‘No,’ you’re thinking. ‘That annoying dry skin rash condition is baaack.’

And it’s stretching all the way from your chin up to your mouth. Your mouth! The part of you that kisses your mom good morning and your significant other goodnight.

Well, no kissing now. And what’s more, you’re wondering, what is this? And why do you have it?

The dry skin, rash-y condition you’re seeing could be a number of skin conditions. We’ll discuss a few likely causes.

Perioral dermatitis

What you’re seeing might be perioral dermatitis.

According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD), this facial rash is typically red and scaly, or bumpy. It’s sometimes accompanied by mild itching or burning.

What’s more, the rash can spread as far up as the skin around the eyes, and it seems to affect women more than men or children. It can also continue to affect women off and on for months or even years.

When the rash also involves the skin around the eyes, the condition is called periorificial dermatitis.

Eczema

Eczema, which is also known as atopic dermatitis, is another possible cause of dry skin around your mouth.

It’s a genetic condition that makes it difficult for your skin to protect against things like allergens and irritants. This type of skin dryness doesn’t affect your lips, just the skin around them.

You may experience:

  • dry skin
  • small, raised bumps
  • cracking of the skin

It can also be itchy.

Allergic contact dermatitis

Another possible cause is allergic contact dermatitis. This allergic skin reaction causes a red, itchy rash to develop where your skin has come into contact with an ingredient or substance that you’re allergic to.

The most likely culprit around the mouth would be a facial product, cream, or cleanser that you’ve used on your face.

Irritant contact dermatitis

One more possible cause is irritant contact dermatitis, which occurs when your skin is exposed to substances that are harsh and irritating to your skin. This can cause:

  • red patches
  • dry, scaly skin
  • blisters
  • itching or burning

Often this can occur around the mouth from drooling or licking your lips.

While it’s best to visit your dermatologist to examine the dry skin around your mouth, here is an image of perioral dermatitis to give you an idea of what it looks like.

perioral dermatitis, faceShare on Pinterest
Topical corticosteroid use is commonly associated with perioral dermatitis.
Photo: DermNet New Zealand

The first thing you should know is that perioral dermatitis is poorly understood and has especially been linked to the use of topical steroids.

Steroids

Topical steroids are used for inflammatory skin problems such as atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema.

In this case, what’s good for one skin problem can actually cause another. In fact, use of these creams or, alternately, inhaled prescription steroid sprays containing corticosteroids has been linked to perioral dermatitis.

Face creams

Over-the-counter (OTC) heavy face creams and moisturizers have also been cited as possible causes for this condition. Even fluorinated toothpastes have been blamed.

Other causes

Unfortunately, there’s a long list of other potential causes, such as:

  • bacterial or fungal infections
  • birth control pills
  • sunscreens

Overall, the most important thing you need to know is that these factors are only associated with perioral dermatitis. The condition’s exact cause is unknown.

Your healthcare provider will perform a physical examination and ask questions about your skin care and bathing habits. They’ll also ask about any known allergies to specific ingredients or substances.

Another area of questioning may center around medical conditions, such as eczema.

Your healthcare provider will want to know what topical medications you’ve used on your face and for how long, in addition to any other medications you use, such as inhalers.

Treatment will depend on what’s causing dry skin around your mouth. Your dermatologist will create a treatment plan after diagnosing the cause.

For example:

  • Perioral dermatitis: This is treated very similarly to rosacea. However, if a topical steroid is to blame, your healthcare provider will either have you stop using the steroid or reduce the use of it until you can stop it without a bad flare.
  • Eczema: Treatment for eczema can include things like OTC moisturizing products, prescription topicals, and potentially immunosuppressant and biologic medications.
  • Contact dermatitis: If allergic or irritant contact dermatitis is the cause, your healthcare provider may prescribe topical steroid ointments or creams, soothing lotions, and in severe cases, an oral steroid. Also, if the cause is allergic contact dermatitis, patch testing may be needed to identify the offending substance so that it can be avoided. In irritant contact dermatitis, the offending substance should be avoided or minimized in order for treatment to be successful.

In any case, your condition may need several weeks to clear up.

If your condition is not severe and you want to try home remedies before seeking professional help, consider changing your skincare products.

Using fragrance-free products is key. If you have sensitive skin, this is a good idea to follow in general.

If the cause is perioral dermatitis, you’ll want to stop any use of topical steroids on your face.

When dry skin shows signs of redness or infection, it’s a serious concern. You should make an appointment with a healthcare provider or dermatologist as soon as possible.

Infections may occur because dry skin can crack — and even bleed — which can let bacteria in.

If you have dry, flaky skin around your mouth, it could be due to a number of skin conditions.

Be aware of the skincare products you use.

Avoid chemical-laden creams. Opt for fragrance-free creams.

If you use a corticosteroid on your face, and the skin around your mouth is getting drier and more irritated, it could be perioral dermatitis.

If you have a severe condition — red rash, bumpy skin, and possible itchiness or burning — you should see your healthcare provider immediately.