A dermatologist tells us 4 myths about perioral dermatitis we need to stop believing.

Perioral dermatitis. Heard of her? Course you have. She's the bane of your existence. Shows up completely announced. Makes a big song and dance. Doesn't want help. NEVER leaves...


If you're a dame who struggles with perioral dermatitis, you'll know the struggle. Because it can be a fickle condition – and sometimes it's really difficult to know what's causing that red rash around your mouth or nose, if you're doing the right thing when it comes to treatment, if Sharon from that skincare group on Facebook really knows what she's talking about, etc. etc.

Watch: Here are seven ways to improve your skin while sleeping. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

But that's why you have little old us. Because we're here to do the hard work for you. And accept fruit baskets in return.

We asked Melbourne dermatologist Dr Cara McDonald to help us break down absolutely everything we need to know about perioral dermatitis - including a fat sack of myths we really need to stop believing.

1. Perioral dermatitis is dermatitis.

You guys, apparently perioral dermatitis isn't actually dermatitis?? We're... confused. Don't worry, we had no idea either. 

"The biggest myth about perioral dermatitis is that it is in fact a form of dermatitis, which is not surprising given the confusing name it has!" said Dr McDonald.


"Unfortunately, this often leads people to treat it with topical steroid creams which are available at the chemist or through their doctor and this is one of the worst things you can do for perioral dermatitis, as it actually feeds it and causes a significant worsening of the condition over time."

Eek! Sounds... not ideal. 


So, for the love of Chris Hemsworth, let's all PUT THE STEROID CREAM DOWN. 

2. Perioral dermatitis is a form of acne.

Wrong again! "The next myth, or confusing fact at least, is that it is a form of acne. Although the treatment is similar to acne in some cases it is not related to acne at all!"

Cool, cool, cool.

According to Dr McDonald, while they may look kinda similar, there's actually a really big difference between the two skin conditions.

"Acne is a condition where we see infection and inflammation around the hair follicle causing congestion and pimples, and although perioral dermatitis can look pimply it is unrelated to the pore," explains Dr McDonald.

3. There is an exact cause of perioral dermatitis.

If you have a red rash around your mouth or nose, one of the first things you probably wanted to know, was how the f**k you ended up with it. Yeah? 

Truth is, it's not so easy to decipher the root cause of perioral dermatitis. Annoying, we know. But more often than not, it sounds like it can be a combination of different things. 

"The exact cause of perioral dermatitis is yet to be determined, but it seems to be linked to a change in the skin microbiome, breakdown of the skin barrier and other pro-inflammatory factors," explains Dr McDonald.

"It is most commonly seen in young women and can affect children. In some cases, it is linked with stress and in others it's skin irritation, such as the overuse of active ingredients."

*Looks around nervously*

"We have certainly seen increased cases with mask wearing which is likely due to irritation and altered bacteria on the skin."

Cheers, COVID.

4. Topical over-the-counter products will help.

Apparently topical products are one of the worst things you can do for perioral dermatitis – particularly anything exfoliating or steroid-related. So, put these in the bin. 

Instead, you're best off booking an appointment with a qualified dermatologist or skin expert, who will probably suggest a series of LED treatments.

"Some cases will resolve with a gentle skincare regime and anti-inflammatory treatments like LED light but often a prescription treatment is required to clear it completely," said Dr McDonald.


"The most important thing is to avoid any exfoliation or other irritation and if you are prone to perioral dermatitis, avoid steroid creams on your face at all costs. Perioral dermatitis will start to clear within a couple of weeks with the right treatment."

So, there you go!

Dr Cara McDonald is a highly trained Australian specialist dermatologist. She is a principal and medical director of Complete Skin Specialists Dermatology and holds a consultant position at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne. She is a key opinion leader and educator in cosmetic dermatology and skincare; regularly speaking on injectables, cosmeceuticals and all things skin. 

Cara is passionate about helping people achieve healthy, glowing skin and loves breaking down the complex medical science of dermatology into practical, actionable advice for everyone.  

Do you suffer from perioral dermatitis? What are your go-to treatments? Share with us in the comment section below.

Feature image: Instagram/@drcara_dermatologist

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