1. About clobetasol
Clobetasol propionate is a medicine that's used on the skin to treat swelling, itching and irritation. It can help with skin problems such as:
Clobetasol is available on prescription only. It's much stronger than other steroid creams such as hydrocortisone 1% strength.
It comes as a cream, ointment, scalp treatment and shampoo.
There is also a cream and ointment called clobetasone which sounds similar to clobetasol. Clobetasone is much milder and you can buy it from pharmacies or supermarkets.
2. Key facts
- Clobetasol is a type of medicine known as a topical corticosteroid (steroid). Corticosteroids are not the same as anabolic steroids.
- Do not put clobetasol on your face unless your doctor says it's OK. It can make some skin problems on the face worse.
- Clobetasol (including scalp treatment and shampoo) is a very strong steroid.
- Clobetasol can also be combined with an antibiotic (neomycin sulfate) and an antifungal (nystatin). This is only available on prescription.
- Clobetasol is also called the brand names Dermovate, ClobaDerm and Etrivex.
3. Who can and cannot use clobetasol
Most adults and children over the age of 1 year can use clobetasol.
Do not use clobetasol on children under the age of 1 year.
Clobetasol may not be suitable for some people. Tell a pharmacist or doctor before taking it if you:
- have ever had an allergic reaction to clobetasol, or to cetostearyl alcohol or chlorocresol (ingredients in clobetasol cream)
- have ever had an allergic reaction to any other medicine in the past
- have a skin infection, broken skin, cuts or itchy skin which isn’t inflamed or red. If you have a skin infection, using clobetasol can make it worse or cause it to spread
- have an eye infection
- have acne or rosacea
- are trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or you're breastfeeding
- have skin problems on your face (clobetasol can only be used on the face if a doctor prescribes it, for a maximum of 5 days)
4. How and when to use it
Always follow the instructions from a pharmacist, doctor or leaflet in the medicine packet.
Most people only need to use clobetasol 1 or 2 times a day for 1 week. A doctor may suggest that you use it for longer than 1 week.
If you use it 2 times a day, try to leave a gap of 8 to 12 hours after using it.
If it's been prescribed for your child under 12 years of age, do not use it on them for longer than 5 days unless the doctor has seen them again.
Clobetasol comes in a strength of 0.05%, with 5mg of clobetasol in each 10g of cream.
Cream or ointment?
Clobetasol is available as a cream and ointment (and also a scalp treatment and shampoo).
As a general rule:
- clobetasol cream is better for skin which is moist or weepy
- clobetasol ointment is thicker and greasier and is better for dry or flaky areas of skin
How to use 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. A doctor or pharmacist can advise you.
- Wash your hands.
- Spread the cream or ointment in a thin layer over the area of irritated skin.
- Carefully smooth it into your skin in the direction that your hair grows.
- Be careful not to get the cream or ointment into broken skin or cuts.
- Wash your hands afterwards (unless it's your hands that you're treating).
- Use the cream or ointment on all the irritated skin, not just the worst areas.
Do not use clobetasol at the same time as other creams or ointments such as a moisturiser. Wait at least 30 minutes between using clobetasol and any other product.
If you need to use a dressing like a bandage or plaster, wait at least 10 minutes after putting clobetasol on.
Do not cover the cream or ointment with dressings or bandages if you're treating a child.
How to use shampoo
The usual daily dose is 7.5ml – around half a tablespoon.
- Wash your hands.
- Apply the shampoo directly to your dry scalp once a day, taking care to cover and massage all of the affected areas.
- Only use the recommended amount.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after applying the shampoo.
- Leave the shampoo to work for 15 minutes. Do not cover it with anything.
- Rinse the shampoo off with water and dry your hair as usual.
Use your usual shampoo after the clobetasol shampoo if you need to wash your hair. Do not use more clobetasol shampoo.
How to use scalp treatment
- Wash your hands.
- Unscrew the bottle cap and place the nozzle directly on your scalp.
- Gently squeeze the bottle to cover the area with a thin and even layer of liquid.
- Do not use more than the recommended amount.
- You can rub this liquid in, but you don’t have to.
- Leave to dry. Your scalp will feel cool while the liquid is drying.
- Wash your hands again.
What if I forget to put it on?
If you forget to use clobetasol, do not worry. Use 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 follow your normal routine.
5. Side effects
Some people feel burning or stinging for a few minutes when they put clobetasol cream on their skin. This stops happening after you've been using it for a few days.
Serious side effects
Serious side effects are rare. They happen to 1 in 10,000 people who use clobetasol. You're more likely to have a serious side effect if you use clobetasol on a large area of skin for a long time.
Using clobetasol for a long time can make your skin thinner or cause stretch marks. Stretch marks are likely to be permanent, but they usually fade over time.
Clobetasol cream contains cetostearyl alcohol, which may cause a skin reaction in the area you are treating, and chlorocresol, which may cause an allergic reaction.
Stop using clobetasol and tell a doctor straight away if:
- your skin becomes redder or swollen, you get white patches on your skin or yellow fluid is weeping from your skin. These are signs of a new skin infection or an existing one getting worse
- you are using clobetasol 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 or hungry than usual, 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 clobetasol
Children and teenagers
In very rare cases, using clobetasol for a long time can slow down the normal growth of children and teenagers. This is because it is a steroid.
Your child's doctor will monitor their height and weight carefully while they are using this medicine. This way, any issues with their growth can be spotted quickly and their treatment changed if needed.
Talk to a doctor if you're worried. They will be able to explain the benefits and risks of your child using clobetasol.
Serious allergic reaction
In rare cases, clobetasol can cause a serious 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.
These are not all the side effects of clobetasol. For a full list see the leaflet inside your medicine packet.
You can report any suspected side effect to the UK safety scheme.
6. Pregnancy and breastfeeding
There's not enough research into clobetasol to know if 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 clobetasol.
Find out more from BUMPS about using corticosteroid creams in pregnancy.
Clobetasol and breastfeeding
Clobetasol is generally OK to use when breastfeeding.
If you are using clobetasol cream or ointment on your breasts, wash off any medicine from your breasts, then wash your hands before feeding your baby.
It's usually better to use cream rather than ointment when breastfeeding, as it's easier to wash off.
Tell a pharmacist or doctor if you're trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or if you're breastfeeding.
7. Cautions with other medicines
It's very unlikely that other medicines will interfere with the way clobetasol works. This applies to prescription medicines as well as ones you buy from a pharmacy or shop.
However, tell a pharmacist or doctor if you're taking:
- ritonavir (for HIV infection)
- itraconazole (for a fungal infection)
These medicines can increase the levels of clobetasol in your body and increase the chances of side effects.
Mixing clobetasol with herbal remedies and supplements
There's very little information about taking herbal remedies and supplements while using clobetasol.
Tell a pharmacist or doctor if you are taking any other medicines, including herbal medicines, vitamins or supplements.
8. Common questions
How does clobetasol work?
When will my skin get better?
How long can I use clobetasol for?
Why is it not recommended for faces?
Is it safe to use for a long time?
Can I drink alcohol while using it?
Can steroids make eczema worse?
Can I still have vaccinations?
Will it affect my fertility?
Will it affect my contraception?
Is there any food or drink I need to avoid?
Can I drive or ride a bike?
Page last reviewed: 29/08/2019
Next review due: 29/08/2022