What Foods Trigger Periocular Dermatitis?

While it’s clear that certain skincare products trigger flare-ups of periocular dermatitis, can the same thing be said about some foods? We take a look at what you can and can’t eat if you suffer from periocular dermatitis.

What is periocular dermatitis?

Simply put, periocular dermatitis is a breakout of spots, bumps, itchy and inflamed skin around the eyes. But there’s more to it than that, because in a way it, like the very similar perioral dermatitis (which occurs around the mouth), is defined by what it’s not.

So it’s not acne, psoriasis, rosacea, eczema, contact or seborrheic dermatitis, all of which are conditions that can affect the area around the eyes. Periocular dermatitis refers to breakouts that aren’t those conditions, and are specific to that area. Periorificial dermatitis (which refers to both the perioral and periocular types) might have characteristics in common with those other conditions, but it is a separate condition.

What are the triggers for periocular dermatitis?

Periocular and perioral dermatitis are both affected by things put on the skin - heavy cosmetics; occlusive paraffin-based creams; fragrances in toiletries and skincare; synthetic sunscreens; topical steroids - as well as hormonal fluctuations and environmental conditions. Sufferers are advised to avoid putting things on their skin that might set off a flare, or aggravate it while it’s healing.

What foods might trigger a flare-up?

Given that not all periocular dermatitis’ triggers are topical (hormonal contraceptives and stress, for example), and that it has some things in common with rosacea (which most sufferers find can be triggered by what they eat and drink) it seems possible that food could be a problem for those vulnerable to the condition.

The answer isn’t completely clear, as there hasn’t been conclusive studies done on the relationship between periocular dermatitis and diet.

Gluten intolerance has been suggested as a trigger for perioral dermatitis, so it’s not unreasonable to suppose that it’s a problem for periocular dermatitis too. 

One doctor noticed that “patients who develop the rash have gluten sensitivity or mild, undiagnosed gluten intolerance. When these patients are switched to a gluten-free diet, their skin condition improves. Similarly, patients with no clinically diagnosed gluten sensitivity but who adopt a carbohydrate-free/low-glycemic-index and high-protein diet have shown dramatic improvement with minimal oral or topical treatments and less recurrence.”

So a low carbohydrate, gluten-free diet could well be worth trying, at least for a set period of time, to see if your symptoms improve.

There’s also a suggestion that common rosacea triggers could be a problem for periorificial dermatitis too, so it’s also worth checking your tolerance to the following foods. Some of them are foods that can cause contact dermatitis on sensitive skin, which may not be periorificial dermatitis as such, but is a condition that also causes inflammation around the mouth, if not the eyes.

  • Hot spiced food
  • Hot drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Dairy
  • Cinnamon and similar spices
  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus fruits

Similar to many other inflammatory skin conditions, the triggers and symptoms of periocular dermatitis are different for different people. While some people might find their flares are definitely caused by one particular trigger - sunscreen or topical steroids, for example - others may not ever discover the root cause of their flares, but find that a combination of avoiding triggers, using gentle unperfumed skincare, and eating for the best possible skin health can help clear it up.

We’d suggest keeping a trigger diary, noting what you eat and drink and looking out for flares, and eliminating any foods that you suspect could be problematic for a set period of time, reintroducing them one by one and checking for reactions.

We’d recommend Daily Moisturising Cream or Balmonds Cooling Cream for moisturising hot and bothered skin, and Skin Salvation ointment for drier or super sensitive areas. (If your skin doesn't react well to occlusive ointments, go for creams over balms like Skin Salvation.)

Always do a patch test behind your ear or inside your elbow before using any new skincare product on your face; leave for 24-48 hrs and check for any irritation, with the caveat that the face can react more strongly even than those areas, and will sometimes not tolerate even the gentlest of natural skincare.

Recommended products:

Balmonds Skin Salvation
with hemp and beeswax

Balmonds Cooling Cream
with shea, menthol, aloe vera & lavender

Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream
with shea butter and calendula

periocular dermatitis

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