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If you’re like me and your doctor prescribes a topical medication, you just follow the directions and use it.

But there are things to consider when using topicals.  You should always apply them after a shower, bath, or swimming.  If you apply topical medications to damp skin, it may increase the absorption into your body.  This can increase the risk of side effects.  If you’re going swimming, try to wait 15 to 30 minutes after you’ve applied your medication, or until it dries, before jumping in the pool.

Sometimes, it makes sense to apply topicals to damp skin.  An example is if you have eczema.  Using a moisturizer right after bathing helps to retain moisture for your dry skin.

If you’re taking a hot shower, bath, or using a hot tub, don’t apply capsaicin cream for a full hour afterward.  It can increase the risk of a chemical burn.

Be careful if you wear a medication patch (example – nicotine patch).  If the patch is exposed to water it could affect the adhesive.  Package directions can help you decide if you need to tape the edges before getting it wet.  Avoid putting patches where they can be rubbed off easily (swimsuit waistband).  When bathing, gently wash the area of the patch in the shower and pat it dry with a towel.

There is no need to reapply most topical medications after swimming or bathing several hours after you’ve put them on.

But remember, sunscreens aren’t waterproof.  You should apply it 15 minutes before going in the sun and reapply it every 2 hours, especially if you’ve gone in the water or are sweaty.  Wait 15 to 30 minutes after applying a topical medication before you put sunscreen over it.

If you have a new scar, it will be very sensitive to the sun.  It should be fully healed before applying sunscreen over it.  Be sure to protect it from the sun with either clothing or a sunscreen.


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