Creams and ointments to treat rashes, acne, and rosacea will cost you. Out of pocket costs for prescription creams and ointments have risen, and many try to get away with less effective over the counter milder steroids. Here is what you need to know to save on your skin creams
- Is it just me? Nope. Skin disorders are the number one reason folks in the U.S. visit the doctor. Surprising, isn’t it?
- Why such a rip-off? Generic topical steroids have risen in price over the past few years. This is because only a few companies make most generic creams and ointments in the U.S so they can set the market price.
- Strength. There are low, medium and high potency steroids and your doctor will make a decision about which one you need based on what you have going on.
- The form matters. The base – whether a cream, gel or ointment – determines the rate at which the active ingredient is absorbed through the skin. The same exact medication will be stronger in an ointment than a cream. Know this.
- Creams are the base most often prescribed because they may be used on nearly any area of the body. Creams are white and somewhat greasy and used for creases (groin, rectal area and underarms) because they have a drying effect, which is good if you have a wet oozing rash.
- Ointments are greasy with little or no water so they are best for lubrication. Ointments are good for drier skin rashes and most importantly have greater penetration of medicine than creams and therefore are more potent (stronger).
- Gels contain water and alcohol so they have a drying effect. They are good for wet, oozing rashes like poison oak or ivy.
- Saving dough on steroids. Common topical steroids like fluocinonide (Lidex) – which dermatologists call “Vitamin F” because it works for everything– and triamcinolone have differences in price between creams and ointments. You can’t just switch, because one is stronger than the other, but make sure your doctor knows why they want you to have an ointment or cream, for example.
- Saving dough on antifungals. Many of you buy a small tube of Lamisil AT 1% cream over the counter for jock itch, athlete’s foot or other fungal rashes. Know that your doctor can write a prescription for Terbinafine 1% cream which is often cheaper and a larger tube.
- Size matters. The larger sizes (30, 60 or 80 grams) are often the best buy. If you have a chronic skin issue like eczema, psoriasis, or seborrheic dermatitis, ask about having the larger size prescribed. For example, the 80-gram tub of triamcinolone is quite cheap and will save you over the smaller tubes.
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