Perioral Dermatitis

Perioral dermatitis is a rash or irritation of the skin appearing as small red bumps with mild peeling, itching and sometimes burning that most often affects the area beneath the nose around the lips and chin. The condition is most common in young women, but occasionally affects men and children.

What causes perioral dermatitis is not well understood, but dermatologists believe it may be a form of rosacea or seborrheic dermatitis worsened by sunlight. Medicated creams applied to the face can cause perioral dermatitis. Some types of cosmetics, moisturizers and dental products with fluoride contribute to the condition and it may be aggravated by hormones, sunlight or stress.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your dermatologist can usually diagnose perioral dermatitis just by examining your skin. Occasionally, skin or blood samples may be tested to rule out other conditions.

Without treatment, perioral dermatitis can last for weeks or months.

The most commonly prescribed treatment for perioral dermatitis is an oral antibiotic, such as tetracycline, which may be necessary for several months to help prevent recurrence. For milder cases, topical antibiotic creams may be used. Occasionally, your dermatologist may recommend a corticosteroid cream for a short time while the antibiotics are working. Most patients improve within two months. The use of steroid creams may cause a brief flare-up of the condition after stopping use, but completing the antibiotic treatment according to your dermatologist’s instructions will usually clear the rash completely.


While there is no way to guarantee prevention of perioral dermatitis, your dermatologist may recommend measures you can take that may help:

  • Avoid using prescription fluorinated corticosteroid creams on the face.
  • Ask your dermatologist for suggestions on using moisturizers, cosmetics and sunscreens.
  • Get advice about whether to avoid toothpaste with fluoride, tartar control ingredients or cinnamon flavoring.