To examine the effect of topical corticosteroid treatment on acute sunburn.
Randomized, double-blind clinical trial.
University dermatology department.
Twenty healthy volunteers with Fitzpatrick skin types I (highly sensitive, always burns easily, tans minimally) through III (sun-sensitive skin, sometimes burns, slowly tans to light brown).
Seven 34-cm2 areas were marked on the upper aspect of the back of each participant. An untreated area was tested to determine UV sensitivity. Two areas were treated with excess amounts (2 mg/cm2) of either a moderate-potency corticosteroid or a high-potency corticosteroid 30 minutes before UV-B exposure as controls. Six or 23 hours after exposure to radiation, the remaining areas were treated with the 2 corticosteroid preparations.
Main Outcome Measures
The sunburn improvement factor (SIF) was determined by the following equation: SIF = MED (minimal erythema dose) on treated skin/MED on nontreated skin. An SIF greater than 1 indicated an effect of topical corticosteroids in sunburn relief.
The SIFs in the areas treated with either topical corticosteroid 30 minutes before UV-B exposure or high-potency corticosteroid 6 hours after UV-B exposure were significantly different from SIFs in areas that received no treatment (SIF 1.1-1.7; P < .05). Only the median SIF of 1.7 in the areas treated with high-potency corticosteroid 30 minutes before UV-B exposure was clinically relevant. The areas treated 23 hours after UV-B exposure and the areas treated with a moderate-potency corticosteroid 6 hours after UV-B exposure showed no significant reduction in redness.
Treatment with topical moderate-potency or high-potency corticosteroids does not provide a clinically useful decrease in the acute sunburn reaction when applied 6 or 23 hours after UV exposure.
Clinical Trial Registry
clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00206882