Perioral Dermatitis

Firstly, just to acknowledge my radio silence on the blog lately - I've had a bit of a hectic few weeks and blogging has fallen by the wayside a little. Normal service will resume shortly!

As I'm off to the GP this morning to pick up a treatment for a really annoying (and really common) little skin condition that frustrated and perplexed me for a long time, I thought I'd share a few tips on how to recognise it and how to treat it.

For about six months a couple of years ago, I had some seriously weird skin thing going on around my nose, mouth and chin. At best, the skin was dry and flaky and covered in tiny sore little spots. At worst, the spots would turn into blisters and start peeling and bleeding at the slightest touch.

At first I thought it was a bit of winter dryness and tried to treat it with some super emollient creams and light exfoliants, but that only aggravated it. Then I figured it was maybe a reaction to something I was putting on my face, so I switched to my most basic and gentle skincare products (and even found a mild, SLS-free toothpaste in case it was related to my beloved Arm & Hammer Extreme Whitening). I continued with the gentle products, never really seeing any improvement, for far too long before realising something was up and going to my doctor.

I was in and out of the GP's room in about two minutes - he took a quick look at my skin, told me it was a common condition called perioral dermatitis and sent me off with a prescription for a very mild antibiotic ointment. I applied it a couple of times a day, and the issue was completely gone by the end of the week.

The reason people often end up dealing with perioral dermatitis for such a long time is that it can be quite hard to spot. Who hasn't had a bit of redness and flaking around their nose in the winter? And if you ever suffer from eczema or rosacea, it can be even harder to recognise what the issue is. This is problematic because the bacteria that causes the dermatitis thrives in warm, moist environments - so the rich creams we tend to use for the above conditions can aggravate the problem.

Perioral dermatitis often causes a slight burning sensation around the mouth, and the little red spots or bumps are a tell-tale sign, so if you have either of these it's worth going to your GP (or, if you have access to one, a dermatologist) before slathering on any rich creams. It's also best to check with a doctor before assuming you're having a flare-up of rosacea or eczema in a new area, as the steroid creams often prescribed for these conditions are a common cause of perioral dermatitis. The pictures below give you an idea of what you're looking out for.

image source:

Topical steroids, mineral oil, make-up, skincare products, toothpaste, weather, central heating and hormonal fluctuations are all reported to be triggers for some people but unfortunately the cause is unknown around 50% of the time, and some people are just prone to getting perioral dermatitis. If (like me) you're one of these people, keep a close eye on the products you use to see if there's anything you can eliminate to help prevent it.

Treatment varies depending on the severity. If you think you have perioral dermatitis, the fist step is to stop using any harsh cleansers or treatments on the area, and to ditch any really heavy moisturisers (mineral oil and petroleum are particularly bad). Use a very mild cleanser to wash your face, and follow with a light moisturiser (I use La Roche Posay Toleraine eye cream, which is about as gentle as moisturisers get). In theory, this should help it to clear up on its own, but sometimes (or in my case every sodding time) it'll need something extra. This is something your GP will need to advise on, but in most cases the something extra will be a mild antibiotic or antibacterial gel, or a dose of oral antibiotics for severe cases.

Diagnosing the problem correctly is really important - I still get semi regular flare-ups but now that I know what the problem is, it just takes a quick trip to the doctor for a prescription and it's a week-long problem rather than one that ruins all my winter make-up. 

Have you ever had perioral dermatitis? What worked/didn't work for you?
Follow me on Bloglovin' and Twitter to keep up to date with new posts!


  1. When I took dermatology at uni they taught that the first way of treating it would be avoiding ANY products, because just like you said, heavy moisturizers on made it worse. I have tried that on the rare occasion I saw the first signs appearing around my mouth and so far never needed antibiotics.
    But I guess if it really flares up, antibiotics are the only way to go.

    Hopefully yours will be over in a flash and will only be remembered as a very helpful blogpost.

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

  2. I have dermatitis of the scalp, which causes my hair to fall out... Yep. It's pretty awful, and I've been battling it for months. I think it's quite similar to dermatitis of the skin. It's a pretty embarrassing issue and I've been prescribed a ton of medicated shampoos to help deal with it, but nothing seems to make a difference! x


  3. Hope you get proper treatment and it will be cured quickly, girl. Glad GP was able to pin it down and give you the right diagnosis & prescription. HUGS!
    xox Nadia

  4. This was such an interesting post! I'm sure it'll be helpful for a lot of people, too.

    Jess xo

  5. This is the first time I've heard about period dermatitis! Since you know what it is, it will be easier for you to take caution. Antibiotics are good however kinda harmful to body, I hope you won't ever use them!

  6. great post
    thanks for sharing

  7. I actually think I've been going through this unknowingly! I kind of just thought it was some form of acne! x

    Vintage haven featuring Boohoo over on -

  8. Well, I have a lot of problems in the winter. I think that I might use some of your tips just to make myself feel better.