Is Hydrocortisone Cream Good for Acne?

Hydrocortisone isn't often the first choice for acne breakouts.

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Hydrocortisone may do wonders for minor skin irritations, but the standard topical preparation isn’t all that good for acne. Hydrocortisone does nothing to counteract any of the causes of your breakout, such as excess oil, dead skin cells and bacterial buildup. In fact, hydrocortisone cream may do more harm than good, especially when it comes to your complexion.

Side Effects

Like any medication, hydrocortisone isn’t without potential side effects, and it’s these side effects that are most problematic for your skin. One of the more common is acne — at least according to the National Institutes of Health. It may also cause drying and cracking of the skin, burning, itching and even changes in skin color, so its use may end up making your complexion even worse than before.


Although over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams won’t do much to improve acne, you may find some benefit in prescription preparations. Your dermatologist can prescribe a cream containing both hydrocortisone and benzoyl peroxide — a common ingredient in many acne creams. But it isn’t the hydrocortisone that’s of assistance; it’s actually the benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide promotes the sloughing of dead skin, drying of excess oil and fighting of bacteria, which are the three activities needed to treat your acne. The hydrocortisone reduces the inflammation associated with active lesions.

Self-Care Methods

For mild to moderate acne, you won’t likely need hydrocortisone/benzoyl peroxide lotions. More often than not, a little self-care can go a long way to improving your complexion. Washing acne-prone skin with a gentle cleanser is a good place to start. From there, most people respond favorably to over-the-counter acne creams. As with the prescription preparation, these OTC creams dry excess oil and encourage cellular turnover. Look for creams containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or resorcinol. Those made with sulfur can also help.

Medical Treatments

If you suffer from moderate to severe acne, over-the-counter treatments may not be enough. Talk to a dermatologist to come up with a plan to improve your complexion. Most of the time, a topical medication can do the trick, but it won’t likely be a hydrocortisone/benzoyl peroxide solution. Instead, most skin-care professionals recommend retinoids. Tretinoin is the most common, but your dermatologist may instead prescribe adapalene or tazarotene. If these fail to provide results, you may then need an antibiotic, light therapy, laser therapy or another cosmetic procedure to improve your skin.

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