How do I choose among these?
When comparing many different formations of a specific medication, the ointment formulation is often the most potent. The oil-based ointment formulation creates a barrier over the skin, allowing more medication to penetrate, and is somewhat more resistant to washing and rubbing off.
More sophisticated formulation techniques are changing this pattern, however. For example, foam appears to deliver more active medication than other formulas containing a particular ingredient. This trend is important because most people have very specific preferences about what works best and what feels most comfortable in different areas. It is helpful to try different kinds to find the one that works best for you.
Unfortunately, these preferences mean that a patient will often leave the doctor’s office with a handful of prescriptions. It is important to make sure you under-stand when and where a certain medication should be used on the body. Generally, no more that one topical steroid is usually used on one area of skin. For example, if using a steroid foam on the scalp, there is no reason to use steroid ointment on the scalp as well.
For skin on the body, ointments, creams, and lotions are used most often. If dry skin, cracking, or scaling is a problem, thicker formulations such as ointments and creams can help with the dryness, while bringing med-ication to affected skin. For those who prefer a more “dry” topical treatment, gel, solution, and foam formu-lations may be available. Gels, solutions, foams, and other liquids such as medicated shampoos are designed for scalp use, and can reach scalp skin while minimizing accumulation on the hair.
Tip: Label prescription tubes with a marker when you bring them home from the pharmacy. Often, the instruc-tions are on the box, which gets thrown away long before the medicine is used up.