Clobetasol propionate for severe inflammatory skin conditions

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You only need to use a small amount of this preparation. Apply a small amount just to the areas affected, and then massage it gently into the skin.

Topical corticosteroids should not be used for long periods of time or on large areas of the body, especially in children.

Clobetasol propionate (unless combined with an antibacterial agent) should not be used on any infected areas of skin.

Type of medicineA very potent topical corticosteroid
Used forInflammatory skin conditions such as severe eczema and dermatitis
Also calledClarelux®; ClobaDerm®; Dermovate®; Etrivex®
Available asCream, ointment, scalp application (as liquid or foam), and shampoo

Clobetasol propionate is classed as a very potent 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 is used when patches of eczema or dermatitis flare up. Clobetasol propionate relieves the symptoms of a flare-up by reducing inflammation, itching and redness. It is not a cure for the condition, but it will help to relieve the symptoms.

Specialist skin doctors may on occasion prescribe a short course of clobetasol propionate for the treatment of psoriasis, although it is not generally recommended for this skin condition. Clobetasol propionate is not recommended for use in children, although again, it may be prescribed for a child by a specialist doctor under certain circumstances.

Clobetasol propionate is available as a number of different preparations. It is likely you will be prescribed a cream if the affected areas of your skin are moist or weeping, or an ointment if your skin is dry. It is also available as a shampoo and as an application for the scalp.

There is also a preparation available which contains two antibacterial agents called neomycin and nystatin. You may be prescribed this preparation for short-term use if your skin has become infected. It is typically used twice a day for one week only.

To make sure this is the right treatment for you, before you start using clobetasol propionate it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you have any areas of infected skin.
  • If you have rosacea or acne.
  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a skin preparation.
  • Before you start using the preparation, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about topical steroids and will give you full instructions for using the preparation you have been given. It will also provide you with a list of the side-effects that you may experience.
  • Apply a small amount of cream/ointment to the areas of skin which are inflamed. Then gently rub it into the skin until it has disappeared. Do not use clobetasol propionate on any open sores or areas of infected skin unless you have a preparation which contains antibacterial agents (clobetasone with neomycin and nystatin). If you are using this preparation, use it regularly twice daily for one week only, unless you have been directed otherwise by your doctor.
  • The amount of topical steroid cream/ointment that you should apply is commonly measured by fingertip units (FTUs). One FTU is the amount of cream or ointment that is squeezed out along an adult's fingertip (that is, from the very end of the finger to the first crease in the finger). As a guide, one FTU is enough to cover an area twice the size of an adult hand. Your doctor will give you an idea of how many FTUs you will need to cover the area of your skin which is affected.
  • If you are using a scalp application, apply a few drops of liquid or a small amount of foam to the affected areas of your scalp, rub it in gently, and then allow the areas to dry again naturally. If you are using Etrivex® shampoo, apply a small amount to the affected areas of your hair when it is dry, massage it in gently, and then rinse it off after 15 minutes. As a guide to how much to use, half a tablespoon of shampoo (7.5 ml) is sufficient to cover the whole of your scalp.
  • Your doctor will tell you how often to apply clobetasol propionate. It must not be applied more than twice a day, and once a day is often sufficient.
  • If you are using more than one topical corticosteroid, make sure you know when and where to use each one. If you are unsure, check with your doctor or ask your pharmacist for further advice.
  • After you have applied clobetasol propionate, remember to wash your hands (unless your hands are the treated area).
  • If you are using clobetasol propionate for psoriasis, make sure you follow your doctor's instructions carefully. It should not be used for large areas of psoriasis or for long periods of time, as these can cause your symptoms to flare up again afterwards.
  • Clobetasol propionate is not suitable for use in children unless it is has been advised by a skin specialist. This is because children are particularly susceptible to side-effects from strong topical steroids. The main concern is for children who need frequent courses, as it can have an effect on their growth and this will need to be monitored. If your child has been prescribed clobetasol propionate, follow the directions you have been given very carefully, and do not use it for longer than you have been told to. As a general rule, it should not be used for more than five days in children.
  • If you are using a moisturiser along with this preparation, apply the moisturiser first. Then wait 10-15 minutes before applying clobetasol propionate. This allows time for the moisturiser to be absorbed before the topical corticosteroid is applied. Your skin should be moist but not slippery when you apply clobetasol propionate.
  • Do not use clobetasol propionate on your face.
  • Unless advised to do so by your doctor, do not apply a bandage or dressing to the area being treated, as this will increase absorption of the preparation and increase the risk of side-effects.
  • Continue to use clobetasol propionate until the flare-up is controlled, and then stop it. A course of treatment for 7-14 days is usually sufficient. If your symptoms have not improved after this time (or if they get worse), speak again with your doctor for further advice.
  • After you finish using clobetasol propionate, continue to use your moisturiser every day. This will help to prevent a further flare-up. Your doctor may also prescribe a less potent steroid cream for you to use when needed.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. You can reduce the risk of side-effects from topical corticosteroids like clobetasol propionate, by applying the preparation thinly, no more than twice a day, and to the affected areas only.

Side-effects of clobetasol propionateWhat can I do if I experience this?
A burning sensation or smartingThese may occur in the first few days but usually get better after this
Thinning of the skin, permanent stretchmarks, allergic contact dermatitis, acne, rosacea, and hair growth at the site of applicationThese would normally only affect you if you use clobetasol propionate for long periods of time
Clobetasol propionate may get through your skin and into your bloodstreamThis usually causes no problem unless you use clobetasol propionate regularly on large areas of your skin

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to clobetasol propionate, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Make sure that the person prescribing this medicine knows about any other medicines that you are taking or using. This includes medicines you buy and herbal and homeopathic medicines.

Before using this medicine tell your doctor if you have ever had an allergic reaction after taking or using any medicine.

Never use more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that someone has swallowed some of the medicine by accident, contact the accident and emergency department of your local hospital for advice.

If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking or using.

If you buy any medicines check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • British National Formulary; 68th Edition (Sep 2014) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Helen Huins
Document ID:
4153 (v7)
Last Checked:
18/02/2015
Next Review:
17/02/2018
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