Canesten HC cream (Clotrimazole, hydrocortisone)

How does it work?

Canesten HC cream contains two active ingredients, clotrimazole and hydrocortisone. Clotrimazole is an antifungal medicine used to treat infections with fungi and yeasts. Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid medicine that is applied to the skin to relieve the symptoms of inflammation.

Clotrimazole kills fungi and yeasts by interfering with their cell membranes. It works by stopping the fungi from producing a substance called ergosterol, which is an essential component of fungal cell membranes. The disruption in production of ergosterol causes holes to appear in the fungal cell membrane.

The cell membranes of fungi are vital for their survival. They keep unwanted substances from entering the cells and stop the contents of the cells from leaking out. As clotrimazole causes holes to appear in the cell membranes, essential constituents of the fungal cells can leak out. This kills the fungi and treats the infection.

Clotrimazole cream is used to treat a wide range of skin infections caused by fungi. These include infections with dermatophytes such as tinea, eg ringworm (tinea corporis), athlete's foot (tinea pedis), and jock itch (tinea cruris) and infections with yeasts such as candida, eg fungal nappy rash, sweat rash, or thrush affecting the outside of the vagina (vulva and labia) or the end of the penis.

Hydrocortisone reduces skin inflammation by stopping skin cells from producing various inflammation-causing chemicals that are normally released when the skin reacts to irritation. These inflammation-causing chemicals include prostaglandins and various other inflammatory substances. They cause blood vessels to widen and other inflammatory substances to arrive, resulting in the affected area of skin becoming red, swollen and itchy. By preventing these inflammatory chemicals from being released in the skin, hydrocortisone reduces inflammation and relieves its related symptoms such as redness and itchiness.

The combination of medicines in Canesten HC cream is used to treat fungal skin infections where symptoms of inflammation, such as itching, require rapid relief.

Canesten HC cream should be applied thinly and evenly to the affected area(s) of skin twice daily and rubbed in gently. The cream should be used for a maximum of seven days.

If you are using Canesten HC cream to treat athlete's foot you should make sure you wash and dry the feet, especially between the toes, before applying the cream. You may also want to use Canesten powder inside your socks and shoes to help treat the infection and prevent it coming back.

If you are using Canesten HC cream to treat vaginal thrush it will only relieve the external symptoms of the infection, such as itching, inflammation and soreness. It won't treat infection inside your vagina, and so should be used in combination with a thrush treatment that does, for example clotrimazole pessaries or cream that are inserted into the vagina, or an antifungal medicine taken by mouth. Your doctor or pharmacist can advise you about which products to use.

What is it used for?

Skin infections caused by yeasts (eg Candida), dermatophytes (eg Trichophyton), moulds and other fungi, such as the following:

  • Athlete's foot (tinea pedis)
  • Fungal infection of the groin, ie jock itch (tinea cruris)
  • Ringworm (tinea corporis)
  • Fungal nappy rash caused by infection with Candida albicans
  • Sweat rash caused by infection with Candida albicans
  • Relieving the external symptoms (candidal vulvitis) of vaginal thrush (candidal vaginitis). (This cream should be used in combination with another medicine that treats the infection inside your vagina - ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice about which products to use.)
  • Inflammation of the penis and/or foreskin (candidal balanitis) caused by infection with Candida albicans (also known as thrush).


  • Canesten HC cream is for external use only. It should be applied thinly and evenly to the affected area(s).
  • Do not apply to broken skin.
  • Avoid contact with the eyes, mouth or mucous membranes (eg inside of the nose or mouth).
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after applying the cream, unless the hands are the area being treated.
  • The treated area(s) of skin should not be covered with airtight dressings (including nappies) as this will increase the absorption of hydrocortisone into the body, which could increase the risk of local side effects such as skin thinning (see below). You should only use airtight dressings over the affected area if instructed by your doctor.
  • This medicine should not be used for longer than seven days at a time. If symptoms persist after seven days of treatment you should consult your doctor.
  • Avoid long-term use on large areas of the skin, particularly in infants and children.
  • Canesten HC cream may damage latex (rubber) condoms and diaphragms (caps) and so make them ineffective at preventing pregnancy and STIs. If you are using this cream to treat the vagina or penis you should use an alternative method of contraception for at least five days after using the cream, or preferably avoid having sex until after the infection has cleared up. Remember that having sex while you still have the infection is likely to transmit the infection to your partner, who could then transfer it back to you.
  • If your sexual partner also has symptoms of thrush it is important that they are treated at the same time as you to prevent you being re-infected. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

Not to be used on areas of skin affected by:

  • Untreated bacterial skin infections
  • Viral infections such as chickenpox, shingles, cold sores or herpes simplex
  • Vaccination reactions
  • Acne
  • Chronic inflammatory disorder of the facial skin (acne rosacea)
  • Inflammatory rash around the mouth (perioral dermatitis).

This medicine should not be used if you are allergic to one or any of its ingredients. Please inform your doctor or pharmacist if you have previously experienced such an allergy.If you feel you have experienced an allergic reaction, stop using this medicine and inform your doctor or pharmacist immediately.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Certain medicines should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. However, other medicines may be safely used in pregnancy or breastfeeding providing the benefits to the mother outweigh the risks to the unborn baby. Always inform your doctor if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, before using any medicine.

  • This medicine should not be used during pregnancy unless considered essential by your doctor. If it is prescribed by your doctor it should not be used on large areas of skin, underneath airtight dressings, or for prolonged periods of time. Consult your doctor for further information.
  • This medicine should not be used during breastfeeding unless considered essential by your doctor. If it is prescribed by your doctor it should not be used on large areas of skin, underneath airtight dressings or for prolonged periods of time. If it is applied to the breasts it should be washed off carefully before breastfeeding and then reapplied afterwards.

Label warnings

  • This medication is to be spread thinly and sparingly on the skin.

Side effects

Medicines and their possible side effects can affect individual people in different ways. The following are some of the side effects that are known to be associated with this medicine. Because a side effect is stated here, it does not mean that all people using this medicine will experience that or any side effect.

  • Irritation in area of use
  • Burning sensation

If used for longer than two to four weeks, under airtight dressings or on large areas of skin, the following side effects are also possible:

  • Thinning of the skin
  • Decrease in skin pigmentation
  • Acne
  • Increased hair growth
  • Stretch marks
  • Groupings of fine blood vessels becoming prominent under the skin (telangiectasia)

The side effects listed above may not include all of the side effects reported by the drug's manufacturer.For more information about any other possible risks associated with this medicine, please read the information provided with the medicine or consult your doctor or pharmacist.

How can this medicine affect other medicines?

When applied to unbroken skin clotrimazole and hydrocortisone are not known to affect any other medicines.

Other medicines containing the same active ingredients

Canesten hydrocortisone cream