Steroid And Acne: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, And More

Medically reviewed by G. Liakeas, MD FACT CHECKED

Steroid acne, which can affect persons of any age, is distinct from other types of acne in that it typically manifests on the back, neck, chest, and chin.

It is more prone to occur in certain persons than others. Your dosage will determine how severe your acne will be; a higher dose will probably result in more severe acne.

Your likelihood of experiencing a prednisone-induced breakout is also increased by a longer course of treatment and a higher individual predisposition to acne.

After starting your first dose of prescription steroids like prednisone, it frequently takes 2 to 5 weeks for acne to start to appear. 

Even while your acne should not leave any lasting lesions or scars, it may not clear up on its own for several weeks or months after you have ended therapy.

Some people claim that their acne didn’t start until they stopped taking prednisone. Throughout your corticosteroid therapy, pay attention to both your acne and your IBD symptoms.

Your medical team can use this information to determine how you are managing the side effects of your IBD medication. In this article, we will be looking at all about steroids and acne.

While steroid-induced acne can have the same appearance and sensation as normal acne, it can be more difficult to treat since it results from the changes that steroids produce.

The best example of an acneiform eruption is steroid acne. An acneiform eruption is clearly defined by clinical symptoms and histological features. 

The most common type of drug-induced acne that develops as a side effect of either short- or long-term corticosteroid therapy is steroid acne.

It could happen following the use of systemic or topical corticosteroids, or even after steroid inhalation. Although it has the same potential, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is not frequently used today. Topical corticosteroids cause identical lesions.

Acne can be caused by corticosteroids, testosterone, and anabolic steroids. In fact, according to some estimates, about 50% of people who use anabolic steroids get acne as a result.

You might want to have a medical professional look at your steroid acne if it is painful, severely inflamed, and getting worse quickly. However, always approach their recommendations with a discerning, septic eye.

Symptoms Of Steroid Acne

  • Pustules Acne

    Whiteheads and red, inflammatory, pus-filled bumps.

  • Papules Acne

    Red lumps that may develop into pustules due to blocked hair follicles.

  • Comedones Acne

    Blackheads, non-inflamed blemishes, and minor skin bumps.

  • Nodular Acne

    Particularly huge, painful, inflamed pimples that can persist for months

A visual examination of the skin is utilized to make the clinical diagnosis of steroid acne, which is characterized by lesions brought on by the obstruction of hair follicles brought on by an excess production of sebum as well as by the failure of the keratinocyte differentiation process. These lesions can be either inflammatory or non-inflammatory.

Causes Of Steroid Acne

  • Overconsumption Of Steroids

    The overuse of topical or oral steroids results in steroid acne, and the quantity and duration of steroid use affect how severe the acne will be.

    Athletes who use steroids for longer than two weeks straight have major steroid acne. Overuse might result in both skin thinning and acne. 

  • Other Medications

    Even while using an over-the-counter 1% hydrocortisone lotion, steroid acne might still occur. The majority of over-the-counter anti-itch lotions contain this component.

  • Anabolic Steroids

    Anabolic steroids are used by athletes for boosting testosterone levels and for bodybuilding purposes. They are also commonly known as anabolic-androgenic steroids. Almost 50 percent of people using anabolic steroids deal with steroid acne.

Diagnosis Of Steroid Acne

  • Examining Blemishes

    A dermatologist can determine if you have steroid acne by looking at your blemishes.

    They will also record the types of acne you have and the locations of the pimples on your skin during your session. This aids your dermatologist in developing a successful treatment strategy.

  • Left Over Acne Scars

    Acne can cause major scars that can last for a long time. This happens because acne affects the skin deeply and eventually penetrates it.

    Scarring can affect your mental health as well causing depression and anxiety. Scars caused by steroid acne are even deeper and more adamant. Diagnosis can be done based on examining the scars.

Steroid Acne Treatment

Topical antifungals like ketoconazole shampoo or oral antifungals like itraconazole are used to treat steroid-induced fungal acne.

For severe and some moderate cases of steroid acne, as well as for any case exhibiting scarring, oral antibiotics from the tetracycline group are prescribed.

Doxycycline, minocycline, and tetracycline are a few of them. These antibiotics eliminate the acne-causing bacteria and might also be anti-inflammatory.

Children under the age of eight are prescribed alternative antibiotics. An excellent antiseptic that helps to eliminate acne-causing bacteria and lessen inflammation is benzoyl peroxide.

It is advised to use both in conjunction with oral antibiotics and in minor conditions where antibiotics are not necessary. Benzoyl peroxide is a common ingredient in over-the-counter acne treatments.

It occasionally goes together with salicylic acid. There are situations when what appears to be steroid acne is not. While uncommon, what appears to be acne may be another disease.

For instance, some individuals confuse acne, also known as hidradenitis suppurativa, with steroid acne. This condition’s treatment is different from steroid acne.

Perioral dermatitis is a different condition that might be confused with steroid acne. Around the mouth, it frequently results in acne-like outbreaks.

A board-certified dermatologist can provide comfort. A board-certified dermatologist can diagnose you and develop a customized treatment plan for any condition, including stubborn steroid acne.


Living with bad acne can be mentally challenging. It is believed that there is a connection between acne and low self-esteem, despair, or anxiety.

Acne sufferers could quit visiting their friends and family. Trying out for a sport or a promotion at work could no longer seem beneficial. You still need acne treatment even if your skin appears clear. The type of treatment, though, might alter. Most people can prevent acne with proper skin care and topical medications.

Without this therapy, acne may come back very quickly. Steroid acne sufferers frequently experience many breakouts that can cover their back, chest, and face. Along the jawline and neck, severe acne can also manifest.

It can occasionally appear on the buttocks and other private parts as well. Breakouts from severe acne frequently penetrate the skin deeply. These eruptions, also known as cysts and nodules, are frequently unpleasant. 

Acne scars frequently occur after severe acne has cleared. When acne is severe, you can also see a lot of blackheads, whiteheads, or both. Anyone who suffers from severe acne is aware of its tenacity.

Acne treatments from the drugstore won’t be able to cure it. You must wait it out or visit a dermatologist to see the clearing. It may take years for steroid acne to clear up.

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