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23rd Jun 2022

Perioral Dermatitis (POD), is a chronic, inflammatory skin disease in the facial area that appears as a rash, or small, acne-like breakouts and can often cause an itching, burning or a feeling of tightness on the skin. While the rash often appears around the mouth (the most frequently affected are the chin area, nasolabial fold and lateral mouth parts), it can also occur around your eyes or nose and sometimes in all three areas at the same time. Though it carries the name ‘dermatitis’ it is not a form of eczema and instead, is thought to be a type of rosacea; a common, long-lasting skin condition that causes persistent redness, bumps and spots on the forehead, cheeks, nose and chin.

The exact cause of Perioral Dermatitis is not yet fully understood. Links have been made to various factors such as increased sebum production, bacterial or fungal infections and gastrointestinal disorders. Allergies can also be a cause – you may be allergic to your toothpaste for example, or something similar that has regular contact with your skin such as cosmetics. And excessive and incorrect skincare can also be a factor. Some evidence has also shown that a dysfunctional epidermal barrier is an underlying factor – if this is impaired, it can make you more susceptible to various irritants that contribute to the development of the disease. However, in most cases, Perioral Dermatitis is triggered by the long-term application of cortisone-containing creams such as Glucocorticoids or Corticosteroids, a type of anti-inflammatory steroid hormone.

Disrupted Skin Barrier

Can Perioral Dermatitis Be Treated?

Treatment for Perioral Dermatitis would usually begin with ceasing the use of steroid creams (if using) after which it can take several weeks for the rash to clear. In many cases, the rash can initially worsen, making it tempting to start using the cream again but doing so will only bring temporary relief and may even cause the rash to become more problematic. If steroid creams are not the cause, the discontinuation of skincare products and cosmetics is recommended, or at least, the use of only very mild skincare until the symptoms subside.

How Can I Prevent Perioral Dermatitis?

The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD) recommends stopping the use of topical steroid creams or nasal sprays containing steroids, if possible. These products can make symptoms worse and are likely to be responsible for the symptoms. However, it’s important to speak with your doctor before discontinuing any medications and so that they can determine your treatment based on the severity of your condition.

In the meantime you should also do the following:

    • Refrain from using previous skincare as well as any face masks, cleansing brushes, peels and heavy face creams in order not to irritate the skin any further or compromise the skin barrier.
    • Stop using or at least reduce your use of makeup, cosmetics and sunscreen.
    • Avoid dental products containing fluoride.
    • Steer clear of fragrance, color, essential oils or unnecessary additives in your skincare.
    • Frequently wash your pillow cases and towels in hot water.
    • Use only mild soap and don’t scrub your skin. After it has settled, switch to only gently cleansers and moisturisers.
    • Limit salty or spicy foods that can irritate the skin around the mouth.
    • When settled, look for gentle, non-irritating ingredients in your skincare that can help with inflammation; Panthenol (B5), Sodium Hyaluronate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower), Niacinamide and Boswellic Acids all have significant anti-inflammatory effects on the skin and boost hydration to strengthen skin barrier function.  


Dr. Barbara Sturm


26 November 2020