The effectiveness of topical steroid application in relieving phimosis was studied in 63 boys treated with local application of steroid ointment to the foreskin. Betamethasone valerate 0.05% (42 patients), hydrocortisone 1% (18 patients), or hydrocortisone 2% (3 patients) was applied three times daily for 4 weeks. Thirty-seven of the patients treated with 0.05% betamethasone valerate ointment (half-strength Betnovate) showed an initial improvement and circumcision was performed on 5 non-responders. Six patients showed initial improvement but later redeveloped phimosis: they were given a further course of treatment, resulting in 2 satisfactory responses and 4 failures requiring circumcision. Two patients using 2% hydrocortisone and 16 using 1% hydrocortisone ointment showed improvement, but 2 of the latter group ultimately required circumcision. Overall, a permanent improvement was achieved in 51 of the 63 patients, with the ability to retract the foreskin after one or more treatments. The remaining 12 boys required circumcision. Local application of steroid ointment to the foreskin results in resolution of phimosis in the majority of cases, but if the foreskin has a circumferential white scar, it is slightly less likely to respond. Following cessation of steriods, phimosis redevelops in a proportion of patients.