Itchy rash around lips: Perioral dermatitis explained

Perioral dermatitis (PD) is a scaly, itchy rash that usually appears around the lips. It may extend to the edge of the mouth, or there may be some clear skin in the middle. It may also spread to other parts of the face and body, and it can affect children and adults.

Also known as Perioral dermatitisthis condition causes the following symptoms:

  • red bump
  • flaky skin
  • Clear fluid discharge
  • inflammation

This article explains the causes of perioral dermatitis and what a rash looks like. It also discusses how this rash is diagnosed, and the treatment options available.

how the rash looks and feels

PD appears as a red rash around the lips. The rash may consist of small red bumps called papules. You may also have dry, flaky or scaly skin with a noticeable discharge of fluid.

The rash may be itchy or burning. In some cases, it spreads to other parts of the face, such as the nose and eyes. Rarely will the same rash appear around the genitals.

Causes of Perioral Dermatitis

The cause of perioral dermatitis is unknown, but the use of prescription steroids or some personal care products is often associated with the condition.

Women are more likely to develop PD than men. This condition is also most likely to occur in people between the ages of 19 and 45. Children can also develop PD.


Steroids are an anti-inflammatory drug. Their use, especially long-term, is closely associated with perioral dermatitis. This applies to topical steroids and steroids inhaled through the nose or mouth.

Watch out for symptoms of PD if you or your child are using steroid creams or steroid sprays, especially for extended periods of time.

Health and Beauty Products

Perioral dermatitis can also be caused by using heavy creams and moisturizers. Those containing certain ingredients, such as paraffin and petrolatum, can be particularly problematic.

In children, high sun protection factor (SPF) sunscreens may cause this rash.

Makeup, especially foundation, can also cause PD.

Some cleansers and shampoos contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). This compound is known to irritate sensitive skin, which can lead to perioral dermatitis.

Finally, some case reports suggest a link between fluoride toothpaste and PD. Tartar-controlling ingredients used in some toothpastes may also work.

other possibilities

The researchers believe that environmental conditions such as heat and wind may play a role in someone developing the disease.

Other potential triggers may include:

  • oral contraceptives
  • hormone fluctuations
  • immune system problems

Some doctors consider perioral dermatitis a type of rosacea. This is because of overlapping symptoms and triggers. However, other experts have concluded that the two are different conditions.

How to Diagnose Perioral Dermatitis

There is no test to diagnose PD. Your doctor can make a diagnosis based on your symptoms.

It may be helpful to see a dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in skin diseases) because they may have more experience finding PD cases than other doctors.

As part of the diagnostic process, your doctor may try to rule out other similar conditions. These include:

  • impetigo: This skin infection is common in school-age children and spreads easily. Symptoms include red, oozing sores around the nose or mouth.
  • seborrheic dermatitis: This rash usually appears in the folds around the child’s nose.It may cause flaking behind the ears and eyebrows
  • Angular stomatitis: Iron deficiency and dental problems can cause inflammation and flaking at the corners of the mouth.
  • Lip licking dermatitis: Children may suck or lick their lower lip, especially in winter. Your child may develop a rash when the skin around the lips becomes dry and inflamed.

Alphabetical list of rashes

Perioral dermatitis is common in children of any age and in women between the ages of 19 and 40.

treatment solutions

PD may go away on its own. If not, stopping the trigger product may be enough to clear the rash. Use a mild facial cleanser while the rash heals, and switch to fluoride-free dental products.

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If you use a steroid cream or spray, your doctor may recommend that you stop doing it in the first place. It’s important to note that the rash may get worse before it heals.

In some cases, prescription medications may be recommended.

But know that even with treatment, PD can come back. You may experience episodes and periods without symptoms. For some patients, long-term management of the condition may be required.


Your doctor may prescribe oral or topical medications to help treat your rash. These may include:

  • Oral antibiotics, such as doxycycline or tetracycline
  • Elidel topical cream, a medication commonly used to treat eczema
  • topical antibiotics erythromycin
  • topical antibiotics Metronidazole


Prescription medications, including topical creams and oral antibiotics, may help clear the rash. It is also important to stop using harsh facial products.

Prevention of Perioral Dermatitis

If you are prone to PD and resume using prescription steroids, talk to your doctor. You may need to permanently stop these drugs to prevent flare-ups.

You can also help prevent flare-ups by avoiding heavy creams, moisturizers, and foundations.

Switching to fluoride-free toothpaste and avoiding high-SPF sunscreens may also help.


For some people, perioral dermatitis is long-term. It may recur after treatment. You can help prevent unexpected events by avoiding triggering your product.


PD is a red, bumpy, flaky rash that usually appears around the lips. It may also appear on the face and other parts of the body. Children and women are most often diagnosed with this rash.

While there is no medical test to diagnose this rash, a dermatologist will be able to identify it based on your symptoms. They may offer treatment recommendations, such as:

  • taking oral antibiotics
  • Use topical antibiotics
  • Stop using any steroid and/or fluoride products

VigorTip words

There is strong evidence that PD may be associated with the use of prescription steroids. This includes topical and inhaled steroids. However, you should always speak with your doctor before changing or stopping any prescription medication.

PD may take a while to clean up. It could also happen again. Talk to your dermatologist about the best treatment option for you. Working closely with your doctor will give you the best chance of successfully clearing the rash.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes a rash around the lips?

    Rashes around the lips can have a variety of causes, including bacterial infections, nutritional issues, and skin irritants. Perioral dermatitis is a specific type of rash associated with the use of steroids and irritating skin and oral care products.

  • How do you treat a rash around the lips?

    Many rashes around the mouth can be treated simply by stopping using harsh products. Some rashes require prescription medication, such as antibiotics.

  • How do you quickly heal a rash around the lips?

    If your rash is caused by a skin product such as moisturizer or foundation, stopping using the product may be a quick way to clear the rash. If the rash does not go away after taking this step, see a dermatologist.

  • What does dermatitis around the lips look like?

    These rashes may consist of small bumps. Your skin may be red, dry and flaky. You may also have sores that ooze or drain clear fluid. Some rashes around the lips may also burn and itch.

  • Why do I have small itchy bumps around my lips?

    Rashes around the lips are usually caused by skin irritants. Skin conditions like lip licking, bacterial infections, and eczema can also be to blame. The best way to find out the cause of a rash is to see a dermatologist.