What is perioral dermatitis?
Perioral dermatitis is, in simple terms, an inflammation of the area of skin around the nose and mouth. This inflammation can appear in various ways, but it’s generally characterised by bumps, spots, flakiness, irritated or inflamed skin, or dry or sore patches. It can look a bit like eczema, or a bit like acne, and in fact it’s often considered as something in between the two.
What causes perioral dermatitis?
The root cause of perioral dermatitis can be really hard to uncover; it’s not always very clear what’s triggered a flare-up, or why some people are prone to recurrent attacks and other people never get it at all.
Risk factors include being female and between the ages of 16-45, taking oral contraception, having sensitive skin, wearing makeup, and using topical steroid creams.
Triggers for a flare up include synthetic ingredients in makeup, heavy moisturisers especially paraffin-based, fluoride toothpaste, strong wind, bright UV light, reactions to something you’ve eaten or put on your skin, and experiencing hormonal changes.
How long does perioral dermatitis last?
The answer to the question of whether perioral dermatitis ever goes away needs to be broken down a bit!
A flare of perioral dermatitis can last a few weeks. The irritated skin will eventually heal over the course of a few weeks, as part of the skin’s natural cycle of repair and regeneration. This generally takes about 3-4 weeks, but how long a flare lasts will depend on whether whatever triggered or aggravated the skin in the first place is still a factor.
So if a combination of cold winter air and stress are affecting your sensitive skin, and you keep on using the same heavy moisturiser on your face, your perioral dermatitis may persist for longer. This also applies to other factors: if your birth control is aggravating the flare it will continue to do so as long as you’re taking it. It’s often a combination of things - your toothpaste, your face cream, your foundation, the weather, your fluctuating stress levels and hormonal cycles - that causes perioral dermatitis to flare up, so it can take multiple strategies to get it under control.
Put simply, this means a flare of perioral dermatitis is likely to last as long as your triggers are active.
Do people suffer from perioral dermatitis forever?
If you’re just one of those people who are prone to perioral dermatitis you’re likely to continue to get flare-ups on your face from time to time. However, the good news is that effective management strategies (which could be as simple as not putting anything on your face for a few weeks) can reduce the frequency, duration and severity of flares, so you may find that stopping the use of topical steroids or a particular moisturiser means that your skin only breaks out very occasionally and is easily managed.
The even better good news is that you’re likely to grow out of perioral dermatitis as you get older; it gets less common in the over 45s, maybe because hormonal changes mean older women are less likely to be affected.
So, while perioral can be a persistent and uncomfortable condition while it lasts, time plus a good management plan means it won’t last forever.Check out our article How To Treat Perioral Dermatitis for more information about managing the condition.
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If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
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