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Perioral Acne Explained


The term "perioral" refers to the area around your mouth. Perioral acne, more commonly called perioral dermatitis, is a facial skin condition that affects the area around your mouth, chin and nose. Perioral acne acts more like eczema or rosacea, both chronic skin conditions, than other forms of acne because the symptoms can be long-lasting and sometimes difficult to treat.

Population Affected

Perioral acne is a common condition that affects mostly younger women, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Children may develop symptoms, but this form of dermatitis is not considered to be a common childhood disease. The AAD also states that men rarely develop the facial rash.


The exact cause of perioral dermatitis is not clear, according to Dermnet NZ, an information portal associated with the New Zealand Dermatological Society. Women who have greasy skin are more likely to develop the rash. Remnants of facial moisturizers that remain in the skin folds near the chin and nose, as well as a lack of personal hygiene--not washing your face--may play a role. Dermnet NZ acknowledges that topical steroid use also increases the likelihood of developing symptoms of perioral dermatitis.


Symptoms of perioral acne include red, raised, blistering acne-like bumps that appear above the upper lip, across the chin and around the lower half of the nose. Some people may develop the rash around the eyes as well. The bumps can burn and itch and may come and go for long periods of time, lasting as long as years in some cases. The eruptions may peel or leak fluids.


The American College of Osteopathic Dermatology explains that diagnosis of perioral acne is usually through visual inspection only. Your doctor may take a sample of tissue to rule out bacterial or fungal infection, which may require a different treatment regimen to help the bumps heal.


Unlike conventional treatments for acne, topical creams and ointments will not cure perioral dermatitis. To the contrary, over-the-counter acne medications containing salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide or steroids may intensify inflammation instead of reducing redness and swelling. Dermnet NZ recommends washing your face with warm water only; add soap back into your cleansing routine once the rash has disappeared. Long-term treatment with oral antibiotic drugs are prescribed, similar to systemic treatments for hormonal acne, for periods of up to three months in severe cases.

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