pharmacies or supermarkets.

It may also be used to help keep your condition under control between courses of a stronger steroid – this is known as "maintenance therapy".

There is a also a cream called clobetasol, which sounds similar to clobetasone. This is a much stronger steroid cream and is only available on prescription.

2. Key facts

  • Clobetasone butyrate is a type of medicine known as a corticosteroid or steroid. Corticosteroids are not the same as anabolic steroids.
  • Do not put clobetasone on your face unless your doctor has prescribed it. It can make some skin problems of the face worse.
  • If you buy clobetasone from a pharmacy or supermarket, do not use it for longer than a week without talking to a pharmacist or doctor.
  • Clobetasone cream or ointment may be called by the brand names Eumovate and Clobavate.
  • When clobetasone is combined with an antibiotic (oxytetracycline) and an antifungal (nystatin) it's called by the brand name Trimovate.

3. Who can and can't use clobetasone

Most adults and children over 12 years old can use clobetasone.

Do not use clobetasone on children under 12 years old unless their doctor has prescribed it.

Clobetasone may not be suitable for some people. Tell your pharmacist or doctor before starting the medicine if you:

  • have ever had an allergic reaction to clobetasone, cetostearyl alcohol or chlorocresol (ingredients in the cream)
  • have ever had an allergic reaction to any other medicine
  • have a skin infection, broken skin or cuts, itchy skin that is not inflamed or red - using clobetasone can make a skin infection worse or cause it to spread
  • have acne or rosacea
  • have an eye infection

4. How and when to use it

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

Most people only need to use clobetasone once or twice a day for a week. If your doctor has prescribed it, they may suggest that you use it for longer than a week.

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

Clobetasone comes in a strength of 0.05%, with 5mg of clobetasone butyrate in each 10g of cream.

Cream or ointment?

You can buy clobetasone cream or ointment from a pharmacy or supermarket. If you have clobetasone on prescription, your doctor will recommend either cream or ointment depending on your symptoms.

As a general rule:

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

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

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

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

When using clobetasone on babies with nappy rash, do not put the nappy on straight away. This helps to prevent side effects from the clobetasone.

What if I forget to put it on?

If you forget to use either the cream or ointment, do not worry, do 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 go back to your normal routine.

5. Side effects

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

Clobetasone cream contains cetostearyl alcohol and chlorocresol, which may cause local skin reactions or allergic reactions.

Serious side effects

Serious side effects happen to 1 in 10,000 people who use clobetasone. You're more likely to have a serious side effect if you use clobetasone over a large patch of skin for a long time.

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

Stop using clobetasone and tell your doctor straight away if:

  • your skin becomes red or swollen, you get white patches on your skin or yellow fluid is weeping from your skin - these could be signs of a new skin infection or an exisiting one getting worse
  • you are using clobetasone 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, more hungry, 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 clobetasone

Serious allergic reaction

In rare cases, clobetasone can cause a 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.

Children and teenagers

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

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

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

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

Information:

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

6. Pregnancy and breastfeeding

There's not enough research into clobetasone to say whether 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 clobetasone.

For more information about how clobetasone can affect you and your baby during pregnancy, read the leaflet about the best use of medicines in pregnancy (BUMPS).

Clobetasone and breastfeeding

Clobetasone is generally OK to use when breastfeeding.

If you are using clobetasone on your breasts, wash off any cream from your breasts before feeding your baby. Then wash your hands before you touch your nipple to your baby's mouth.

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

Non-urgent advice: Tell your doctor if you're:

  • trying to get pregnant
  • pregnant
  • breastfeeding

7. Cautions with other medicines

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

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

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

These medicines can increase the chances of side effects in the rest of your body.

Mixing clobetasone with herbal remedies and supplements

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

Important

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

8. Common questions

How does clobetasone work?

Clobetasone creams and ointments contain the active ingredient clobetasone butyrate. This is a corticosteroid or "steroid", which reduces inflammation in the skin.

The 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.

Clobetasone 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 clobetasone for a few days. You may need to use it for a few weeks.

How long can I use clobetasone for?

It depends on why you're using it.

For insect bites and stings, nappy rash or contact dermatitis you'll probably only need to use clobetasone for up to a 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.

Take a child under 12 years old back to the doctor if they are not better after using clobetasone for 7 days.

To reduce the risk of side effects your doctor may recommend using clobetasone for only a few weeks at a time. Once your skin is better, use moisturisers to keep it from becoming inflamed again.

Your doctor may recommend using clobetasone in between a course of strong steroids. This is known as "maintenance therapy" and can keep your condition under control and reduce the risk of side effects.

If you've been using clobetasone for a long time you may need to slowly reduce the amount you use and how often before stopping completely. This reduces the chance of your symptoms will flaring up again.

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

Why is it not recommended for faces?

The skin on your face is delicate so if clobetasone damages it by making the skin thinner, it's more noticeable and you may not be able to make it better.

Do not use clobetasone on your face unless a doctor says it's ok and has given you a prescription for it. If your doctor has prescribed it for you, it's best to use it on your face for 5 days or less,

It's also a good idea to avoid applying clobetasone 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 clobetasone.

Is it safe to use for a long time?

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

If you have been using clobetasone for a long time your doctor may advise you to gradually reduce the amount you use before stopping completely. You can do this by using less clobetasone each time or by using it less often.

Using clobetasone 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 with it?

Yes, you can drink alcohol while using clobetasone.

Is there any food or drink I need to avoid?

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

Can I still have vaccinations?

Using clobetasone does not prevent you or your child having vaccinations.

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

Will it affect my fertility?

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

Will it affect my contraception?

Clobetasone does not affect any type of contraception, including the combined pill or emergency contraception.

Can I drive or ride a bike?

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

Can steroids make eczema worse?

Steroids like clobetasone act by reducing inflammation in the skin to help reduce the symptoms. However, they do not cure the condition.

If you feel your symptoms are getting worse after a week of using clobetasone, it's important that you speak to your doctor.

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 cream or ointment you apply, or how often you apply it. Do this over a week or two, before stopping it completely.

Page last reviewed: 8 August 2019
Next review due: 8 August 2022