What Does Topical Steroid Withdrawal Look Like on the Face

Symptoms of TSW on the face include:

  • Flushed, red patches; rosacea
  • Swollen eyes
  • Pustules or pimples around the mouth
  • Rash-like appearance
  • Extreme sensitivity
  • ‘Elephantine wrinkles’
  • Severe dryness
  • Flaking or shedding skin
  • Oozing patches
  • Cracked or bleeding around corners of the mouth

What Does Topical Steroid Withdrawal Look Like on the Face

While topical steroid withdrawal manifests all over the body, even on areas that haven’t had steroids applied, symptoms do seem to focus particularly on the especially sensitive skin of the face. This means faces can be flushed and red from TSW even if you’ve only ever put steroid cream on your hands.

One of the worst things about the distinctive sore face associated with topical steroid withdrawal is how public it feels. Having such a visible sign of a little-understood condition can be a real blow to self-confidence. Many people undergoing TSW find themselves staying in a lot, avoiding people, taking time off work, basically hiding away while the symptoms are at their worst. But don’t isolate yourself if you can help it, as you will need support from friends in real life and online.

“Have faith in the process, have faith that you will get better, that your body knows how to heal itself. And it will. You won’t be in pain forever!”
Maria Marziaoli

Emollients for TSW on the face

If you use emollients on your face then choose ones which are very gentle indeed. The sensitivity of the skin of the face is such that many people undergoing TSW cannot tolerate anything - not even water - without pain.

  • Choose emollients which are oils or ointments, as these are less likely to sting than creams.
  • Choose emollients that do not contain perfumes or synthetic irritant ingredients.
  • Choose emollients that feed your skin as well as protect it, so that you’re providing the building blocks for regeneration and repair of damaged skin.


Skin Salvation is a safe, effective, intensively hydrating emollient that works in four crucial ways to help dry skin:

  1. It is free from the preservatives, perfumes, parabens, essential oils, coconut oils, nut oils, soya, and other common irritants that can hurt so much when applied to such sore. sensitive skin.
  2. It nourishes depleted skin with the essential fatty acids, vitamins and other nutrients the epidermis needs to repair and regenerate.
  3. It uses beeswax to provide a fine, protective barrier over the skin - like a sticking plaster over a wound 
  4. It hydrates, softens and conditions dry, flaking or shedding skin.

    For more information about TSW, its symptoms and how to manage them, go to the ITSAN website.

    With much gratitude to Harriet, Lou, Laurie and Holly for their photographs on this page. Follow them on #TSWFab5

    Hashtags to follow for peer-to-peer support: #thisisnoteczema #tsw

    Current medical advice is not to use daily topical steroids continuously for more than two to four weeks; then the frequency should be tapered to twice weekly use.

    Topical Steroid Withdrawal

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