Glucocorticoids (GCs) are highly effective for the topical treatment of inflammatory skin diseases. Their long-term use, however, is often accompanied by severe and partially irreversible adverse effects, with atrophy being the most prominent limitation. Progress in the understanding of GC-mediated molecular action as well as some advances in technologies to determine the atrophogenic potential of compounds has been made recently. It is likely that the detailed mechanisms of GC-induced skin atrophy will be discovered and in vitro models for the reliable prediction of atrophy will be established in the foreseeable future. This knowledge will not only facilitate safety profiling of established drugs but will also foster further drug discovery by improving compound characterization processes. New insights into GC modes of action will guide optimization strategies aiming at novel GC receptor ligands with improved effect/side effect profile.