Perioral Dermatitis: Bumps Around the Mouth

Perioral dermatitis (POD) is a common skin problem that mostly affects young women; and occasionally men or children. Perioral refers to the area around the mouth, and dermatitis indicates redness of the skin. In addition to redness, there are usually small red bumps or even pus bumps and mild peeling. The disease can look a lot like acne. The areas most affected are the areas from the nose to the sides of the lips, and the chin (occasionally the eyes or forehead can too be affected) that also sometimes includes itching and/or burning.

It is actually quite common.  While it is unknown what causes this disorder, there are theories that overuse of topical cortisone creams, fluoridated toothpaste, or heavy or occlusive skin-care ointments and creams (especially those with a petrolatum or thick wax base) and foundations may be responsible. Exposure to sunlight, heat, and wind can also make matters worse.

Steroid skin creams should NOT be used to treat this condition.

Treatment may include skin medicines such as:

  • Metronidazole
  • Erythromycin
  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Tacrolimus
  • Clindamycin
  • Pimecrolimus
  • Sodium sulfacetamide with sulfur

If the condition is severe, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics taken by mouth. Antibiotics used to treat this condition include tetracycline, doxycycline, minocycline, or erythromycin.

Perioral dermatitis is difficult to treat effectively. It often requires several months of treatment.

Bumps usually return, particularly if you put skin creams containing steroids on your face.


While I’ve attempted to use credible sources for information, this is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. If there is a disparity between the information presented within this blog and the advice given by your medical professional, please follow the medical professional’s advice as he/she will know you and your medical circumstances.

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