I Finally Got My Perioral Dermatitis Under Control... I Think

I've been dealing with outbreaks for 7 years, but after a lot of trial and error, I've found a combination of OTC and prescription stuff that works for me.

Perioral dermatitis is a bummer. I’ll let WebMD explain.

I mean, trying to take $20 out of the ATM when you only have $19 in your account is a bummer (you could have gotten eight two-for-one happy hour Rolling Rocks with that dough!). But perioral dermatitis is a serious bummer.

I call it the curse of the vain. I kid a little, but seriously, a lot of times it’s from putting too many scrubs/serums/anti-aging creams/whatever on your face. It mostly affects young women; there is no known cure, and treatment usually only works for a little while. GREAT!

This affliction first reared its ugly head in the winter of 2006. The red bumps appeared. Small at first, around my nose and mouth (as it got worse, they showed up around my eyes, too--GNARLY!).

I did what I think a lot of people would do in that situation and started putting cortisone cream on the affected areas. It’s good for rashes and skin irritation, which is what I had, so I trusted it. The next day the rash was almost gone. Hell yeah! I self-diagnosed and cured! I’m incredible! My friends were pretty stoked too. It was basically the only thing I talked about at that time.

Two days later, the rash was back with a vengeance. A life of good skin and little worry about my complexion was suddenly replaced by “oh F#%K.” I realized there might not be a quick fix.

I Googled extensively and self-diagnosed myself as having perioral dermatitis, and found that, with this condition, the worst thing you could possibly do is put topical steroids on it. Oops.

The main treatment is antibiotics, so I immediately called my mom and begged her to bug to my doctor in Nashville (I was 19, y’all, don’t judge), so I could get a prescription for minocycline. I took the antibiotics on and off for a month and the rash went away (though there are other gnarly side effect to the antibiotics, like yeast infections, which sucks).

I lived my life blissfully for another five years until the bumps reappeared in the winter of 2011--oh, did I mention it's way worse in the winter? I did another round of antibiotics, but the side effects were such that I said, “Screw it. There must be another way.”

I decided to go natural and see what happened.


Apple cider vinegar is all over the web as a topical remedy. My taste buds love it, but it did nada mucho to rectify my little predicament. It stung like hell, I stunk, and my face space was even redder!

A Greek yogurt mask is supposed to calm the irritation. I globbed a bowl of Fage 2% all over my face and let it marinate for 20 minutes. I expected a plump, glowing, bump-free face when I removed it. (I’m not sure why…because of the acidophilus? Because Greek yogurt is the shizz? Because I’m 25% Greek?) My face was a little red after the application, there was absolutely no change in the bumps, and now I had nothing to eat for breakfast. Fabulous.

Next I tried a calendula cream mainly used for diaper rash (and since my face looked like an irritated baby’s ass, I thought, this has to do something). Nah, it was just greasy and nothing happened. The list goes on with the natural remedies. Lucas’ Paw Paw Ointment and Medicine Mama’s Sweet Bee Magic are both great for chapped anything, and mixing with eye shadow or lipstick for a more dewy consistency. Not PD, though.

At this point I’m all “SCREW THIS, I’m not using anything!”


I did stop using shampoo with sulfates, which helped heaps with the frequency of the outbreaks (I’m not sure if "outbreak" is the proper word for this, but that’s what it felt like. I wanted to go outside with this as much as someone with a raging herpes outbreak wants to have sex with a new crush).

Avene products have been my saviors in keeping the bumps at bay. It’s a French skincare brand that utilizes high amounts of ‘thermal spring water’ from the Cévennes Mountains. Their Tolérance Extrême Cream is the most magical moisturizer I’ve ever used, and the Thermal Spring Water will seriously change the texture of your skin.

I washed my face with water and used these products exclusively for about nine months (not exfoliating my face for that long was pure torture). I got through it and I swear my skin has been rewired. I can now use (gentle) exfoliants without the fear of a full on outbreak, and can use serums and wear makeup.

Weleda’s Almond Oil is also super hydrating and calming, so I slather that on before my Avene cream.

I visited the dermatologist one more time and asked for something topical that might help when it does pop up (because it will). She gave me Clarifoam, which is a foam (duh) that contains sodium sulfacetamide/sulfur. It smells like rotten eggs, but if I notice the bumps coming back, I put on a light layer and all is right again the next day.

I’m learning to live with my perioral dermatitis (cue Aimee Man’s "Save Me" and feel bad for me). Apparently it’s not going to last forever, which is comforting, but at this time I have better stuff to do than worry.

Oh yeah, PD also hates hot water. Hope you enjoy luke warm showers. At least summer is coming!

Anyone else dealing with PD? What's worked for you?