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Perioral Dermatitis typically occurs in young women and leaves a red rash around the lips or nose or general redness around the mouth. The rash can also bring on small red bumps that aren’t cold sores or acne. For me, my face was always burning, red, and dry. Below, I’ll share possible causes for the skin rash, as well as, the products and treatments that helped my skin recover.
But first, I have to say I’m so sorry you or someone close to you is having to deal with this. Also, I am not a doctor or have a medical certification. I am only sharing my story. This post isn’t designed to cure your perioral dermatitis.
This post was originally written in 2012, but I’m updating it in 2021 because of the many responses I’ve received over the years with ideas, tips, and support. Also, after dealing with my face burning and being red and dry for most of my 20’s I finally found a dermatologist and a treatment plan that cleared my face up quickly.
What is Perioral Dermatitis?
Perioral Dermatitis is a relatively common skin condition that can cause a burning sensation, acne-like breakouts, small red bumps, and/or a rash around the nose (medical term: nasolabial folds), upper lip, mouth, or eyes. It’s also common to have the thin band of skin surrounding the lips be white.
While it’s common in young to middle-aged women, this inflammation of the skin can occur in younger people and people of all skin colors.
Symptoms of Perioral Dermatitis
Depending on your case of perioral dermatitis, your symptoms may vary. For me, perioral dermatitis caused acne-like bumps and a burning, rash that itched. There was also a lot of redness.
While you can see the tiny bumps on my lips, I have had my perioral dermatitis spread up to my nose as well. Even after getting treatment, the bottom of my nose remains red from the years of inflammation I assume.
This is what mine looked like on a “normal” day. This isn’t flared up or cleared up.
What Causes Perioral Dermatitis?
While there isn’t an exact cause of perioral dermatitis, there are a few common possible causes. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, the use of topical steroids like strong corticosteroid creams, nasal sprays, or oral inhalers, fluoride toothpaste, zinc deficiency, heavy facial creams, or other hormonal factors can cause it; it’s not just a stress rash (visit aad.org for more).
I have also had rapid change in temperature, strong soaps (including detergent), and certain harsh cosmetics or facials to play a role in mine.
You’ll of course need to have a physical examination by a medical doctor for an accurate diagnosis and to find out what’s causing it.
Healthline suggests these causes as well:
- bacterial or fungal infections
- constant drooling
- fluorinated toothpaste
- birth control pills
what I Noticed
For me, toothpaste, stress, and hormones made my symptoms worse.
I suggest keeping a journal about your food, stress level, travel, and menstrual cycle to see if you notice any patterns. Also, I suggest recording if you start using a new product too. This is what helped me figure out my triggers.
Is perioral dermatitis contagious?
Perioral dermatitis is not contagious to other people; however, It can spread to different areas on the same person though – like chin to nose to eyes or cheeks (Source).
How do you treat perioral dermatitis on your face?
Both topical and oral prescribed mediations may be recommended to treat perioral dermatitis. There are also a few natural remedies you can try at home using over the counter items. We’ll look at both below.
Perioral Dermatitis Treatment Options
While I can’t write tips on how to get rid of perioral dermatitis overnight, there are several treatment options that may help you get relief quickly!
If you’re able to see a doctor, I’d recommend getting a diagnosis of perioral dermatitis and then following your dermatologist’s instructions.
With that said, it took me talking to at least 3 dermatologists and 2 doctors to find an effective treatment of perioral dermatitis. So I think having the information below before you go to the doctor can also be helpful. You should also always avoid the use of steroid creams because it can make it worse.
Prescription Options to Treating Perioral Dermatitis
For some milder cases, topical medications may be prescribed for the affect area. These include topical antibiotic creams like topical metronidazole or azelaic acid cream. Other known topical treatments are benzyl peroxide preparations, and to a lesser degree, topical erythromycin, clindamycin, or tetracycline (source).
For more severe cases, oral antibiotics may be prescribed. Oral tetracycline, doxycycline, or minocycline may also be helpful in presentations that are more resistant (source).
You should see results after a few weeks of treatment – whether you’re on a topical antibiotic treatment or oral medications.
Cystic Acne & Spironolactone
After going through multiple rounds of antibiotics and trying topical creams, the last dermatologist suggested a low dose of spironolactone along with oral contraceptives to clear it up. While this hormonal therapy treatment is more designed to help cystic acne, it was the ONLY thing that has kept my perioral dermatitis clear for months.
While it didn’t get rid of my perioral dermatitis over night, it did clear it up pretty fast – especially after struggling off and on with it for years.
home remedies for perioral dermatitis & Over the Counter Treatments
I know the idea of prescribed medications can be scary or just not available for everyone. So I wanted to outline a few natural remedies to treat dermatitis.
Below, I’ll share my 5 natural tips that personally helped me. Here are a few other tips for treating perioral dermatitis on your face though.
Things You Can Do At Home
- Get rid of harsh face scrubs and scented products.
- Wash your face with mild soap and warm water (hot water is too harsh).
- Avoid steroid creams and nasal sprays.
- Reduce or track your makeup and skincare products.
- Wash your pillow cases and towels often.
- Limit spicy foods. Cinnamon is also one I’ve been told to avoid.
- Switch to a fluoride-free toothpaste.
Best Products for Perioral Dermatitis
Finding the best skin care products for perioral dermatitis is critical. Not only can it help with treating it, it can also help relieve some of the itching and sensitivity. I’ll also share some cosmetic products I’ve really liked to cover up the redness and bumps.
Best Cleanser for Perioral Dermatitis: CETAPHIL
I mentioned seeing multiple doctors before getting any relief, and every single of one of them said Cetaphil was the best face wash for perioral dermatitis. Alternative products would be something gentle such as face washes like Aveeno’s Calming Oat Cleanser.
Best Perioral Dermatitis Moisturizer: Cetaphil Face Moisturizer, Daily Oil-Free Hydrating Face Lotion with Hyaluronic Acid
I love this gentle moisturizer because it’s oil-free and the hyaluronic acid can help if you have any cystic acne. Whether or not you choose this specific line or not, you want to choose lighter face creams over a night cream because the heavier creams can make it worse.
This is the best sunscreen I’ve found. If I travel, I’ll even squeeze it into a TSA-approved little container!
I get the SPF 15, but they have a lot of options. Perioral Dermatitis is such sensitive skin that it needs a gentle SPF, and it definitely needs that sun protection!
Over the counter zinc
Yeah, I take an over-the-counter Zinc when I have a flare up. The Mayo Clinic says you can take 40-220mg for up to 6 months to treat skin conditions such as Eczema. I try to do it just when I have a flare up though.
Best Toothpaste for Perioral Dermatitis: KISS MY FACE TOOTHPASTE or JASON’S SPEARMINT TOOTHPASTE
Jason’s seems to be easier to get on Amazon so I usually get it, but I love both brands. My dermatologist told me to avoid: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, whiteners, fluroride, and harsh flavors (like peppermint or cinnamon). That as a tall order!!
Kiss My Face is another brand focused on using good ingredients in their products. Since perioral dermatitis is usually around the lips, I feel like using a higher-quality chapstick is really important.
I used to be able to find it at Walmart and even some grocery stores, but now I can’t as easily.
I usually order a few and keep them around the house and in my purse.
Does coconut oil help? What about honey?
Coconut oil and honey both have antibacterial properties which is why I think it could help my dermatitis.
I made this video years ago, and it still gets traction on Youtube. I go over a few additional tips including a honey and organic yogurt mask that seems to cool down my symptoms.
How long does it take to heal?
Unfortunately, I still have flare-ups and hear from others that have had it for years. The recurrence of perioral dermatitis seems pretty common as well.
After all this time, my advice to you is to:
It will help ease your stress level and reduce those awful bumps. Sometimes it’s the hardest thing to do, but it does help.
This is my dermatitis 2 days after the “Normal” day. Unfortunately, it didn’t stay this clear, but it is nice to know it’s a possibility…even temporarily.
My varying level of symptoms each month is another reason I believe it’s very much hormone related.
Now to the Original Post from 2012
How my Perioral Dermatitis Started
I ended up with perioral dermatitis after signing up for a double major my senior year of college.
I decided to take on finance based on the idea of becoming a financial advisor and showing people I could do it.
ALWAYS a wonderful idea…not!
Within the first month, I was stressed out and the bumps appeared in August.
Now, I don’t know if that’s what caused it – but guys, I really hated finance.
I also had just started dating someone, and now I had this awful rash for the him and the world to see.
The first appointment the dermatologist had was 2 weeks after seeing my first blisters.
I was hoping a shot or a cream would get them gone in a week…2 weeks tops. She gave me a steroid shot [update 2018: BAD], Minocycline, Finacea Gel, and the awful news: “give it at least 6 weeks and then we’ll reevaluate.”
I had class every day and a new boyfriend. I hated this rash.
After a month of taking the antibiotic and applying the gel twice a day, dermatitis cleared up. I was in heaven! So much so that I canceled my 2nd appointment! I would never, ever take my smooth chin for granted.
By Christmas, it was back.
I scheduled an appointment with my family doctor, and she put me on a stronger antibiotic: Doxycycline. The Doxycycline made me so thirsty and my stomach hurt, but it was worth it. Again, the bumps went away after about a month.
I had another nice little break before having yet another flare up.
This time I was fed up.
I began researching about vitamin deficiencies and natural ways to cure it.
I began applying a mask of Stonyfield yogurt and coconut oil. It helped significantly for about a week. After that, it only really worked if I didn’t use it every day. I still use the mask if I have a big event coming up, but it is not an effective treatment for everyday use.
My perioral dermatitis hung around until late August.
I decided to go back and see the dermatologist again after crying over it in a shopping center parking lot and not wanting to go in with a bright red, burning chin.
She put me on antibiotics again and also suggested I start taking zinc every day. Studies have shown a zinc supplement can help dermatitis significantly even if you are eating healthy.
Since August, the zinc has been helping [written in January].
The rash cleared within the month of taking the antibiotics, but the zinc has kept it at bay so far pretty well.
Currently, I am having a small flare up, but it is not nearly as bad as it used to be. The flare-up is because I skipped a zinc supplement one day when I was out of town and the stress of starting a new job.
I am trying to remain calm and write down any stressors. While there is little documentation about stress and perioral dermatitis, I feel they are strongly connected.
Do you suffer from Perioral Dermatitis?
Do you have a solution or tip?
I’d love to hear from you either in the comment section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, please see my favorite skincare, makeup, and hair products that are safe for dermatitis if you have questions relating to cosmetics.
You might also like:
- My Favorites for Sensitive Skin
- Sulfate-Free and Paraben-Free Products for a Better Routine
- Self Love Routine to Help with Stress