Perioral dermatitis - what is it??

Perioral dermatitis - what is it??

Having suffered from eczema on my hands for years (thanks hormones) and sensitive reactive skin my whole life, we were already a home free of synthetic skincare, detergents, fragrances etc. So what was this crazy thing happening on my lips??!

What started out as peeling lips from suspected sunburn, turned out to be red, angry, inflammation surrounding my mouth, down to my chin, and up to my nose. Itchy, red, swollen. Small pimple like spots filled the area. This was not sun burn at all - this was perioral dermatitis. Fantastic.

Luckily we have a whole barrage of products available at my fingertips ;) But for those who are not familiar with the condition, let me give you a run down…


Perioral dermatitis: is a condition that affects the area around the mouth, and can reach down the chin, and up to the nose, even as far as around the eyes. It most commonly affects females between the ages of 20-45 and young children, but can affect anyone. It is characterised by small papules or pimples which are surrounded by red, inflamed areas of skin with a clear defined edge. The skin can become dry, scaly, or flaky, and is often associated with a burning sensation, tightness, and intense itch. (So not super fun.) It is often confused with other similar conditions, such as rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, and acne, due to the similar ways in which these conditions present themselves. A clear diagnosis by a health professional is key to manageing the condition effectively.


Causes: The typical cause for perioral dermatitis is unknown, but some predisposing factors can include*:

  • Steroid use via all routes (topical, inhaled, nasal insufflation) is the most common association. Application may be accidental (eg, nasal sprays) or intentional.

  • Cosmetic use.

  • Epidermal barrier dysfunction secondary to:

    • Nutritional deficiencies eg, zinc deficiency

    • Occlusive emollient use leading to overhydration eg, paraffin or petroleum-based emollients.

    • Sunscreen use, particularly physical sunscreens in children.

  • Allergens/irritants eg, toothpaste and dental fillings.

  • Infective organisms such as Demodex spp., Candida albicans, and fusiform bacteria have been cultured from lesions, however, their significance remains unclear.

  • Hormonal changes caused by oral contraceptive use, pregnancy, and premenstrual flares have been observed.

  • Atopic predisposition. 


Treatment: Perioral dermatitis is usually self limiting, meaning it will clear on its own without any specific treatment with days to weeks. However, because the condition can be quite uncomfotable, certain measures are recommended.

  • Stop using all facial cosmetics and skincare products, this includes sunscreens as they can occlude the skin and make POD worse.

  • Preferably wash the face with warm water alone until the rash clears, then consider a non-soap cleanser - such as our DermaWash.

  • A simple moisturiser can be used for skin dryness. Avoid occlusive creams and ointments as they can worsen POD. DermaLotion is a great choice, soothing the skin with oatmeal and hemp.

  • Discontinue all topical corticosteroids

    • Slowly wean steroids over weeks, switching to a lower potency steroid before cessation.

    • A flare may occur on discontinuation — steroids should not be restarted as they can make POD worse.

Your health care professional may choose to treat using other medications, such as antibiotics, applied topically to the skin, or taken orally by mouth. If you have any queries relating to such treatments, you should discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.




Back to blog