The most important factors in determining the differences in topical steroids is their class of potency and their preparation.
Class is the distinction of topical steroid strength. Not all topical steroids are equal. If you are using a Class 7 steroid, it is the least potent type of steroid. If you are using a Class 1 steroid, then you are using the most potent steroid.
How can I figure out what strength I am using?
Find your topical steroid from this Potency Chart.
But classification doesn’t stop there. After you’ve figured out your topical steroid Class, now take a look at your preparation. Is your topical steroid a gel, cream, or ointment? This will factor into their class.
Creams are not as strong as ointments. Both are made of water and oil, but ointments have a higher concentration of oil and sit on the skin longer, meaning the concentration of your steroid class is more potent in this form (as opposed to a cream form). What makes steroids even more potent is occlusive dressings. If you seal the steroid on your skin with any kind of bandage or wrap (even a long sleeve shirt or leggings), your skin is going to exponentially absorb the concentration of your topical steroid.
Gels are the least occlusive, meaning they are weaker than creams and steroids when using the same class steroid. Gels are usually given for scalp issues since it is an area with a lot of hair. They dry quickly and don’t leave hair very oily.