Topical Fluocinonide for Dermatological Conditions

If you've got a skin condition that causes severe itching, your healthcare provider may prescribe fluocinonide (brand names include Lidex and Vanos). Fluocinonide is a strong corticosteroid that reduces skin swelling, itching, and redness. It treats various allergic skin conditions, as well as atopic dermatitis (eczema), contact dermatitis (including rashes caused by poison oak and ivy), xerotic dermatitis (dry skin), psoriasis, and other causes of itching.

Woman itching her hand in her bathroom
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How It Works

Corticosteroids work by reducing the inflammation that would often lead to swelling and itching in skin disease. This reaction is common among some acute and chronic skin conditions, although they may manifest differently beyond the shared symptom of itching.

How It's Used

Fluocinonide is available as an ointment, cream, solution, and gel, and comes in different dosages. In general, fluocinonide is applied to the affected skin areas two to three times a day for up to two weeks at a time. The exact dose, application, and instructions, however, will be different for different patients.

Some healthcare providers recommend bandaging the area where the medication was applied (to increase absorption), while others may recommend against this. It is important to follow your practitioner's directions for using fluocinonide carefully. You should never use it more frequently or for a longer time than prescribed since it can cause side effects.


As with all medications, it's important to inform your healthcare provider about any health conditions or allergies you have, as well as any other medications or supplements you are using (topically or otherwise). In addition, take the following precautions when using fluocinonide:

  • Clean and dry the affected area before applying fluocinonide.
  • Wash your hands before and after use. (If applying to your hands, however, don’t wash your hands after applying the medication.)
  • Apply only a thin film of the medication. Fluocinonide is very strong and a small amount is effective.
  • Apply fluocinonide to your skin only. Avoid getting it in your mouth, nose, and eyes.
  • Don’t apply fluocinonide to your face, underarms, or groin area unless you are told to do so by your healthcare provider.
  • Do not use cosmetics or other skincare products on the treated areas without your healthcare provider's approval.

Side Effects

Initially, fluocinonide can cause burning, additional itching, irritation, or dryness, but these symptoms usually subside in a few days. Less common side effects—which indicate that a call to your healthcare provider is in order—include:

  • Blistering, burning, crusting, dryness, or flaking of the skin
  • Red, inflamed, or sore skin
  • Easy bruising or thinning of the skin
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
  • Acne
  • Increased hair growth on the forehead, back, arms, and legs
  • Lightening of normal skin color
  • Reddish-purple lines on the arms, face, legs, trunk, or groin

In rare cases, using fluocinonide for a long time or over large areas of the body can lead to serious conditions involving hormones and the adrenal glands, including the following.

  • Adrenal insufficiency: This condition can occur when the adrenal glands don't produce enough of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Symptoms can include dizziness, weakness, loss of appetite, or stomach upset. This condition can sometimes occur after fluocinonide treatment has stopped.
  • Cushing syndrome: If fluocinonide is absorbed into your bloodstream, it can cause Cushing syndrome, a condition where your body makes too much cortisol. Symptoms include a moon-shaped face and a lump of fat between the shoulders, as well as high blood sugar and high blood pressure.


Your healthcare provider can advise you whether it is safe for you to use fluocinonide, but, in general, you should not use it if:

  • You have rosacea, perioral dermatitis, or a fungal or bacterial infection
  • You are pregnant. There haven’t been enough studies in humans to be certain if the drug might affect a fetus.
  • You are breastfeeding. It isn’t known if fluocinonide passes into breast milk or if it causes side effects in a nursing baby.

In addition, it is not known whether fluocinonide is safe to use in children younger than 12. Children may absorb higher amounts of fluocinonide than adults, possibly affecting growth and development.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have any other concerns about using fluocinonide, your healthcare provider will be able to help you weigh the risks and benefits of using this drug.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading
  • Boguniewicz M, Leung DYM. Atopic Dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006;117(2):S475-80.