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Perioral dermatitis is a common skin condition that causes a red rash with small bumps around your mouth.

Like many skin conditions that appear on your face, perioral dermatitis is often mistaken for acne. However, it’s not a type of acne and can’t be cured by using acne treatments. In fact, those treatments are likely to make the rash worse.

This condition can also lead to dry patches that are confused with eczema. If it’s then treated with steroids, this can further exacerbate the condition.

Fortunately, there are other over-the-counter (OTC) options that can treat perioral dermatitis safely and effectively.

Perioral dermatitis is a red rash that forms around your mouth. It causes inflamed bumps to form, which can be easily mistaken for acne.

As the inflammation spreads, it can cause your skin to be:

  • swollen
  • dry
  • scaly
  • flakey

The condition often starts around your mouth and can spread to other parts of your face and body, such as:

  • eyelids
  • around your nose
  • forehead
  • neck
  • genitals
  • other orifices

For some people, a rash is the only symptom of perioral dermatitis. However, you may experience additional symptoms, like:

  • itching
  • burning
  • stinging

Perioral dermatitis is sometimes considered a type of rosacea. It’s most likely to occur in women between ages 19 and 40, but the rash can occur in anyone of any age. The rash is not contagious.

Doctors aren’t sure what causes perioral dermatitis. However, there are several possible causes, including:

  • steroidal facial creams
  • oral or inhaled steroids
  • fluoride, like in toothpaste
  • sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), like in shampoo
  • overuse of facial products
  • bad reaction to certain facial products, including makeup and sunscreen
  • stress
  • hormones

Sometimes, it’s clear that perioral dermatitis is caused by the use of a certain product. In this case, removing it from your routine can be all that is needed to cure the condition.

If the rash is severe, your skin might need more help to heal and recover.

There are several things you can do to treat perioral dermatitis at home.

First steps to take

One of the first steps to take is to look at your skin care routine.

Remove any recently added products, such as a new face wash. It could be irritating your skin and causing your perioral dermatitis.

If you wear makeup, you can do the same thing with any cosmetics you recently bought, especially products you use around your mouth.

It’s also a good idea to use mild products on your face when you have perioral dermatitis. Look for gentle and fragrance-free soaps or skin care products. Try to avoid anything with harsh chemicals or strong scents until your rash clears up.

If you use any acne creams or cleansers with acne-fighting ingredients, such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, it’s a good idea to pause using them.

Sometimes, even fluoride toothpaste can aggravate perioral dermatitis. Switching to a fluoride-free toothpaste for a few weeks can help if this is the case.

Gentle skin care products to consider

It’s a good idea to make sure you have gentle skin care products on hand. Cetaphil is a popular brand of gentle facial cleansers and moisturizers that can be found in drugstores, grocery stores, and other large retailers.

Using Cetaphil can help your skin heal from perioral dermatitis. It can also treat the redness, dryness, and flaking the condition causes. It might also provide relief from other symptoms, like itching.

Other affordable and easy to find products that might help include:

  • Dove soaps and lotions
  • CeraVe facial moisturizers
  • Neutrogena facial cleansers and lotions
  • Vanicream moisturizing creams

Not every lotion is a good idea when you’re treating perioral dermatitis. As mentioned above, it’s important to treat your skin with gentle products. It’s a good idea to avoid anything with harsh chemicals.

Antifungal treatments

Antifungal treatments, like miconazole (Monistat) or clotrimazole (Lotrimin), can seem like a good way to treat perioral dermatitis. Antifungal creams have anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce redness, stop itching, and help your skin heal.

You’ve likely used an antifungal cream in the past to treat a rash. You might have even heard that antifungal treatments can help perioral dermatitis. However, this is not backed up by any research, and not all cases of perioral dermatitis are caused by a fungal infection.

If your perioral dermatitis is caused by bacteria, the use of antifungal cream can actually make your condition worse.

Steroid treatments, such as hydrocortisone creams

Just like antifungal creams, hydrocortisone and other steroid creams might seem like a great option because they are fairly inexpensive and easily available.

Hydrocortisone is a common ingredient in creams that treats rashes and itching. If you have a tube or bottle of any kind of anti-itch lotion at home, it probably contains hydrocortisone.

These creams can’t be used to treat perioral dermatitis. In fact, in some cases, overuse of these creams could be causing your rash. When you stop using hydrocortisone cream, your rash will get worse for a few days. This doesn’t mean you should resume using the cream. Your skin will readjust after a few days and can begin to heal.

It’s never a good idea to use any kind of steroid cream on perioral dermatitis. This includes steroid creams you’ve been prescribed by a doctor.

If you’re currently using a prescription cream and developed perioral dermatitis, let the doctor who prescribed the steroid cream know. They’ll be able to stop or adjust your prescription.

You can also try natural remedies for perioral dermatitis. Keep in mind that, just like OTC products, natural treatments should be gentle and moisturizing.

While some people claim to have treated perioral dermatitis with remedies, such as apple cider vinegar or tea tree oil, dermatologists don’t recommend this. These treatments are natural and fight bacteria, but they can also strip your skin of moisture and cause further irritation.

It’s a better idea to stick to highly moisturizing and soothing natural remedies. You can use these remedies directly on your perioral dermatitis rash. Options include:

These treatments haven’t been clinically researched or proven to treat perioral dermatitis. However, they’re known for being highly moisturizing and good at reducing skin redness. This makes them a much better choice for natural treatment than harsh options, like apple cider vinegar.

Before you try any natural treatments, talk with a medical professional to make sure they’re safe for your skin and won’t interact with any current medications.

Stop using these treatments immediately if your rash gets worse.

If your perioral dermatitis doesn’t clear up with at-home remedies, make an appointment for a medical exam. A healthcare professional can assess your symptoms and overall health and recommend the best treatment for you.

Perioral dermatitis causes a red rash around your mouth. The rash consists of tiny bumps and can be scaly, itchy, flaky, or swollen.

The exact cause of perioral dermatitis is unknown, but the use of steroid medications or harsh skin care products is often to blame. Cutting out these products can help your rash clear up.

You can also use gentle, fragrance-free lotions and cleansers to soothe your skin while it heals. If the condition doesn’t clear up on its own, talk with a medical professional about other safe treatment options.