A recent study found that women who misuse corticosteroid creams for skin lightening may be at risk of developing adrenal insufficiency and lower cortisol levels. Lower cortisol levels and adrenal insufficiency cause extreme fatigue, and may even lead to death.

A recent study has found that women who misuse corticosteroid creams for cosmetic skin lightening may be at risk of developing adrenal insufficiency.

Women that frequently used high strength steroid creams had significantly lower baseline cortisol levels, a sign of impaired cortisol function.

The misuse of topical corticosteroids to cosmetically lighten the skin is common among some populations, including Egyptian women. The practice is associated with significant adverse effects such as acne, skin thinning and other skin damage.

Prolonged usage, particularly at higher doses, could also affect the body’s own regulation of the hormone cortisol.

Cortisol is released from the adrenal glands and has an important role in the regulation of stress, metabolism and immune function.

Low levels lead to adrenal insufficiency, characterised by extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, depression and if untreated can cause coma or even death.

In the study, Dr Hany Khairy Mansour and colleagues at Ain Shams University in Cairo, measured the baseline cortisol levels of 45 women who had been using topical corticosteroid creams for at least three months and compared with women who had not used these creams.

The team found that cortisol levels were lower in women using more potent corticosteroid creams, as well as in frequent users who applied it to larger areas of the body. Those using lower strength creams (e.g. 1 per cent hydrocortisone) did not have significantly different cortisol levels.

Extracts from an ANI News article (original). Published 12 Sept 2020.