Effects of Intermittent Treatment with Topical Corticosteroids and Calcineurin Inhibitors on Epidermal and Dermal Thickness Using Optical Coherence Tomography and Ultrasound

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



Introduction: Proactive therapy with topical corticosteroids (TCSs) is the standard treatment for chronic inflammatory diseases such as atopic dermatitis; however, skin atrophy as TCS side effect remains a concern. Methods: This 16-week, evaluator-blinded, within-patient placebo-controlled, randomized study enrolled volunteers with healthy skin conditions. For 12 weeks, their volar forearm and the back of their hand were applied with hydrocortisone acetate 1% cream (HC), methylprednisolone aceponate 0.1% cream (MPA), betamethasone valerate 0.1% cream (BMV), or an active agent-free base cream (Dermatop® Basiscreme) once daily twice weekly, and pimecrolimus 1% cream (PIM) twice daily twice weekly. Epidermal and dermal thickness was measured by optical coherence tomography and high-frequency ultrasound, respectively. Furthermore, skin atrophy and telangiectasia were determined by contact dermatoscopic photography (Dermaphot®). Results: After 8 and 12 weeks, only BMV led to significant epidermal thinning on both sites. Four weeks after the end of treatment, epidermal thickness returned to baseline. No dermal thinning, atrophy, or telangiectasia was observed. Conclusions: MPA, HC, and PIM may be more suitable for repeated and prolonged treatment, especially in chronic diseases.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-50
Number of pages10
JournalSkin Pharmacology and Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022

External IDs

PubMed 34348352
ORCID /0000-0003-0554-2178/work/142249899


ASJC Scopus subject areas


  • Atopic dermatitis, Corticosteroid, Optical coherence tomography, Pimecrolimus, Skin atrophy