How to cure Perioral Dermatitis (and do you have it?!)

So - you have a red, inflammatory rash on your face that you thought was rosacea, that now maybe you’re not so sure is rosacea. It’s kind of itchy, and you swear there’s almost some pus or liquid in there, but it seems different than acne. For some reason it's centralized on the more sensitive areas of your face, like the sides of your mouth, even the sides of your nose and eyes. Congratulations – you’ve probably got perioral dermatitis! Don’t stress (no, really - it will make it worse), whether you’ve known the struggle for years, or this blog post just took the guessing game out of your mystery skin condition, we’ve got a helpful visual to seal the deal: 

Perioral Dermatitis

Now here’s the part you’re all waiting for… How did this happen and how can I get rid of it?? Here’s the short(er) version: Perioral dermatitis is generally found in women between the ages of 20-45 years old, and while the exact cause is unknown, many times, it is the previous use of strong topical steroids, which may have been prescribed to treat another condition (think hydrocortisone for treating psoriasis or eczema for example) to blame. Another cause for flare ups are things like heavy creams and SPFs, and even toothpastes containing high levels of fluoride. 

Treatment should emphasize repairing the impaired skin barrier function to minimize associated skin inflammation and sensitivity. In simple terms, this means a hydrating skincare routine with minimal exfoliation so as to not irritate the skin, and lightweight formulas that will not clog pores and irritate the condition even more. It’s important to note that there are times when natural skincare is the answer to these conditions, and depending on the severity, stronger treatment options could be considered, while gut health and diet do play a role in expediting the process. 

Ingredients to avoid: 

o   Topical steroids

You may have been recommended hydrocortisone cream to soothe the inflammation and dry skin patches, however you will want to stay as far away from this product as possible. Topical steroids can be a direct link to the cause of P.D., and may make matters much worse, and further irritate the infection. 

o   Heavy moisturizers, makeup, and thick sunscreens. 

Resist the urge to cover up P.D. with cosmetics and heavy skincare products. Any risk of further clogging pores with oil-based products should be avoided as much as possible, so try and stick with water-based skin care as much as possible and avoid oil-based foundations. Our go-to products are soothing rose toners and Hyaluronic Acid serums. 

o   Using excessive amounts of skincare products. 

Unfortunately, it’s back to basics for a while here. So, leave your acids and exfoliants on the shelf for now – at least until your P.D. has cleared up. A common theory of perioral dermatitis is that it is affected by problems with the skin barrier function. The skin barrier is the topmost layer of cells on the skin. These are bound tougher by lipids (fats) such as ceramides. They are a bit like bricks and mortar. They form a barrier that keeps the outside out, and the inside in. The barrier stops irritants from disturbing the skin and prevents dehydration and water loss. It is very possible that when the skin barrier is not functioning properly, common things in the environment such as sunlight, environmental pollution, cleansers, toners, sunblock’s, and other products may start causing an immunological reaction that leads to perioral dermatitis. 

Products to lean on: 

Right now, less is more. Here are the essentials that we recommend while you’re in the thick of it. 

o   A gentle cleanser, once daily 

Make sure you opt for a cream-based cleanser rather than a foaming one, as these are generally loaded with harsh ingredients that will irritate the skin. Cream-based cleansers are water based and are generally paired with soothing extracts and hydrating ingredients. Over-cleansing will also cause more problems, so try and stick to a nightly routine if possible. 

SHOP: Truly Cleansing Facial Cleanser 

o   A hydrating toner 

Toners are a great way to further clean the skin using a leave-on product. If you have oily skin, toner is a great addition to your routine to sweep the skin of excess oils, dirt and bacteria that may be clogging pores. In drier skin types, toners are ideal for adding intense hydration into the skin using a complete water-based product that will not risk clogging pores. It is important to opt for toners that do not contain alcohols or harsh preservatives, as this may make P.D. worse.  

SHOP: Truly Youthful Rose Toner 

o   A minimal, water-based face cream

Pore clogging is a risk to worsening this condition, though moisture and hydration are still necessary to ensure a healthy skin barrier function. The answer? Keep it simple. Use hydration focused creams and completely ditch your face oils for now. If the product is made up of 100% oil, you don’t want it. Look for products that do not contain phenoxyethanol, which is a preservative that can cause irritation in those with P.D. A small amount of cream should be used both morning and night to ensure the area does not fall victim to further dehydration. 

SHOP: Truly Moisturizing Face Cream 

Can Perioral Dermatitis go away on its own? 

Perioral Dermatitis can last weeks, months, or even years depending on the severity and other factors including treatment, environmental stressors, and diet. It is recommended that a conscious approach be taken to clearing up the rash, as untreated P.D. can become trickier to clear in the long run. There are many natural remedies and changes that can be implemented and may be all that is necessary to clear the infected area. We always recommend consulting with a dermatologist in severe cases where further treatment may be required. 

Interested in seeing an even more extensive list of skin types and how to treat them? Let’s hear it! We’d love to expand our list and we want to hear from you! Email us at

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