Now that I'm in a maintenance phase on the other side of my skin journey, I wanted to share some helpful information on perioral dermatitis, as well as the products I ditched in managing my skin condition.
Plus, my recommendations for gentle skincare products that help me to feel good about my skin.
I'm also passionate about sharing my real, raw, unfiltered photos of my skin, because I hope it makes anyone else currently going through the same thing feel that little bit less alone.
So, What Is Perioral Dermatitis?
I asked Dermatologist and Mohs Surgeon Dr Andrew Freeman from The Skin Centre on the Gold Coast for his medical opinion on perioral dermatitis.
"It is a condition that arises when the microbiome (our skin’s ecosystem) becomes upset because of applied treatments. Patients most often present with multiple small red bumps around the mouth, eyes, or nose, which itch and burn," he said.
What Causes Perioral Dermatitis?
Dr Freeman said perioral dermatitis is most often caused by prescribed treatments like topical steroid creams that have been used incorrectly for other facial conditions, or cosmeceuticals, makeup and inhaled treatments (such as asthma medications).
"Additionally, culprits of irritation I see everyday include retinoids (vitamin A serums), MI/MCI preservative-containing cosmetics, pawpaw ointment, inappropriate strength or combination of skin care, and makeup or creams that are too thick and do not let the skin breathe."
Perioral Dermatitis Treatment.
First thing's first - go and see your medical professional. Whether it's a GP or a dermatologist, talk to a professional about your skin before buying or using any new skincare products.
Dr Freeman added, "[Treatment involves] stopping using all topical medications, makeup, moisturisers and cleansers. The body will self-regulate back to baseline, but in doing so, the rash will get far worse for two weeks before it settles. Due to this, your dermatologist will often prescribe oral treatment where appropriate to combat this."
"I advise my patients to go back to basics, so no active ingredients, fragrances, or makeup, just a basic light moisturiser with minimal preservatives and warm water to cleanse with."
My Perioral Dermatitis Skincare Routine.
So, after listening to my doctor and doing some of my own trial and error, the following are six types of products I avoided (and which ones worked best for me) in my experience with perioral dermatitis.
1. Exfoliating Products.
Gah, I think back to when I used to use extra strength daily peel pads and cringe.
It was absolutely the worst thing I could have put on my face because it just destroyed my skin’s moisture barrier. You will know if your skin can’t tolerate chemical exfoliants if your face is always red, sore and feels sting-y when you use them.
My recommendation: When my barrier is impaired, I don't exfoliate at all. I went about six months without exfoliating. Once ready, I recommend using something gentle once per week - more on that in a second.
2. Cleansers Containing SLS.
Some cleansers left my skin feeling tight, and I used to think that was normal.
Sulfates like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) are surfactants (detergents) that remove residue, dirt, and sebum from your skin, but they can also damage the skin barrier, dry out the skin, irritate your eyes and face, and strip skin of its natural oils. They are commonly found in foaming cleansers, and using one may flare perioral dermatitis.
My recommendation: There are many SLS free cleansers around, but my favourite is the Biologi Bc Refresh Cleanser because it's a light, non-irritating foam cleanser that leaves my skin feeling hydrated. No synthetic fragrances either.