My skin problems started around a year ago, first as a minor blemish around my mouth.
This spread into fluid-filled bumps that appeared around my mouth and nose.
At first, I thought it was acne or rosacea, but the symptoms kept on morphing, the rash spread to the folds of my nose, and my skin became red, burning and itchy.
This is the point I began to panic.
One morning I woke up, and the skin around my mouth was dehydrated. It wasn’t a typical dryness. It was peeling and flaking off.
I booked an appointment with my doctor to try and get some answers, and she told me I had a skin condition known as perioral or periorbital dermatitis.
Often referred to as perioral or periorificial dermatitis, it forms a red rash that circles the mouth. Skin becomes inflamed, dry, flaky and swollen.
I had never heard of this before and was grateful that I at least had an answer. She explained that it is relatively common among women, but the underlying cause is unknown.
I was prescribed antibiotics, and although I wouldn’t say I liked taking them, my rash disappeared within a week, and I was so relieved.
Fast forward six weeks, and it came back with a vengeance. I was devastated; the tiny red bumps had become a full-blown inflamed rash around my mouth, nose, and chin which burned, itched and flaked continuously.
My doctor wanted to prescribe yet another course of antibiotics, but I was reluctant and knew there had to be a better way.
I scoured the gods of google to find out about this tricky skin condition and was surprised to find there was very little information.
Fortunately, I came across the Naked Chemist skincare range, they had a lot of credible information on their site, and I reached out to Samantha and her team, who were extremely helpful.
This was when my journey with my bumpy rash around my mouth and nose became one of the most significant catalysing events, taking me on a long holistic journey.
By writing this article, I hope to help others in a similar situation.
If you are suffering from perioral dermatitis and desperately looking for answers, hopefully, my journey to skin health will help you.
Naked Chemist Treatment Protocol
Chloe was 25 when she reached out to us, which put her squarely in the middle of the demographic for perioral dermatitis, which most commonly strikes women between 15 and 45.
In a study conducted from 1994 to 1998, Cooper and Shaw reported a significantly higher prevalence of periorbital dermatitis among women.
So what is perioral or periorbital dermatitis? It is a condition that occurs from multiple triggers that together create inflammation in your skin.
Your immune system creates inflammation, and when in a state of imbalance, it gets out of control and flares up.
Because your immune system and your body, in general, is so complex, it’s hard to know exactly what those triggers are. From our clinical experience, it appears to be a combination of immune-suppressing, inflammation-inducing events that cause damage to the microbiome and immune system of your skin and gut.
The Topical Treatment Plan
Periorbital dermatitis treatment is an elimination game. Our advice to Chloe and anyone dealing with periorbital dermatitis is to strip back their skincare routine; approach it as you would a detox; this will help to reduce inflammation in the skin’s tissues, and follow these steps:
- avoid topical steroids
- steer clear of fluoride in toothpaste
- remove products with sodium lauryl sulfate
- avoid heavy creams and occlusive ingredients like beeswax
- avoid harsh ingredients, including alcohols, vitamin C and peels
- avoid products with essential oils and fragrances; citral, linalool and geraniol, which all cause inflammation in your skin
Over time we figured out toothpaste was a MAJOR trigger and lip salve; we found that her favourite salve had a base of beeswax, which is a common trigger. We also recommended Chloe use the antibiotic gel Bactroban around her lips on the vermilion border instead, and slowly her lips began to heal.
Whenever she applied any cream, her skin would have a burning sensation and start crusting and blistering. So we recommended stopping using any cream base, as they contain emulsifiers that can trigger periorbital dermatitis.
Chloe began using Clarity, our two in one cleanser and toner, which contains a crucial ingredient, hypochlorous acid, found in your body. The anti-bacterial and antimicrobial properties calm and heal inflamed skin, infections and acne.
She then added H20 hyaluronic acid into her routine. High molecular weight hyaluronic won’t irritate the skin; instead, it keeps it plump and hydrated and helps to reduce inflammation in the skin’s tissues.
This is all Chloe used for the first couple of weeks which gave her skin immediate relief.
Then slowly, she introduced Equilibrium gel moisturiser into her routine and Bio lipid to repair her skin’s barrier function.
A note on Hypochorus acid
We believe that Hypochlorous acid deserves its special mention.
Found naturally in your body, it is an integral part of your immune response—when your cells feel they are under attack, hypochlorous acid is released, and its potent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties kill invading bacteria.
It is very similar to hydrogen peroxide. The problem is that when you use hydrogen on your skin, it can cause cell death, which means its healing properties are hampered.
There have been numerous clinical studies on this exciting ingredient; this study recorded the time it took for hypochlorous acid to kill all microorganisms, which was around 12 seconds, which is pretty impressive. If you struggle with acne and breakouts or want to keep a wound clean hypochlorous acid could become your ingredient of choice.
Holistic Treatment Recommendations
It is essential to take a two-pronged approach when treating this skin condition – both internally and topically.
Chloe’s skin seemed to flare up before her periods because she has PCOS, and her periods are irregular. We have found that hormones and stress play a huge role in flare-ups, so we recommended she see a naturopath to help detoxify and manage her hormones and stress.
Over the months, we have made some significant strides with Chloe’s condition, and we are excited to report that her skin is almost clear.
We can’t stress enough how important it is to be patient.
There is no magic cure for perioral dermatitis. It won’t just disappear overnight. But if you put the time and energy into figuring out what is causing it, you most definitely can heal your skin.
If you are interested in learning more about periorbital dermatitis treatment, we have put together a great post that offers tips and products that are most helpful in our clinic.
My Succesful Treatment Protocol
A few months later, I am pleased to say I am almost free of this troublesome skin condition.
My lips have calmed down significantly, and so have the blemishes, redness and burning.
YES. It takes hard work, determination and lots of trial and error to eliminate periorbital dermatitis. Still, I am an example that it is possible to turn your skin around. So don’t despair.
I don’t believe you can do this alone; support is needed, and I can’t thank Samantha and her team enough for all the patience, advice and support over the months in helping me heal this skin condition.
That coupled with having the support from my naturopath over the last few months. We worked together to help build a stronger foundation internally, strengthen my immune system, repair my gut, and make my body more alkaline.
Because periorbital causes and triggers are so wide-ranging, I have listed below some of the takeaways that I found helpful:
- toothpaste with fluoride was a big trigger
- chamomile tea helps to calm me, which I drink every day
- when I’m in the sun for long periods, this can irritate my skin
- the beeswax found in many common lip salves and balms would cause my lips to dry and blister
- I’ve found some foods that trigger this condition, such as cinnamon, citrus, spices and oily foods, toothpaste, skincare, shampoo and household cleaning products with SLS is a considerable trigger
- the ingredients zinc oxide, hypochlorous acid and ceramides I found to be helpful, especially during the initial phase of my skin healing
- I’ve cut out more gluten, dairy, and caffeine, I found my gut is more robust, and I can digest oily/fried foods again. in moderation,
- elimination is the name of the game; become a label detective. For skincare, I try to avoid fragrances and essential oils, alcohols and acid-based ingredients
Periorbital dermatitis does change your skin texture. My skin is much drier than I remember and more reactive.
I am also working on my mental health; the occasional patch of inflammation flares up when I’m stressed or if I don’t get enough sleep. Meditating and keeping my stress levels to a minimum help.
Approach all your skincare with a critical eye, ensuring there are no nasties. Equilibrium, H20 and Bio Lipid I don’t know what wizardry is inside them, but they have helped my skin considerably.
I also take supplements daily: Bioceuticals Ultrabiotic 60 has been beneficial in stabilising my gut. Every morning on an empty stomach, and half an hour later, I take vitamin C and D and lysine supplements. My naturopath recently put me on astragalus, iron supplements, and digestive enzymes to break down food easier and absorb nutrients from food.
I have had irregular periods (PCOS) after I went off the contraceptive pill. I think my hormones were very imbalanced, which my naturopath believed to be a mitigating factor,
I also did a lot of work to heal my gut and become more alkaline. My naturopath felt my body had a lot of inflammation and was quite acidic, which caused my skin to become inflamed.
To alter the pH in my body, I took the alkaline powder, drank celery juice daily, and used the Heel Detox kit. Fifteen drops of each bottle in 750mls of water, twice a day for about five weeks. Every night at least 1 hr after food, I would drink a scoop of Alkala N powder.
I also reduced my red meat intake to twice a week, and I cut out sugar and drink at least 2 litres of water daily. I try not to cook with olive oil and use coconut oil instead.