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Cortisone for Acne

By Shannon Marks ; Updated July 18, 2017

Cortisone is a hormone that's released as a response to inflammation. It is sometimes injected directly into an area of inflammation, such a cystic acne lesion, to promote healing, according to Daniel Kerns of Although cortisone injections can alleviate inflammation quickly, they can have side effects. Most notably, a cortisone injection can cause the fatty tissue around the injection site to atrophy, Kerns says. The injection area can wind up looking sunken. This side effect, however, is temporary.

Type of Acne

Cortisone injections are commonly used to treat cysts and nodules, which are severe forms of acne that are sometimes resistant to topical medications and can cause permanent scarring. Cysts and nodules are large lesions that can last for months if not treated correctly, according to Kerns. They can occur alone or be widespread over the back, neck, scalp, chest and shoulders, according to Skincare Physicians, the official website of the American Academy of Dermatology. For some, nodules and cysts are also painful. Once you get a cortisone injection, healing begins almost immediately.

What to Expect

Cortisone injections can be somewhat painful, which can be exacerbated if your lesions are sensitive to the touch. Your dermatologist can give you a local anesthetic to numb the site of the injection. In some cases you may see minimal bruising, especially if you receive multiple injections.

Side Effects

Kerns reports that cortisone shots have very few side effects. According to the Mayo Clinic, you may experience a slight indentation in the area of the injection. This is a temporary condition, but it can take several months to disappear completely. Dr. Alan Rockoff, MD, of the Rockoff Dermatology Center in Brookline, Massachusetts, says that if your doctor dilutes the cortisone and if you have cortisone shots regularly you should not have this side effect. If you have dark skin, you may see some hypopigmentation, which is a light spot at the site of the injection. This side effect occurs infrequently.

Where to get the Shot

You can get a cortisone injection at your physician's or dermatologist’s office. To see a specialist, your health insurance provider may require that you obtain a referral from your primary-care physician. Topical cortisone cream is available over the counter, but this type of cortisone will not reduce inflammation associated with severe acne.

What’s Next

Cortisone injections should begin reducing your inflammation immediately. They will not, however, prevent breakouts. If your acne is severe and regular, and over-the-counter medications are not preventing new breakouts, you should discuss your options with a dermatologist. Prescription medications may help you manage your acne.

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