Piles are literally a pain in the bum. We recommend the best haemorrhoid creams and ointments to blitz the discomfort of piles, fast
Haemorrhoids (or ‘hemorrhoids’ to use the US spelling, or ‘piles’, if you want to cut out the spelling issue altogether) are an occasional fact of life for many of us. The best haemorrhoid creams do a quick and effective job of soothing the pain and itch of those unwanted bumps where the sun don’t shine. They can also shrink your piles and prevent them from reoccurring.
“Haemorrhoids can affect 40% of us in our lifetimes,” said Hussain Abdeh, Superintendent Pharmacist at Medicine Direct. These itchy lumps around (or even inside) the anus aren’t the result of infection; they’re simply ruptured or inflamed blood vessels. And when those tiny blood vessels find themselves under extra pressure from pregnancy, constipation or straining on the loo, they’re even more likely to swell and rupture. The result is sore, itchy piles that feel especially uncomfortable at night.
Skip down the page to our recommended treatments for piles, or read on for more advice on choosing the best haemorrhoid cream to get you sitting comfortably again.
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Best haemorrhoid creams: At a glance
How to choose the best haemorrhoid treatment for you
What type of haemorrhoid treatment should I buy?
Haemorrhoid creams should be your first port of call for treating piles. “Over-the-counter (OTC) creams such as Anusol contain a combination of ingredients to relieve pain and itching, and to stop bacteria from growing around the affected area,” pharmacist Hussain Abdeh told Expert Reviews. “They provide fast, effective relief of symptoms such as burning, itching and mild pain.”
Haemorrhoid cream can help even if you’re suffering from internal piles. “Creams are typically more effective when treating external piles, but they can also relieve irritation caused by discharge from internal piles,” says Hussain. Creams also have the advantage of being lightweight, cooling, and fast to absorb.
Haemorrhoid ointments contain similar active ingredients as creams, but they’re thicker and more greasy. So you may need to put a gauze on top to stop the ointment transferring onto underwear and bed sheets, but the thick, gloopy texture is especially soothing for itchy, dry, sore skin. Most ointments come with applicators to help you apply them internally, too.
Haemorrhoid suppositories also contain topical active ingredients to relieve discomfort and prevent bacterial growth, but this time the ingredients are contained inside a soft capsule that you insert inside your back passage. Once there, it gradually dissolves to let the active ingredients get directly to work. “Suppositories offer longer lasting pain relief than a cream or ointment, because the medicine is absorbed slowly into the rectal tissue,” says Hussain.
What ingredients should I look for in haemorrhoid creams?
All haemorrhoid treatments contain a combination of pain/itch-reliever and antiseptic. Here are some of the specific ingredients you’ll see.
Zinc oxide is an astringent and mild antiseptic. Its main job is to shrink enlarged piles. But it also helps to prevent sore, sensitive skin from getting infected by bacteria, which are obviously pretty prevalent in that area.
Lidocaine is a local anaesthetic which soothes pain and itching.
Hydrocortisone is a type of steroid which works as a pain reliever, stopping itching and discomfort. It’s also really effective against insect bites. It is stronger than lidocaine, but it’s also less suitable for long-term use. “Topical steroids can thin the skin over time,” says Hussain. “So hydrocortisone should only be used for up to seven days at a time.” If symptoms persist, see your GP.
Bismuth oxide is an astringent with mild antiseptic properties. It has a protective action on mucous membranes, so it can help protect delicate skin.
Balsam Peru (and its constituent ingredient benzyl benzoate, often listed separately) is an antiseptic that can help with wound healing. Interestingly, it’s a relative of vanilla and cinnamon, and often turns up in chewing gum and cough syrups.
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The best haemorrhoid creams you can buy in 2023
1. Germoloids Cream: Best all-round haemorrhoid cream
Price: £4.95 | Buy now from Amazon
Germoloids Cream is a really cooling, easy-to-apply water-based cream that soothes itching straight away. Its main active ingredient is lidocaine, a local anaesthetic that numbs pain and itching from the first application. Lidocaine can be used safely for longer than topical steroids such as hydrocortisone, so you won’t have to quit this cream after a few days. Germoloids Cream also contains zinc oxide to help shrink piles and prevent your sore, sensitive skin from getting infected.
Not only is Germoloids Cream a winning haemorrhoid treatment, but it also brings out the best in Amazon’s reviewers. “Thank you, ass gods,” writes one. “I spent two weeks feeling like a couple of porcupines were fighting to the death in my rear end, (but this) was a special kind of relief.” Another adds: “Very good on the hole.” More sober buyers report that this is the only haemorrhoid cream that shrunk painful piles brought on during pregnancy. At less than a fiver for 55g, it’s good value, too.
Key specs – Size: 55g; Format: Cream; Active ingredients: Zinc oxide 6.6%, lidocaine 0.7%
2. Anusol Plus HC Ointment: Best haemorrhoid ointment to numb pain and itching fast
Price: £5.49 | Buy now from Lloyds Pharmacy
Most branded haemorrhoid treatments come under either the Anusol or Germoloids name. This ointment is our top choice of Anusol’s wide range of products, which now includes wipes as well as suppositories and creams.
Anusol Plus HC Ointment is thicker, oilier and harder to apply than cream, and you may need to cover it with gauze to stop it getting all over your bed sheets. But it is supremely effective against the pain of piles. Its main ingredient is the steroid hydrocortisone (hence ‘HC’), which you should only use for seven days max. The ointment also contains a generous proportion of zinc oxide to shrink those piles fast.
Key specs – Size: 15g; Format: Ointment; Active ingredients: Hydrocortisone 0.25g, zinc oxide 10.75g, balsam Peru, bismuth oxide, benzyl benzoate
3. Germoloids Ointment: Best haemorrhoid ointment to shrink internal and external piles
Price: £6.49 | Buy now from Amazon
Like Germoloids Cream, this ointment relies on lidocaine rather than hydrocortisone to numb pain and itching. Not only does this mean you can use it for longer than Anusol Plus HC Ointment, but it also makes this ointment a better choice for using on internal piles, because lidocaine is less likely to damage delicate rectal skin than hydrocortisone. There’s an applicator in the box to help you get the ointment inside if you need to.
The stuff is rather oily, which makes it a really effective lubricant and will help keep things moving more smoothly when you go to the loo – thereby helping to prevent further outbreaks. Everybody happy.
Key specs – Size: 55ml; Format: Ointment; Active ingredient: Zinc oxide 6.6%, lidocaine 0.7%
4. Preparation H Clear Gel: Best natural gel to cool and soothe haemorrhoids
Price: £6.49 | Buy now from Boots
Preparation H is the dark-horse upstart in the haemorrhoid world, surviving while Anusol and Germoloids dominate. It bravely eschews zinc oxide and pain-killing ingredients in favour of witch hazel, which has been used for centuries to soothe stings and calm inflamed skin. This wonderfully cooling gel absorbs really fast, without feeling at all greasy, so it’s ideal for bedtime. It won’t shrink persistent piles, but it does a great job of hydrating dry, itchy skin.
Key specs – Size: 50g; Format: Gel; Active ingredient: Witch hazel
5. Anusol Cream: Best gentle haemorrhoid cream for ongoing use
Price: £6.31 | Buy now from Lloyds Pharmacy
This relatively gentle formula makes Anusol Cream ideal for keeping in the bedside cabinet for ongoing use. It doesn’t contain lidocaine or hydrocortisone, which means it may not be strong enough to kill the pain and itch of really unpleasant piles. But it does contain zinc oxide to shrink piles, and it has a light, cool sensation that immediately soothes irritated skin and absorbs really fast. Unlike ointment, it doesn’t leave any greasy residue on your hands, although of course you should wash your hands before and after applying it.
Key specs – Size: 43g; Format: Cream; Active ingredients: Zinc oxide 10.75g, bismuth oxide, balsam Peru
6. Boots Haemorrhoid Relief 24 Suppositories: Best haemorrhoid suppositories for treating internal piles
Price: £4.99 | Buy now from Boots
Germoloids and Anusol both make suppository versions of their haemorrhoid creams. Anusol suppositories contain hydrocortisone, while Germoloids suppositories contain lidocaine. Boots’ own suppositories contain lidocaine (to soothe pain and itching, without thinning skin) plus allantoin, a naturally-occurring substance that works as a moisturiser and helps promote healing. The suppositories are soft and easy to insert, and release their pain-killing ingredients slowly, helping to soothe both internal and external haemorrhoids. They’re not for everyone, though, and you may experience a touch of diarrhoea after using them.
Key specs – Size: x24; Format: Suppositories; Active ingredients: Allantoin, lidocaine