What to Know About Desonate (Desonide)

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Desonide cream is a topical corticosteroid that is commonly prescribed to treat eczema (atopic dermatitis). It is on the mild end of the spectrum (lower strength) when it comes to common topical steroid medications, just a step above over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. It is available only by prescription. It is approved for use in individuals three months of age and older. Desonide goes by several other brand names, including Desonate Gell and Verdeso Foam.


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

Topical steroids are grouped into classes according to potency, from 1 (most potent) to 7 (least potent).

Because of its mild nature, desonide is the topical steroid often used for children as well as one that can be used on the face.

The actual mechanism by which desonide cream works is unknown. In general, an overactive immune system and/or allergies are thought to contribute to the development of eczema, and steroid medication can suppress the immune system, which helps to resolve symptoms. This is, of course, a very simplified explanation of complex processes.

Before Taking

Before using desonide cream, tell your doctor about all allergies, including foods, animals, dyes, etc.

Also, tell your doctor if you have any health conditions like diabetes or immune system problems. Because desonide can make certain skin conditions worse, tell your doctor about any other skin problems you have, such as rosacea, perioral dermatitis, or folliculitis.

Precautions and Contraindications

Don't apply desonide cream on the eyelid or near the eye.

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

Other Topical Steroids

There are many other types of topical steroids available. Just a few, listed from mild to super potent, include:


You should follow your doctor's instructions exactly since this medication comes in different formulations and may be prescribed in different dosages. Don't apply the medication more often than your doctor recommends.

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

The number of fingertip units needed will depend on the area of skin affected. For example, to treat an entire adult arm and hand will take about four FTU. One fingertip unit is generally enough for a baby's face and neck.

Your doctor will show you exactly how much medication to use, depending on the treatment area.

How to Take and Store

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

You should shake the lotion or foam versions of this medication before using and wash your hands after applying this medication.

Avoid getting the medication in your eyes or mouth or in open cuts or sores. 

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 control your eczema to avoid serious side effects.

Store desonide at room temperature.

Side Effects

You may be wondering if steroids are necessary. Steroids have a bit of a bad rap among some individuals who view them as unnatural or harsh.

The truth is that your body naturally produces it's own steroid hormones. The negative reputation is largely due to steroid medications that are taken orally and can cause harmful side effects, especially when taken long term.

While topical steroids can also have side effects, they are usually not nearly as severe.


The most commonly reported side effects with desonide cream are headache and burning or irritation at the site where the medication is applied.

Other side effects may include:

  • Thinning of the skin where applied (more likely with prolonged use)
  • Acne breakouts where the medication is applied
  • Itching
  • Folliculitis
  • Hypopigmentation of the skin in the area where the medication is applied


There is a risk with topical steroids of them being absorbed into the bloodstream and interfering with your body's ability to produce it's own steroid hormones. This is more likely to occur in children using topical steroids than adults, and the risk is increased depending on the strength of the steroid used.

To avoid this, you should always use the lowest strength topical steroid needed to control your condition for the shortest amount of time possible. Also, applying the medication to broken skin will greatly increase the amount of medication that may be absorbed into your bloodstream.

Warnings and Interactions

It is possible to have a serious allergic reaction to desonide cream. Wash the medication off immediately and get medical help if you experience extreme redness and itching accompanied by swelling, difficulty breathing (wheezing), or any other symptom that seems alarming.

There is little scientific research about using this medication while pregnant or breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor before starting this medication if you are pregnant or nursing and contact your physician immediately if you become pregnant while on this medication.

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