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Clobetasol vs. triamcinolone - how do they compare?

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on Sep 9, 2021.

Official answer

by Drugs.com

Overview

  • Topical clobetasol (Clobex, Embeline, Olux, Olux-E, generics) is considered a super-high or high potency topical corticosteroid (“steroid”) used on the skin, and triamcinolone (Kenalog, Trianex, generics) is a medium-to-low potency topical medicine.
  • These prescription products can be both used to treat skin conditions that are responsive to topical corticosteroids, such as dermatitis, eczema (atopic dermatitis), or lichen planus. They may be used for other conditions such as plaque psoriasis, hard-to-treat skin allergies, or serious insect bites or rashes.
  • Side effects are similar between these two medicines because they are in the same drug class. Topical steroids can be absorbed through the skin and lead to dangerous side effects if not used exactly as directed by your doctor.
  • Both products are usually available in a generic form which make them more affordable.

Topical corticosteroids work by preventing the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation and pain, redness, and itching.

How do topical clobetasol and triamcinolone come at the pharmacy?

These products are available in a variety of brand name formulations that can be used on the skin, such as creams, lotions and sprays. Most forms are also available as generic options, which may save you money.

Clobetasol

Brand names of topical clobetasol include:

  • Clobex 0.05% (lotion, shampoo, spray)
  • Cormax 0.05% (cream)
  • Embeline 0.05% (gel, ointment, solution)
  • Embeline E 0.05% (cream)
  • Impeklo 0.05% (lotion)
  • Impoyz 0.025% (cream)
  • Olux, Olux E 0.05% (aerosol foam)

Clobetasol is available generically as a topical cream, ointment, lotion, gel, solution, spray, shampoo and aerosol foam.

Triamcinolone

Brand names of topical triamcinolone include:

  • Kenalog (0.147 mg/g topical spray)
  • Triderm (ointment)

Triamcinolone is available as a generic product in a topical cream, ointment, lotion, dental paste, and topical spray.

Where can I apply these products?

  • Most topical corticosteroid products come in forms that are specific to the area being treated; for example, products used for scalp psoriasis would come in topical shampoos or solutions.
  • Sprays, creams and ointments are often applied to skin. Ointments are not usually applied to areas with hair due as this can be messy, but are useful for areas with thicker skin (such as the soles of the feet or the palms of the hand).
  • Triamcinolone dental paste products can be used in the mouth to reduce swelling and ulcers that are not caused by herpes.

The amount of medicine you apply and for how long will depend upon your skin condition, where you are treating it, and the strength of medicine your doctor prescribes. More potent topical steroid medicines are typically used for shorter periods than less potent ones.

Avoid using wraps, bandages or other occlusive dressings over an area where you have applied a topical steroid unless told to do so by your doctor, as this will increase its potency. Side effects are more likely to occur if the area is covered with an occlusive dressing or with extensive or prolonged use of high strength steroids.

Skin areas that are infected can be usually treated with most dosage forms, if indicated, except ointments, which have greater penetration. Only apply to an infected area if directed by your doctor, as corticosteroids may inhibit healing if the area is infected.

Only use topical steroids on your face, groin, or axillae (armpit) if directed by your doctor.

How do side effects compare between clobetasol and triamcinolone?

Because clobetasol and triamcinolone fall in the same therapeutic category and similar potency, side effects are expected to be similar and include:

  • skin irritation, itching, burning, contact dermatitis, skin thinning (atrophy), prominent blood vessels, striae (stretch marks), folliculitis, or changes in skin color
  • Cushing's syndrome
  • sugar in the urine (glycosuria)
  • decline in growth or height (children)
  • HPA-axis suppression, adrenal crisis
  • high blood sugar (hyperglycemia)
  • skin infections

Side effects are more likely to occur if the area is covered with an occlusive dressing (wrap or bandage) or with extensive or prolonged use of high-strength steroids.

Follow your doctor’s application orders exactly. Potent topical steroids like clobetasol and triamcinolone can be absorbed through the skin and cause serious side effects. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience a side effect that concerns you with the use of a topical corticosteroid.

This is not a complete list of side effects or warnings. Review the full clobetasol or triamcinolone warnings or side effects and discuss this information with your doctor.

Do clobetasol or triamcinolone have drug interactions?

Most drug interactions with topical corticosteroids are minor, but they can be absorbed into the bloodstream if used in high doses or for a long period of time. Always have your doctor and pharmacist review any medications you take for drug interactions, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, vitamins and herbal supplements.

If you use multiple topical skin preparations, ask your doctor if they can be applied within a certain time frame.

See possible drug interactions here:

  • Clobetasol drug interactions
  • Triamcinolone drug interactions

Are clobetasol or triamcinolone expensive?

If paying out-of-pocket, brand name drugs are almost always more expensive than generic drugs. Usually, if your doctor prescribes either of these 2 medicines, you will be able to use a generic product you can get from the pharmacy. If a generic is available, it will be a much lower cost option. Your insurance may only pay for a generic product.

Clobetasol is available generically in all of its approved dosage forms, including: aerosol, cream, gel, lotion, ointment, shampoo, spray, solution and which can help to lower the cost of these topical medications.

Triamcinolone is available as a generic topical cream, ointment, lotion, dental paste, and topical spray. Very few brand name products for triamcinolone are on the market in the U.S. anymore, so you probably receive a generic, which should be more affordable.

Prices will vary, depending upon if you are getting the brand or generic, insurance coverage and copay, your pharmacy location, or if you are paying cash and using an online coupon.

Price Guide: You can view prices and find discount coupons here

This is not all the information you need to know about topical clobetasol or triamcinolone for safe and effective use and does not replace your doctor's instructions. Always review the full product information and discuss this information with your doctor or other health care provider.

References
  • Clobetasol prescribing information. Drugs.com. Accessed Sept. 9, 2021 at https://www.drugs.com/ppa/clobetasol.html
  • Goldstein B, et al. Topical corticosteroids: Use and adverse effects. Up to Date. Accessed Sept. 9, 2021 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/topical-corticosteroids-use-and-adverse-effects
  • Triamcinolone cream prescribing information. Drugs.com. Accessed Sept. 9, 2021 at https://www.drugs.com/pro/triamcinolone.html

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