Red Skin Syndrome explained

What is Red Skin Syndrome?

Red Skin Syndrome (RSS) occurs when topical corticosteroids (steroid medications applied directly to the skin to reduce inflammation and irritation) are inappropriately used or overused, then stopped. Eventually, your skin will turn red, itch or you will experience a burning sensation. Many people interpret these symptoms as evidence that their original skin condition is getting worse, rather than a sign of another underlying concern.

RSS symptoms:

According to the experts at House Call Doctor, here are the eight signs which indicate you may be experiencing RSS:

  1. Your rash is worsening and the amount of redness is increasing
  2. Severe redness and a sensation the skin is burning
  3. Skin depigmentation or dark pigmentation – appears as white patches or dark brown/grey areas of the skin. Commonly visible near the knees, elbows and on the face, but can occur anywhere topical steroids are used.
  4. Swelling of the skin – puffy, swollen and tender to the touch
  5. Papules, pimple-like bumps, nodules and pustules – bumps appear which look like acne. They’re also known as ‘steroid acne’ or ‘pustular psoriasis’.
  6. Premature skin ageing (extensive wrinkling of skin) – appears above the knees, arms and hands but can also occur anywhere on the body
  7. Your hair is falling out in clumps – hair loss/thinning and/or loss of eyebrows
  8. Stretch marks on the skin (also known as Atrophic striae) – stripes across the skin, which can be a sign your skin is low in zinc and other minerals.

How to prevent and treat RSS?

To prevent RSS and its symptoms, you’ll need to slowly stop your topical steroid, rather than stopping suddenly. You should also only do this upon your doctor’s advice and approval. There isn’t any one treatment that can treat RSS but your doctor can recommend medication and home remedies to relieve and reduce symptoms.

You can reduce pain and soothe skin at home with:

  • Ice and cool compresses
  • Ointment and balms, including Vaseline, Hemp oil and Zinc oxide
  • Antihistamines
  • Pain relivers
  • Antibacterial ointment.

It is also recommended you switch soaps, laundry detergent and other toiletries in favour of products that are specifically designed for sensitive skin.