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Does Hydrocortisone Help Acne? The Evidence

Acne, a common skin condition, is a major concern for many individuals, particularly teenagers and young adults. Amidst the myriad of treatment options available, an intriguing question often surfaces: "Does hydrocortisone help acne?"

This blog post explores the potential role of hydrocortisone in treating acne, highlighting its advantages, possible drawbacks, and effectiveness compared to other treatments.

Also read: How to choose the best acne treatment

Biggest Take-Aways:

  • Hydrocortisone can temporarily relieve acne symptoms but does not address the root causes of acne, such as excess sebum production and acne-causing bacteria.

  • Alternatives to hydrocortisone, like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, can be more effective for long-term acne management as they target acne's root causes.

  • Despite hydrocortisone's temporary relief for acne symptoms, long-term use can lead to side effects like thinning skin and unwanted hair growth.

  • Exposed Skin Care is a comprehensive skincare line that can effectively manage acne, reduce redness, and prevent future breakouts.

Woman applying hydrocortisone to acne

What is Acne?

Acne, scientifically known as acne vulgaris, is a skin condition that occurs when the skin's hair follicles become clogged with oil (sebum) and dead skin cells. This leads to the formation of whiteheads, blackheads, or pimples. Acne is commonly found on the face, forehead, chest, upper back, and shoulders. Different forms of acne, including cystic and nodular acne, are generally more severe.

Does Hydrocortisone Help Acne?

Hydrocortisone is a topical steroid typically used to treat various inflammatory skin conditions. But does hydrocortisone help acne, specifically? To answer that, we need to understand how hydrocortisone works.

How Does Hydrocortisone Work?

Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid that mimics the effects of cortisol, a hormone naturally produced by the adrenal glands in the body. Its main function is to reduce inflammation and itching that often accompanies skin conditions. Topical hydrocortisone is primarily used for conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, allergies, and rash.

Hydrocortisone suppresses the immune system's response, thereby reducing inflammation and associated symptoms. It also constricts the small blood vessels in the skin, contributing to its anti-inflammatory effects.

Hydrocortisone and Acne

Hydrocortisone can temporarily relieve acne symptoms by reducing inflammation and redness associated with active pimples. In this sense, it can serve as a spot treatment for inflamed acne breakouts.

However, hydrocortisone does not directly treat acne-causing bacteria nor regulate excess sebum production, which are the primary factors behind acne breakouts. Hence, while it may provide some immediate relief, it may not be effective as a long-term acne treatment.

Hydrocortisone on person's fingers

Hydrocortisone Versus Other Acne Treatments

While hydrocortisone for acne could serve as a temporary solution, other acne medications target the root causes of acne more directly. Let's compare hydrocortisone cream to other common acne treatments:

Hydrocortisone Cream Versus Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is an over-the-counter acne treatment that kills acne-causing bacteria and reduces inflammation. Unlike hydrocortisone, benzoyl peroxide directly targets acne-causing bacteria, making it more effective for long-term acne management.

Hydrocortisone Cream Versus Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid, another common acne treatment, unclogs pores and prevents future breakouts. While salicylic acid does not have the immediate anti-inflammatory effects of hydrocortisone, it can effectively prevent breakouts by targeting clogged pores, a major cause of acne.

Person choosing among beauty products

The Pros and Cons of Using Hydrocortisone for Acne

Hydrocortisone cream, like any other medication, has its benefits and drawbacks regarding acne treatment.

Advantages of Using Hydrocortisone for Acne

  • Accessibility: Hydrocortisone creams are readily available over the counter and are generally inexpensive, making them an accessible option for many individuals.

  • Versatility: Besides acne, hydrocortisone also treats various other skin conditions, such as bug bites, poison ivy, and allergic reactions.

  • Immediate Relief: Hydrocortisone can reduce inflammation and redness associated with active acne breakouts, providing temporary relief from these symptoms.

Woman relieved with headset

Drawbacks of Using Hydrocortisone for Acne

  • Short-term Solution: While hydrocortisone may offer immediate relief from acne symptoms, it does not address the root causes of acne, such as excess sebum production and acne-causing bacteria.

  • Potential Side Effects: Overuse of topical corticosteroids like hydrocortisone can lead to thinning skin, unwanted hair growth, and other adverse effects. Hydrocortisone is typically recommended for short-term use only.

  • May Not Be Effective for Severe Acne: Hydrocortisone is generally less effective for more severe forms of acne, like cystic and nodular acne.

Alternative Treatments for Acne

While the question, "Does hydrocortisone help acne?" can be answered with a cautious "yes", it's not the only, or even the most effective, acne treatment available. Here are some alternative treatments:

  • Benzoyl Peroxide: As mentioned earlier, benzoyl peroxide effectively kills acne-causing bacteria and reduces inflammation.

  • Salicylic Acid: This ingredient helps unclog pores, preventing future breakouts.

  • Topical Retinoids: These are vitamin A derivatives that help prevent clogged pores.

  • Oral Medications: Certain oral medications, such as antibiotics or oral contraceptives, can effectively treat more severe acne cases.

The Benefits of Exposed Skin Care for Managing Acne

Exposed Skin Care has emerged as a popular option in the quest for effective acne treatments.

Exposed Skin Care Ultimate Kit

Designed to address various facets of acne, this comprehensive skincare line offers several benefits:

  • Reduction of Redness: The soothing ingredients in Exposed Skin Care products are designed to reduce redness associated with acne, leading to a more balanced complexion.

  • Management of Active Breakouts: The line includes treatments to reduce inflammation and accelerate active breakouts' healing process.

  • Prevention of Future Acne: By targeting excess oil and promoting the shedding of skin cells, Exposed Skin Care helps prevent future acne breakouts.

Incorporating Exposed Skin Care into your skincare routine can provide a multi-pronged approach to managing acne. By reducing redness, managing active breakouts, and preventing new ones, it can promote healthier, clearer skin.

In conclusion, while every individual's skin is different, Exposed Skin Care offers a comprehensive and proactive approach to acne management. Its potential to reduce redness and effectively manage active breakouts can make it a valuable part of any acne-fighting routine.


While hydrocortisone can treat inflammation and redness associated with acne, it is important to remember that it is a steroid medication, and its primary function is to provide temporary relief rather than long-term management of acne. Hydrocortisone, whether in the form of oral hydrocortisone or topical treatments, may not be the most effective option for addressing the root causes of acne, such as excess sebum production and acne-causing bacteria.

Considering the various alternatives available, individuals seeking long-term acne management should explore options like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and other topical treatments that directly address the factors contributing to acne breakouts. Furthermore, for those dealing with acne scars, it is essential to find treatments specifically designed to target and improve the appearance of scarring.

Exposed Skin Care is one such comprehensive skincare line that has proven effective in managing acne. Reducing redness, managing active breakouts, and preventing new ones can promote healthier, clearer skin. Finding the right combination of treatments tailored to your unique skin needs is crucial for successfully managing acne and achieving a clear, radiant complexion.


Can I Put Hydrocortisone on My Pimple?

Yes, you can apply a thin layer of hydrocortisone cream to an active pimple to help reduce inflammation and redness. However, it's important to note that hydrocortisone is generally a temporary relief option and not a long-term solution.

Why Can't You Use Hydrocortisone on Acne?

While you can use hydrocortisone on acne, it's not typically the first-line treatment. This is because it doesn't address the root causes of acne, such as excess oil production and acne-causing bacteria. Moreover, long-term use of hydrocortisone can lead to side effects like thinning skin.

Does Hydrocortisone Help Cystic Acne?

Hydrocortisone can help reduce inflammation and redness associated with cystic acne. However, cystic acne is a more severe form of acne, so it typically requires more potent treatments like oral medications or prescription antibiotic creams.

Which Ointment is Best for Acne?

The "best" ointment for acne largely depends on the individual's skin type and the severity of their acne. Over-the-counter options like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid are often effective. A healthcare provider might recommend prescription treatments like topical retinoids or antibiotic creams for more severe cases.

Can I Use Hydrocortisone for Insect Bites As I Do for Acne?

Yes, hydrocortisone, being a topical steroid, is commonly used to reduce inflammation and itchiness associated with insect bites. It can soothe the skin and provide temporary relief. However, following the usage instructions is crucial to avoid any potential side effects.