Cheat Sheet – Perioral Dermatitis or ‘those red annoying spots that won’t go away’

So. A really quick and simple one:

  • You’ve had spots/redness/flakiness/looks like eczema/you thought it was acne but it isn’t – for ages in one place around your mouth or nose (or eyes – poor you). They’re not particularly big, they don’t seem to want to LEAVE and sometimes they seem to multiply.
  • You have clusters of spots/redness/flaking around your nose that laugh at you and say ‘nice try!’ when you apply spot treatments
  • You have clusters of spots/redness/flaking around your mouth that laugh at you and say ‘nice try!’ when you apply spot treatments
  • Sometimes they sting
  • Sometimes they burn
  • Sometimes they flake over and literally peel off
  • Sometimes they go, disappear altogether and give you a sense of satisfaction – then POP BACK UP AS IF LIKE MAGIC
  • The thought of using exfoliating acid on the area makes you feel a tad faint

Sound familiar? You may have perioral dermatitis (or periorifical dermatitis if it’s your eyes). No panic or worry required, it’s very common and easily fixed. If though, you ignore it, it can spread. And even when you get rid of it – it will probably come back, so best to arm yourself in preparation.

While it occurs predominantly in women aged 20-45, giving it a possible hormonal factor, men and children can also be affected. The causes are multiple and the triggers can be a combination of differing things:

  • reaction to some cosmetic products
  • reaction to steroid creams (often referred to as steroid rosacea)
  • strong winds/UV light (think joggers and chapped faces)
  • hormonal contraception
  • dribbling in your sleep (that’s attractive)
  • fluoride in toothpaste
  • SLS in toothpaste/cleansers

The parts of the face affected are near areas that are warm, dark and wet – the perfect combination for bacterial growth.

It’s easily treated. If you know it is a recurring problem visit your doctor, you will either be prescribed a topical cream or oral antibiotics if it’s really severe. I’m writing about it now as it always flares up on me in winter. I just got rid of a round of PD on my mouth. I used Bactroban for a few weeks as it wasn’t severe enough for antibiotics and I prefer to keep those for something major….

It varies from a tiny patch of redness to severe flaking and bleeding so I’m not using pictures as it’s so different in everyone. The Google link for pictures of mild PD is here – if you had severe PD you would probably have already been to the doctors.


Experiencing sensitivity or irritation but not sure what’s causing it? Read about some of the most common causes on the Skin Rocks Column.