What is Perioral Dermatitis? – Causes and Treatment

In today’s world, nobody is immune to dental problems; especially conditions associated with the oral skin and tissues. Rashes around the mouth often are treated with moisturizers, cold creams, sunscreens, and many other cosmetic products.

But usually, after application of such expensive products, the rash still exists and irritates you more.


Although rashes around the mouth can affect anyone, they are found to be more prevalent among the women ranging from the age of 16-45 years and young children of any age.

One of the common skin conditions that can occur in the form of rash around the mouth is Perioral Dermatitis.

Perioral dermatitis has an unpredictable presentation, and in severe cases, it can involve the areas around the eye, nose and even cheeks.

Let’s look at the causes of this oral condition and learn about the treatment options available to soothe your rash and provide you a healthy glowing skin.

What is perioral dermatitis?

Perioral dermatitis is defined as an inflammatory condition of the skin that often presents in the form of skin rashes around the mouth.

It may start as mild healing rash and may spread to involve the skin around the nose and the eyes. When it consists of the skin around the eyes, it is referred to as periorificial dermatitis.

The rash formed is often painless but causes a great deal of discomfort. It may persist up to several weeks and months if not treated appropriately.

People who have sensitive skin are likely to have it. The treatment of perioral dermatitis is often tricky and can last for several months. Perioral dermatitis has a high rate of recurrence, so it is essential to take good care of your skin at all times. (1)

What causes perioral dermatitis?

The occurrence of perioral dermatitis is closely related to the use of topical dental or cosmetic products. Other than that, many causes may lead to the development of perioral dermatitis.

  • Topical creams that contain steroid
  • Fluoride toothpaste
  • Steroids that are inhaled in the form of nasal sprays
  • Improper hygiene, i.e., those who don’t wash face daily
  • Topical cosmetic products like creams or sunscreens
  • Application of makeup on a daily basis
  • Oral contraceptive pills may impede hormone levels
  • Bacterial skin infection

Clinical signs and symptoms

Clinically perioral dermatitis represents as red scaly or bumpy rash around the mouth. In the case of diseases, a clear fluid discharge may be seen coming out of the outbreak.

In some instances, it can spread to the skin on the chin, cheeks, nose, and eyes. They may often resemble an acne spot but are not exactly a form of acne.

Sometimes the skin may become dry and flaky around the rashes.

Other symptoms include –

  • Itching or burning sensation on the skin around the mouth (2)
  • Presence of redness which worsens if itched or touched
  • Painless red crusted spots

Who are at risk?

Women are at a higher risk as compared to others. On an average woman around 16 – 45 years of age experience the symptoms of perioral dermatitis.

Although it is prevalent in women, it can occur in individuals of all age including children of all age and ethnicities.

The recurrence rate of perioral dermatitis is high if it is not taken care of or treated appropriately and it may have the chances to reoccur in a severe form.

How is it diagnosed?

A dermatologist often diagnoses such conditions effectively after taking a thorough history and completing a visual skin examination.

To differentiate it from a skin infection, a doctor may recommend specific skin culture tests by swabbing a small patch of skin in the affected area and check for bacterial or fungal infections.

If the rash doesn’t respond to standard treatments, a skin biopsy may be recommended to diagnose the condition.

How can it be treated?

Once the condition is diagnosed, it is recommended to stop the use of any cosmetic products, creams, nasal sprays or steroid ointments.

They help to keep the symptoms away from getting worse and prevent complications in healing. (3)

If the rash is a cause of fluoride toothpaste, the doctor will recommend you to switch to a simpler toothpaste that doesn’t contain fluoride.

To speed up the healing, medications may be prescribed to treat the cause.

  • Topical antibiotic gels like metro gel and erythromycin
  • Immunosuppressive creams like tacrolimus and pimecrolimus
  • Topical medications for acne like adapalene
  • Oral antibiotics like doxycycline, tetracycline or minocycline

What can you do to prevent it?

Prevention is always better than cure, still, make sure to follow the tips to eliminate the problem of developing a rash and going through the trouble to treat it.

  • Avoid use of any topical gels or creams that contain steroids
  • Minimize or stop the use of any cosmetic products
  • Ask your doctor to prescribe suitable creams or moisturizers for your skin
  • Use gentle face wash cleaners and make a habit to wash your face regularly
  • Minimize your time under the sun; harmful UV radiation can affect the skin and aggravate the condition

Over to you

You might think that you are taking care of your skin by using good and expensive skin products. But these products might be the sole cause for the development of perioral dermatitis.

Your skin is delicate and needs a lot of care. You have to be aware of any rash that is present on the skin around the mouth.


Consult your doctor immediately if you are unsure what the outbreak is. Once you take the initiative to treat your skin conditions, your dermatologist and your dentist can guide you by providing appropriate treatment options.

Be informed of the various causes and reactions that you may have from certain products. Switch to gentle and simpler skin care products. Check if you need to switch your toothpaste as well.

Ask your doctor to prescribe you medicinal moisturizers and creams to keep your skin healthy, hydrated and free from a rash.


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