What to Know About Desonate (Desonide)

Uses, side effects, and dosages

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Desonide is a topical corticosteroid that is prescribed to treat eczema (atopic dermatitis). It's one of the lower-strength options when it comes to commonly prescribed topical steroid medications. 

Desonide is available as a cream or foam. Certain formulations are approved for infants as young as 3 months old.

The drug is sold under several brand names, including:

  • Desonate
  • Verdeso
  • DesOwen
Woman with Eczema
BSIP/UIG / Getty Images 

Uses

Desonide is used to relieve itching, swelling, and skin irritation caused by various types of dermatitis. It's one of the more common topical steroids prescribed.

Steroid medications, including desonide, can suppress the immune system, which may play a role in its therapeutic effects, as well as its side effects.

The type of desonide you are prescribed can have an impact on how quickly you see results and can also impact your risk of side effects.

TYPE TIME
Cream
Ointment
Lotion
2 weeks
Gel
Foam
4 weeks

Before Taking

Before using desonide, tell your healthcare provider:

It's especially important that your healthcare provider knows about your other skin conditions because desonide can make certain skin problems worse.

Precautions

Unless instructed otherwise by your provider, don't apply desonide on the eyelid or near the eye. Avoid getting the medication in your eyes, mouth, or open cuts or sores. You should only use this medication to treat the condition that it is prescribed to treat.

The medication should be used cautiously in young children because they are much more sensitive to the effects of topical steroids than adults.

Dosage

Desonide comes in different formulations and may be prescribed in different dosages. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions for applying the cream or foam.

Topical steroids are generally measured in "fingertip units" (FTUs). The measurement is what it sounds like: A fingertip unit is equal to the amount of medication dispensed on the index finger from the tip to the first joint. This will give an approximate 0.5-gram dose.

The amount needed depends on the area of skin affected. For example, 1 FTU is generally enough for a baby's face and neck, while an entire adult arm and hand will need about 4 FTU. Never exceed the recommended amount.

Don't put a bandage over desonide unless your healthcare provider specifically tells you to do so— this can increase medication absorption and increase your risk of side effects. When using this medication on a baby's diaper area, don't cover it with a tight-fitting diaper or plastic pants. Talk to your pediatrician about the best type of diaper to use when you're using this medication on your child.

How to Take and Store

Desonide is most commonly applied in a thin layer to the affected area twice daily. Desonide is not a substitute for a moisturizer, so it is widely recommended that individuals with eczema also use a daily moisturizer.

Desonide should be stored at room temperature. Shake the product before using and wash your hands after application.

You should not use this medication for more than four weeks in a row. In general, all topical steroids should be used for the shortest amount of time possible to avoid serious side effects.

Side Effects

Steroids are associated with some serious side effects that you and your healthcare provider should consider. However, topical steroids are less likely to cause side effects than oral steroids.

As with any medication, you should be familiar with possible side effects and let your healthcare provider know if you have any that are bothersome or severe.

Common

The most commonly reported side effects of desonide cream are:

  • Burning, peeling, dryness, redness, or irritation where it's applied
  • Itching
  • Acne
  • Headache
  • Rash (tiny red bumps) around the mouth
  • Folliculitis (inflamed hair follicles that appear as small red bumps or whiteheads)
  • Hypopigmentation of the skin (loss of color)

Severe

Call your healthcare provider or get emergency medical attention right away if you develop:

  • Severe rash
  • Signs of infection at the application site (redness, swelling, pus)

Hormonal Effects

Topical steroids can be absorbed into the bloodstream and interfere with your body's ability to produce its own steroid hormones, such as blood pressure changes or changes in your blood glucose (sugar) level. This is more likely to occur in children than adults, and it can cause serious problems, such as slowed physical growth. The risk of absorption is higher if you apply the medication to broken skin, and the risk of side effects is higher with stronger steroids.

Always notify your healthcare provider immediately if you notice side effects.

Warnings and Interactions

It is possible to have a serious allergic reaction to desonide. Wash the medication off immediately and get medical help if you experience:

  • Extreme redness and itching
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty breathing (wheezing)
  • Any other symptoms that seem concerning

There's little scientific research on the use and safety of this medication during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Tell your healthcare provider if you're pregnant or nursing before you start taking this medication, and contact your healthcare provider immediately if you become pregnant while using this medication.

Warning: Flammable

The foam formulation of desonide can catch fire. Don't smoke while you apply it or for a short time afterward, and say away from open flames.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I apply desonide to my face?

This depends on the instructions given to you by your doctor. It is sometimes prescribed for use on the face, and you should only use it on the areas of skin that are indicated on your prescription.

Is desonide better than hydrocortisone?

Different steroids have different uses, and the is best one for you will depend on your condition and your underlying health.

A Word From Verywell

Skin conditions are not just uncomfortable and annoying, they can be embarrassing as well. You don't just have to live with them, though. A conversation with your healthcare provider can start you on the path to the right treatment for clearing up your skin and making you feel better.

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4 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.
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Highlights of prescribing information: Desonate (desonide) gel 0.05%. Updated July 2014.

  2. National Eczema Association. Eczema causes and triggers.

  3. Chong M, Fonacier L. Treatment of eczema: corticosteroids and beyondClin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2016 Dec;51(3):249-262. doi:10.1007/s12016-015-8486-7

  4. Guichard A, Humbert P, Tissot M, Muret P, Courderot-Masuyer C, Viennet C. Effects of topical corticosteroids on cell proliferation, cell cycle progression and apoptosis: in vitro comparison on HaCaTInt J Pharm. 2015;479(2):422-429. doi:10.1016/j.ijpharm.2014.12.066

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