Eczma Care
University of Nottingham

Reviewing existing evidence on the safety and effectiveness of flare-control creams (topical corticosteroids)

 Over the last few years, we have been busy collating all of the published evidence about the use of flare-control creams for the treatment of eczema. We hope this work will ensure that guidance provided by healthcare professionals, pharmacists, patient support groups and charities can be as consistent as possible and based on the most up-to-date evidence.


Flare-control creams (or topical corticosteroids) are used to treat the inflammation in the skin caused by the eczema. They are used to calm the skin back down when the eczema is hot and itchy during an eczema flare-up.

We are doing three separate reviews to look at all of the relevant evidence that has been published about flare-control creams over the last 40+ years.

Once complete, these reviews will be used to shared simple, consistent, evidence-based messages throughout the eczema community and will be used to inform future eczema guidelines.



Review 1: An overview of safety data from existing eczema systematic reviews of topical corticosteroids

This review focusses on the safety of flare-control creams and includes data from 38 systematic reviews that have been published on this topic.

Status: this review is complete and can be read on the BMJ website

Review 2: Different strategies for using topical corticosteroids in people with eczema

This review is a Cochrane systematic review looking at different approaches to using flare-control creams.  It includes 104 clinical trials involving 8443 participants. The review looks at both the effectiveness and safety of different treatment strategies. These strategies can be broadly defined into three key area:

  • which ones are best?
  • how often to use them?
  • how best to use them?

Status: this review is complete and can be read on the cochrane website

Strategies for using topical corticosteroids in children and adults with eczema Visual Aid

(view large size version of graphic)

Review 3: Long-term safety of topical corticosteroids

Most eczema trials are relatively short-term (less than 24 weeks’ duration) and so there is limited data available on the long-term safety of topical corticosteroids.

This review looks at studies that have followed-up participants for more than 12 months to help us better understand the safety of topical corticosteroids over longer time periods.

Status: this review has been submitted for publication. The protocol can be viewed here.

Eczema Care Online


This website presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research Programme Grants for Applied Research Programme (project number RP-PG-0216-20007). The views and opinions expressed on this webpage are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR, the National Health Service or the Department of Health & Social Care.