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How do steroid creams work?

Updated July 19, 2017

Steroid creams are designed to treat skin conditions and irritations such as eczema. Steroid creams are not the same as anabolic steroids used to build muscle. Steroid creams are a topical medicine. "Topical" means you put it on your skin.

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How Steroid Creams Work

The steroids are made and mixed into a cream form. Rub the cream on your skin, and your body will absorb the steroid or medicine into you blood.

Anabolic steroids are also now available in a cream form. They work essentially the same way. When the cream is applied to the body, it is absorbed into the bloodstream.

Strengths of Steroid Creams

Steroid creams come in four strengths: mild, medium, strong and very strong. Another word you might see instead of strong is potent. Rub on these creams usually once or twice a day.

When to Apply Steroid Creams

The best time to put on the cream is after a bath or a shower because your skin is clean and dry, which allows the cream to be absorbed more efficiently by your body.

Where to Apply Steroid Creams

Although you might apply the cream liberally, your body only absorbs a small percentage of the cream. Different parts of the body absorb better than others. Below are common places that the body absorbs topical cream, and how much it usually absorbs: Forearms, about 1 per cent Armpits, about 4 per cent Face, about 7 per cent Genitals, about 30 per cent Palm, about 0.1 per cent


Consult a doctor to know the area and frequency to apply your steroid cream for it to be most effective. Applying a cream to the wrong part of the body or too frequently could cause side effects that include but are not limited to itching, burning and redness.

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About the Author

David Ryan began writing professionally in 2008. He writes for eHow and Answerbag and has focused on topics about education, child behaviors, developing positive attitudes and health and fitness. Ryan holds a Bachelor of Arts in education and a master's degree in special education from Campbellsville University.

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