Ask Curology: Do I have perioral dermatitis?

What to do if you have a flaky, peely rash on your face.

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C
Feb 24, 2021 · 3 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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Welcome to Ask Curology, our series where one of our in-house medical providers answers your questions about all things skincare. This week, we’re talking about those itchy little bumps that pop up around the mouth, chin, and nose — perioral dermatitis (aka POD).

• • •

Dear Curology,

I’ve always been prone to dry skin, but these red, flaky patches above my lips and itchy little bumps in the creases of my nostrils are irritating in every sense of the word. I feel like I’ve read every blog out there and tried everything and it’s still not better. Can you tell me how I can get rid of the dry skin around my nose and mouth?

Signed, Red Faced

Dear Red Faced,

That sounds so frustrating! It’s hard for me to say for certain what treatment will be best for your particular dry skin situation — if you can talk to a medical provider, they can assess you.

Now, you might have a skin condition called periorificial dermatitis (“periorificial” being a term for “the skin around our facial orifices”). This rash is quite common: itchy or tender small red bumps appear on the skin around the mouth and chin (perioral dermatitis),¹ eyes (periocular dermatitis), or nose (perinasal dermatitis). That dry, flaky skin? That may be a symptom of periorificial dermatitis.

What causes perioral dermatitis?

Unfortunately, it’s often hard to pinpoint the exact cause of this facial rash — frustrating, I know! What we do know is that women get the condition more often than men, and it is commonly seen in children.² It can be brought on by a variety of factors such as topical steroids, toothpaste, and cosmetic products.³

So, on to the big question: can you get rid of perioral dermatitis?

Treatments for perioral dermatitis

If you think you might be having a POD breakout, you can start with these steps:

  1. Take a break.


    Don’t apply any skincare products to the affected areas of your face for now.


    You mention you’ve tried everything, and it’s possible that a product in your routine is making things worse — more on this in a second!

  2. Gentle rinse.


    Cleanse this area with just plain water (but feel free to continue using a gentle cleanser on other areas of your face).

  3. Use a heavy moisturizer.


    Pure petrolatum (Vaseline) for the affected areas is a great option! Petrolatum is an occlusive moisturizer that forms a protective barrier over skin.

  4. Avoid the ‘roids.


    Do not use an over-the-counter steroid (ie. hydrocortisone cream). This can temporarily improve your symptoms, but it will likely make things worse in the long run!

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For mild cases, water and Vaseline are a dynamic duo. If your symptoms persist, then you may need to see a medical provider to get prescription treatment. Topical medications like metronidazole can help, but oral antibiotics are an option as well.⁴ Talk to your prescribing provider about what makes sense for you!

So that’s what I know as your friendly local expert. Feel free to sound off in the comments if you have more questions, or reach out to your Curology provider. If you’re not already a Curology member, you can get your first month of custom prescription skincare for free (just pay $4.95 to cover shipping/handling). Until next time…!

All my best, Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions

P. S.

We did our research so you don’t have to.

  1. Red rash around your mouth could be perioral dermatitis. American Academy of Dermatology.

  2. Perioral dermatitis. MedlinePlus.

  3. Leila Tolaymat, Matthew R. Hall. Perioral Dermatitis. StatPearls [Internet]. (2020).

  4. Leila Tolaymat, Matthew R. Hall. Perioral Dermatitis. Ibid.

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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