Perioral Dermatitis: Is Your Unrelenting Acne Actually Acne?

If you’ve ever experienced acne that won’t go away, it may be time to look deeper into what’s got your skin so aggravated. Some skin conditions mimic the appearance of acne on the face and won’t go away with any standard acne treatments or products. Perioral dermatitis is an inflammatory condition that usually affects the skin around your mouth, causing a red, pimple-like rash. Learning how to spot this skin condition is important for finding treatment and returning your skin to a healthier state.

What is Perioral Dermatitis?
Perioral Dermatitis is a skin condition usually affecting the skin around the mouth. Breaking down the word, “Peri” means around and “oral” means mouth. Perioral dermatitis specifically refers to a rash around the mouth; however, this condition can also appear near the genitals or the eyes and is called Periorificial Dermatitis. The rash is typically red or skin-colored and often causes itching, burning, or irritation. Dry, scaly, or flaky skin can also accompany the rash. The rash typically presents as small, red, acne-like bumps and can spread from around the nose, mouth, and even the chin. Although this rash may appear around the mouth and the genitals, it is not contagious.

What causes Perioral Dermatitis?
While there is no official cause for perioral dermatitis, there are certain behaviors and products that can irritate your skin and cause flare-ups. For instance, some studies suggest that fluoride in toothpaste can trigger it. Topical steroids on the face, oral contraceptives, chewing gum, allergies, makeup, stress, and even introducing a new product to your skin can provoke a response. Perioral dermatitis typically affects women aged 18 to 40; however, men and children can also develop this condition.

How can we treat Perioral Dermatitis?
Often confused with acne or rosacea, it can take those suffering from perioral dermatitis a while to uncover their condition, but once they have, treatment can begin. It’s important to consult a provider regarding treatment for perioral dermatitis. Not only can it be confused with other skin conditions to the untrained eye, treatment often requires prescription medication to be effective. Trying to get rid of the rash on your own with lotions or hydrocortisone cream can worsen the rash. Dermatologists typically treat perioral dermatitis with an antibiotic like tetracycline or erythromycin. Flare-ups likely won’t disappear overnight during treatment. The rash might take anywhere from a week to a few months to clear up entirely. Some medications work better than others, so if you don’t notice improvement, you may want to talk to your dermatologist about an alternative medication.

How can we prevent future flare ups?
Although most cases typically resolve with treatment, there is no official cure that will put a stop to flare-ups. Even so, you can take steps to prevent future flare-ups from happening.

“Cut down on the amount of products you’re using on your face. Try to take breaks from your mask, if you can. Use a gentle cleanser at morning and nighttime along with a gentle moisturizer, and come to see us if it’s not getting better,” said Certified Physician Assistant, Alison Grant of TPMG Hampton Roads Center for Dermatology in Newport News and Virginia Beach. Patients prone to perioral dermatitis flare-ups can also try Vanicream for the face.

No one should have to suffer from a perioral dermatitis flare-up. If you suspect you may have perioral dermatitis, don’t delay care. Talk to a TPMG dermatologist today about treatment and get back to clearer skin.

Alison Grant

About Alison Grant, PA-C

Alison Grant, PA-C,treats a broad spectrum of skin conditions to include acne, eczema, psoriasis, skin cancer, as well as many other hair and nail disorders. Alison sees patients of all ages from children to adults. With a special interest in the prevention of both skin cancer and premature aging, she is a great proponent of using daily SPF protection.

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