Perioral Dermatitis

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on April 26, 2022

Perioral dermatitis is a facial rash in which bumps develop around the mouth. In some cases, a similar rash may appear around the eyes, nose, forehead, or sometimes the genitals. Some experts call it a type of rosacea.

The condition is most commonly seen in young women (90% of cases), but it can affect men as well..


Doctors don’t know exactly what causes perioral dermatitis. Possibilities include:

  • Corticosteroid medications that go on the skin (“topical” corticosteroids)
  • Nasal or inhaled corticosteroid medications that accidentally get on the skin
  • Infections
  • Toothpaste containing fluoride (not a proven cause, but it’s associated with perioral dermatitis)
  • Some cosmetic products
  • Some sunscreens

Because this condition is more common among young women, hormonal imbalances and birth control pills have been suggested as possible causes, but there’s no proof of that.

Perioral dermatitis isn’t contagious and is not passed down through genes.

Perioral dermatitis results in:

  • Bumps of skin around the mouth
  • A rash around the eyes, nose, forehead, or sometimes the genitals
  • Sometimes, an uncomfortable burning sensation around the mouth


Doctors can usually diagnose perioral dermatitis based on the skin’s appearance, with no tests needed.

Sometimes, doctors do a skin culture test for bacteria to see if there’s an infection.

In rare cases, doctors may do a skin biopsy if there’s something unusual about it or if treatments haven’t worked. In a biopsy, doctors take a little bit of the affected skin for testing.

To treat perioral dermatitis:

  • Stop using all topical steroid medications and facial creams
  • Ask your doctor if you need an antibiotic.
    • For mild cases, an antibiotic that goes on the skin may be enough. These include erythromycin and metronidazole.
    • Severe cases may need an oral antibiotic such as tetracycline or erythromycin.

Home remedies that can help include:

  • Change to mild, fragrance-free cleansers and moisturizers.
  • Be gentle when you wash your skin. Gently pat it dry. Don’t scrub it.
  • Stop using cosmetics or other products on the affected area while it’s healing, unless your doctor says it’s OK.

Give it time. Perioral dermatitis may slowly clear up over a few weeks or months.

Perioral dermatitis is most often seen in:

  • Young women
  • People using corticosteroid medications that go on the skin (topical)

While it may not be possible to prevent all cases, these steps may help:

  • If you use any topical steroid medications (those that go on your skin), follow the directions on the package, whether or not you needed a prescription to buy them.
  • Wash your hands after putting steroid medications on skin anywhere on your body, as any left on your fingers could get on your face if you touch that area.
  • To prevent perioral dermatitis from worsening, follow your treatment plan and be gentle in taking care of your skin.

Show Sources

Photo Credit: Science Photo Library / Science Source


American Academy of Dermatology.

Tolaymat, L., and Hall, M. StatPearls, Treasure Island Publishing, January 2020.

Primary Care Dermatology Society: “Perioral dermatitis / periocular dermatitis (syn. periorifacial dermatitis).”

British Association of Dermatologists: “Peri-Oral Dermatitis.”

American Academy of Dermatology Association – Photo Caption

American Osteopathic College of Dermatology – Photo Caption

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