Last updated: August 11, 2021

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Welcome to our big hydrocortisone ointment test 2021. Here we present all the hydrocortisone ointments we have tested. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the internet.

We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best product for you. You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos.




The most important facts

  • Hydrocortisone ointment contains the active ingredient hydrocortisone, a steroid hormone which is used as an ointment to treat mildly inflamed skin conditions.
  • Hydrocortisone is used externally to treat skin inflammation caused by a number of conditions such as allergic reactions, eczema or psoriasis. The ointments are available over-the-counter in concentrations of 0.25 % and 0.5 %.
  • In addition to over-the-counter ointments, prescription ointments that exceed the 0.5 % concentration are also used for severe skin diseases.

The Best Hydrocortisone Ointment: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying hydrocortisone ointment

What is hydrocortisone ointment?

Hydrocortisone is the name for the hormone cortisol when it is given as a medicine. It is a glucocorticoid, a hormone produced in the adrenal cortex of the human body. In stressful situations, the production of hydrocortisone is actually stimulated so that our body's performance is maintained. Glucocorticoids are steroid hormones that are involved in numerous processes, especially in our fat-sugar and protein metabolism.

Cortisol has both positive and negative effects on our bodies. If your body doesn't make enough cortisol, you can help it along with hydrocortisone ointment. (Image source: 123rf.com / Marek Uliasz)

Hydrocortisone is used to treat many health problems. The active ingredient comes in different forms, including ointments for the body and scalp, injections and tablets. The type of hydrocortisone you should use depends on your health problem.

Hydrocortisone ointments are used to treat mild inflammatory skin conditions. It can also be used as a hormone replacement for people who do not have enough of the natural stress hormone cortisol. The ointments are available over-the-counter in different strengths (e.g. 0.25% and 0.5%) as well as prescription strengths (above 0.5%).

What does hydrocortisone ointment consist of?

Besides hydrocortisone as the active ingredient, most ointments contain the active ingredient in a non-staining cream base consisting of stearic acid, glycerol monostearate, octyldodecanol, hard fat, polysorbate, sorbitan stearate, glycerol and purified water. Some products also contain derivatives and parrafins.

Is hydrocortisone the same as cortisone?

There is often a misconception that hydrocortisone and cortisone are the same thing. However, cortisone is only an umbrella term for different strength classes of different glucocorticoids.

A hydrocortisone ointment finds its place in the lowest strength class, which is associated with mild efficacy and few side effects.

What is a hydrocortisone ointment used for?

Hydrocortisone ointments can be bought without a prescription to relieve skin inflammation and itching. The ointments can also be used to treat various inflammatory skin conditions, but only if prescribed by a doctor.

Your doctor may also prescribe you to use hydrocortisone ointment as a preventive care treatment to prevent eczema flare-ups after they have been treated with a stronger steroid cream.

What are the effects of hydrocortisone ointments?

Hydrocortisone stimulates the protein synthesis of various enzymes that are thought to be ultimately responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect.

The ointments are usually used on the skin to treat swelling, itching and irritation. Below we have listed for you what effects a hydrocortisone ointment has on individual health conditions:

Relieves eczema symptoms

Is your skin red, dry, scaly and extremely itchy? Have you been diagnosed with eczema? Finding a soothing, natural eczema treatment can be life-changing for those suffering from this frustrating condition.

Eczema typically first appears in very young children, with research finding that 65 per cent of cases occur before babies reach their first birthday, and 90 per cent of sufferers have their first cases before they turn 5. It is also worrying that eczema is becoming more common in children.

A hydrocortisone ointment can relieve eczema symptoms and especially the associated inflammation.

To relieve the itching and inflammation of most types of eczema, the first eczema treatment product you are likely to use is a non-prescription hydrocortisone ointment.

While severe eczema requires prescription products, mild cases of atopic dermatitis or eczema caused by contact with an irritating agent or allergen may only require careful skin care and a low-dose hydrocortisone ointment.

Anti-inflammatory for psoriasis

External therapies are the foundation of psoriasis treatment. They are typically used before oral or injectable medications to relieve dryness, flaking, itching and inflammation.

For most people, over-the-counter hydrocortisone ointments are the first choice for the ubiquitous itching of psoriasis. For severe symptoms, prescription formulations may also be used.

According to a 2014 study in the Journal of the Maerican Academy of Dermatology, a four-week course of hydrocortisone ointment (applied twice daily) reduced the size of lesions by nearly 20 percent. At the same time, the severity of the symptoms also decreased considerably.

Psoriasis is a chronic, autoimmune skin disease that causes inflammation and scaling of the skin. ( Image source: Pixabay.com / Hans Braxmeier )

Hydrocortisone ointments are therefore suitable for controlling the inflammation that makes your psoriasis skin appear swollen and red.

Helps with contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is responsible for 95 per cent of occupational skin diseases and is one of the most common reasons to see a dermatologist. The occupations most at risk for developing this acute skin condition are nurses, those who work with hair and skin products in the cosmetics industry, bartenders, landscapers and people who work with chemicals in industrial plants and laboratories.

Namely, this inflammatory skin reaction can be caused by cosmetics and other beauty products, chemical solvents, certain medications and plants. Commonly recognised symptoms include:

  • Scaly red or pink skin
  • Blisters
  • Lesions in various forms
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Severe itching
  • Scaly skin
  • Cracked skin
  • Increased sensitivity to the sun

Hydrocortisone ointment helps relieve the rash of contact dermatitis. It reduces both the scaly, inflamed areas of skin and the accompanying itching.

The ointment can usually be used once or twice a day for two to four weeks.

Use for insect bites

Whether in the water, on a mountain path or in your backyard. Insects such as bees, ants, fleas, flies, mosquitoes, wasps and arachnids can bite or sting. The first contact of a bite can be painful. This is often followed by an allergic reaction to venom that is deposited in the skin through the mouth or stinger of the insect.

These stings or bites can cause inflammation, itching and rashes. A hydrocortisone ointment works to relieve pain and swelling. It can be used to relieve swelling, itching and irritation caused by insect bites.

Heals sunburns

A sunburn is an inflammation of the skin caused by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation, especially sunlight. If you've spent too much time outdoors under the hot sun after a long summer day, there's a good chance you'll get a sunburn.

This is especially the case if no clothing is worn or no sunscreen is used to protect the skin. Unfortunately, if this happens, the UV rays can leave a painful, itchy burn.

A hydrocortisone ointment soothes the painful, swollen skin and contributes to the healing process of the sunburn. The ointment works quickly to relieve both the redness and the unbearable itching of your sunburn.

How much does hydrocortisone ointment cost?

The price of hydrocortisone ointments with a concentration of 0.25% ranges between €2 and €5. The cost of the somewhat stronger ointments with a concentration of 0.5% is between €3 and €8.
Concentration Price
Hydrocortisone ointment 0.25 % 2 € to 5€
Hydrocortisone ointment 0.5 % 3 € to 8 €

When do hydrocortisone ointments require a prescription?

Basically, all hydrocortisone ointments with a concentration of 0.25 to 5% do not require a prescription. These ointments can therefore be bought without a prescription in pharmacies and drugstores. However, all concentrations above 5 % must be prescribed by a doctor.

What are the alternatives to hydrocortisone ointments?

The main alternatives to hydrocortisone ointments are natural remedies. The 3 best alternatives are aloe vera, chamomile and calendula.

Aloe Vera

If you're wondering how to get rid of a rash on your face or just how to treat a sunburn on your body naturally, aloe vera is definitely a top natural remedy. The gel is indeed excellent for all kinds of rashes and skin problems.

According to studies, aloe vera extract is able to fight itching and psoriasis as well as heal injuries and burns ( Image source: Pixabay.com / Jenny Porter )

Aloe vera isn't just incredible at soothing rashes, though. It reduces inflammation and redness, decreasing itching while moisturising to speed up the healing process. For a rash, a high-percentage aloe vera gel or a 0.5 percent extract cream can be.

Chamomile

Chamomile can help reduce inflammation and suppress an overactive immune response, similar to the function of a hydrocortisone ointment. A clinical study from Germany found that chamomile ointments are almost as effective as 0.25 per cent hydrocortisone ointments.

Chamomile ointments can help relieve the burning or itching associated with dermatitis and improve healing in other inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema.

Calendula

Calendula-based ointments can relieve inflammation and also produce an immune response like hydrocortisone ointments.

Calendula helps increase blood flow and oxygen levels to wounds and skin irritations, which helps the body build new tissue and heal faster. (Image source: Pixabay.com / Markus Distelrath)

A clinical study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2004 even found that topical application of calendula ointment helped reduce the risk of severe dermatitis from radiotherapy for breast cancer.

Alternatives at a glance

Alternative Effect
Aloe Vera Gel / Ointment Reduces inflammation, redness and itching
Chamomile Inhibits inflammation and heals the skin
Calendula Speeds up the healing process of wounds and skin irritations

Decision: What types of hydrocortisone ointments are there and which one is right for you?

If you want to buy a hydrocortisone ointment, there are two alternatives to choose from:

  • non-prescription hydrocortisone ointment
  • prescription hydrocortisone ointment

Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, which are explained in the following paragraphs.

What are the characteristics of non-prescription hydrocortisone ointments and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

The non-prescription ointments are available in drugstores and pharmacies. The prices for the ointments are reasonable and they can be used to treat mild to moderate inflammatory, allergic or itchy skin conditions.

Advantages
  • Easier to obtain
  • Cheap
Disadvantages
  • Products often contain additives or fragrances
  • side effects may occur

Despite the low concentration of hydrocortisone, some people may experience side effects. Some ointments also contain additives such as paraffins and PEG or PEG derivatives, which can make side effects more likely to occur.

What are the characteristics of prescription hydrocortisone ointments and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

The ointments prescribed by the doctor have an increased concentration of the active ingredient hydrocortisone and are mainly used for severe skin diseases. The increased concentration ensures that the symptoms can be effectively relieved.

Advantages
  • Effective
  • help with severe symptoms
Disadvantages
  • Only available in pharmacies with a prescription
  • side effects are more likely

However, the ointments can only be prescribed by a doctor and are therefore only available in pharmacies. Unfortunately, the use of prescription hydrocortisone ointments also increases the likelihood of side effects.

Buying criteria: You can compare and evaluate hydrocortisone ointments based on these factors

In the following, we will show you which aspects you can use to decide between the many possible hydrocortisone ointments. The criteria you can use to compare hydrocortisone ointments with each other include:

  • Additives
  • Manufacturer
  • Active substance content
  • Target group

Additives

Hydrocortisone ointments can contain a variety of different additives. Additives affect the quality to a large extent. The consumer protection magazine "Ökotest" gave many ointments bad marks because they contained PEG or PEG derivatives or paraffins. PEG derivatives increase the permeability of the skin, which can lead to thinning of the skin and increased side effects.

Manufacturer

The manufacturer of a product can say a lot about its quality. Reliable manufacturers maintain high quality standards, which are especially noticeable in the effectiveness of the product. There are companies that are very transparent about the manufacturing process.

This increases trust and usually indicates a good product. It makes sense to read the reviews of the individual products on the internet and to choose a product that has satisfactory reviews.

Active ingredient content

The active ingredient content can also determine which ointment should be purchased. The more severe the symptoms, the higher concentrations of hydrocortisone should be considered.

The 0.25 % and 0.5 % ointments are particularly recommended for mild to moderately severe inflammatory, allergic or itchy skin conditions. For very severe skin diseases, it is essential to consult a doctor so that prescription ointments with higher concentrations can be used.

Target group

The target group can also determine whether it makes sense to buy hydrocortisone ointment or not. Most adults and children can use hydrocortisone ointments. However, the ointments should not be used on children under 6 years of age unless your doctor recommends it.

Hydrocortisone ointments may not be suitable for some people. It is best to tell your pharmacist or doctor before you start treatment, especially if you are

  • have had an allergic reaction to hydrocortisone or another medicine in the past
  • have a skin infection
  • you are trying to get pregnant

Facts about hydrocortisone ointments

How long can you use hydrocortisone ointment?

For insect bites, rashes or contact dermatitis, hydrocortisone ointment should be used for up to one week. For long-term skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis, the ointment may need to be used for longer.

A treatment period longer than two weeks should only be used under medical supervision.

What are the side effects of hydrocortisone ointment?

If you use a strong hydrocortisone ointment or use it for a long time over a large area of skin, you are more likely to have side effects. If you have a skin infection, using hydrocortisone ointment can make it worse and cause it to spread.

Using the ointment for several months can also cause your skin to thin or develop stretch marks. Also, stop using it and tell your doctor immediately if, for example, your skin becomes red or white patches appear. These can be signs of a new or worsening skin infection.

Very rarely, hydrocortisone from an ointment passes through the skin into the bloodstream to cause side effects in other parts of the body. Even in such a case, the doctor should be informed immediately and the application stopped. This is especially important if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Stomach upset or vomiting
  • Very severe dizziness or fainting
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of appetite and weight

How long does it take for an effect to occur?

The skin should start to look better after the ointment has been applied for 3-7 days. You should continue to apply the ointment regularly as recommended by your doctor or pharmacist. If the skin does not seem to get better, you should consult a doctor.

What is the shelf life of hydrocortisone ointment?

Hydrocortisone ointments usually keep for about 3 months after opening. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, you should always check the expiry date of the respective product.

Image source: 123rf.com / Olga Ternavskaia

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