How To Get Rid of Perioral Dermatitis
In spring of last year, after battling a rather annoying, never ending series of breakouts on either side of my temples, I decided to go to a dermatologist and see if she has some sort of magic cream that would give me the glowing skin I was so used to.
At that point, my skin was more sensitive and more prone to breakouts than ever before. This was unusual for me, because ever since I was a teen my skin was relatively perfect, and I had a minimal skincare routine made up of the same products that worked for my mom. At one point when I became a teen, she bought me the same Avène cleanser and moisturizer that she had, and I used it for years. My skin was dewy, soft, clear - even at the worst of my teenage hormonal years.
Then, with a greater exposure to beauty bloggers while I was in college, I started to experiment with face oils, serums, face masks, face treatments, etc. At first, my skin was even better than before. Then, after about a year of such experimentation, everything went to shit. I got hyperpigmentation around my mouth, a weird breakout around my temples that I suspect I somehow got when I touched my skin with dirty post-gym hands, and my skin tone became uneven and my skin dry.
So, after trying to cure all that with even more new products which at this point I was getting by the bucketful from brands, I realized I needed a professional’s help. Well, my mom actually made me the appointment and said, “Trust me”. (She was right).
The dermatologist informed me that I had incredibly sensitive skin and mild rosacea (like my mom, no surprise there), and that by over-exfoliating with physical exfoliants, I was making everything so much worse. She also said that oils should not go anywhere around my face (oils always broke me out immediately) and that I should try to minimize the amount of products I was using. She prescribed Tretinoin for my skin to use instead of physical exfoliants and an antibiotic cream for the breakouts, rosacea, and a tiny patch of perioral dermatitis on the left side of my mouth. She also said to avoid fluoride in toothpaste, as it seriously aggravates perioral dermatitis.
Perioral dermatitis is a modern disease, brought on by the onslaught of chemicals from thousands of beauty products, pollution, etc. The more you put your skin through, the more it will rebel, if it’s sensitive and prone to breakouts. You’ve been warned.
The antibiotic cream worked immediately. The breakouts went away and my skin was glowy and perfect. The rosacea went away, and the only problem I had was the adjustment period for the retinol. In the first couple of months of using retinol, your skin is hyper-sensitive, red, and peeling. I used it every other day and put a tiny amount on like directed, but my whole face turned beet-red immediately for the first two weeks. While that was happening, I decided to go back to my beloved, tried-and-true Avène, which was everywhere in Prague, and easily accessible (and so much cheaper!). It worked like a charm. By the end of the first month of using these products, my skin looked like the perfect soft baby skin that babies take for granted. This was the beginning of June.
In the middle of August, I noticed a tiny red patch forming on the bottom of my chin. So I put more of the antibiotic cream on it, in hopes that it would go away.
In the beginning of September, I got back to NYC after being in Europe for three months. Enraged by the fluoride in the toothpaste in Europe (impossible to find fluoride free toothpaste in Prague) and the dry, gross airplane air, my perioral dermatitis took over the whole right side of my chin and spread above my upper lip.
If you’ve had perioral dermatitis before, you know that this awful breakout makes you feel disgusting.
I kept putting the antibiotic cream on it, as instructed, but it just got worse.
During this time, I kept craving eggs. If you know me personally, you probably know that I have always hated eggs ever since I was a baby. The texture, the smell, the taste - were disgusting to me. So eating eggs for every meal was a completely new, and weird occurrence. I wrote it off as my body storing up nutrients for my future potential pregnancy. Because what else could it be?
I went to the dermatologist again, and she was baffled and prescribed an even stronger antibiotic cream.
The next day, it was my best friend’s birthday and I slept over at her house. Before arriving to her house I picked up a tube of Avène’s Cicalfate cream in hopes that it will help my skin.
I woke up the next morning and guess what was almost completely gone?
My perioral dermatitis was barely there.
It was both my first day of using Cicalfate and a 48 hour break from eating eggs.
Sometimes our bodies will crave foods that give us inflammation because...they’re fucked up like that, I guess. I realized that the first time it came out, I became really into having poached eggs for breakfast.
So I took a break from eating eggs and used Cicalfate exclusively and by the time it was time for me to go back to Prague in the beginning of October I was clear-skinned once more.
I also cut out everything but Avène’s Eau de Thermal, Cicalfate cream, and their gentle cleanser. I even washed my face without water (as New York tap water, like Paris tap water, is particularly harsh for skin compared to Prague tap water which is magical).
At the end of October I thought, what’s the harm in eating eggs?
Well, I’m a fucking dumbass because it came back on the other side of my face and this time it wasn’t going away as fast as I’d hoped. That’s the thing with perioral dermatitis, sometimes what worked before, may not work again.
So, I cracked down on both my diet and my skincare routine and this is what has made it go away and stay away. Please consult with a doctor before trying any of this. This is what worked for me - and I hope it will be of help to you as well! But I’m not a doctor, I just research medical studies obsessively.
Vital Proteins Beauty Collagen
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, and it promotes skin elasticity, holds together your bones and muscles, protects your organs, provides structure to joints and tendons. Adding collagen to your diet will improve the quality of your skin, help with inevitable skin aging, help your gut long term, and help your muscles, joints, tendons, and organs long term. Not only has it helped my skin in terms of perioral dermatitis, but it is generally great to add to your diet. I mix Vital Proteins Beauty Collagen into my morning pre-food earth-tasting blend of powders (more of that below). Hey, it’s not going to taste like Skittles, but it will be good for your bod!
2. Amazing Grass Green Superfood
I am obsessed with Amazing Grass! It’s such a good way to include healthy things into your daily diet in an easy way. Green Superfood’s ingredients are all natural and organic ingredients which include organic wheat grass, organic barley grass, organic alfalfa, organic spirulina, organic spinach, organic chlorella (cracked cell-wall), organic broccoli, organic pure acai from Sambazon, organic maca, organic carrot, organic beet, raspberry, rose hips, pineapple, green tea, acerola cherry, organic flax seed powder, apple pectin fiber, F.O.S. (from chicory root), L. acidophilus, alpha and beta amylase, protease, lipase, lactase, cellulase, siberian eleuthero root and peppermint. It’s 100% Vegan. Again, it’s not only great for perioral dermatitis, but it’s excellent for your health overall.
3. Zinc (Oral + Topical)
Zinc is an essential mineral that is needed for numerous healthy bodily functions, including boosting the immune system, healing wounds, assisting in DNA/protein synthesis and growth.
Zinc works with other vitamins and minerals to help treat skin lesions and when taken orally, it can decrease the severity of acne and aging skin topical zinc helps in wound healing and skin regeneration. It’s important to not take too much zinc orally because it can make you nauseous and too much of it in your body can throw off the levels of iron in your body. I use zinc topically (I ordered this one on amazon) on my perioral dermatitis - I put a thick layer on the breakout (it’s white and you’re gonna look funny), but it’s helped so much!
Phytoceramides (or "plant" ceramides) are used to hydrate and "plump" the skin. The basis for this is that ceramides are naturally found in skin cells which help to regulate the water barrier and water-holding capacity in skin. They helps reduce inflammation and help with skin hydration.
5. Avène’s Cicafate Cream
This is the holy grail skin product for me. After trying a tiny tube, I got a couple of giant tubes in Europe (where the giant tube costs less than the small one in America). I use this all over my face every day, and my skin has been incredible. In my skin’s opinion, this has been the biggest game changer for acne and perioral dermatitis when used alongside zinc. (I layer zinc on top of this at night). Cicalfate helps restore and promote optimal skin recovery and helps reduce the appearance of scarring. Avène is a brand for sensitive skin, so the chances that it won’t work for you are small. I’m so grateful for this product!
Antibiotic creams or steroid creams for perioral dermatitis are a short-term solution. At one point, your skin will get used to them and your next flare up will ever so much worse.
Try to see if excluding fluoride will help. This is one of the most common perioral dermatitis aggravators.
Eggs. There are people who think that eggs are the devil, or people who think that eggs are a blessing to humankind. I was neutral, and still am for the most part, but I’m staying away from eggs for a while. Especially the yolk.
Sugar. Sugar is actually the devil. Cut out sugar as much as possible. Not only if you have perioral dermatitis, but in general.
Consult with a doctor before trying anything new.
Please let me know your tips and tricks in dealing with perioral dermatitis! If you try any of these tips, let me know if they worked for you!