From personal experience, I can say that having perioral dermatitis often feels like an endless, miserable journey. And even if you get it under control, it may flare up from time to time in your life to remind you that it's still there. But these six simple steps can get you back on track every time, and you'll soon understand how to support your skin better when it's feeling frustrated. If you're looking for solutions, these five steps are a great place to start, but if you want to do a deep dive to understand what causes perioral dermatitis and the most common perioral dermatitis triggers, read this blog post first!
Step one: Get rid of all sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate in your life
Sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate is a very common ingredient in your home unless you've made a concerted effort to eliminate it. It's in toothpaste (even natural brands like Tom's), shampoo, laundry detergent (even 7th Generation), hand soap, dish soap, and most other things that foam (except for real liquid or bar soap). It's also used (in higher concentrations) as a skin irritant in medical studies where they need to create skin irritation in order to test a soothing agent. Because sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate is in so many things, more and more people are developing a sensitivity to it, with symptoms ranging from dry skin to eczema to dermatitis and beyond. Basically, if you have any skin issues, you should probably get rid of sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate completely, at least for a few months, to see if it helps your skin recover from the chronic, low-level irritation. Here's a guide on getting rid of sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate.
Step two: Stop using fluoride toothpaste
Fluoride is a common trigger for perioral dermatitis, so switching to a fluoride-free (and sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate free) brand is critical for long term success. I recommend Jason Seafresh Deep Sea Spearmint toothpaste, Terra & Co toothpaste, or these Bite Toothpaste Bits.
Step three: Stop using steroids on your face
Unfortunately, there are still far too many dermatologists using steroid creams to treat dermatitis, and while they help temporarily, all hell is guaranteed to break loose when you try to stop. If you're still using steroids, consider weaning off slowly, reducing the amount by a teeny tiny amount every day over the course of several weeks. Imagine that you're trying to tiptoe out of a room without waking a sleeping puppy—that's how carefully you need to stop using steroids. And if your doctor recommends steroids, ask why, and whether there are any other options!
Step four: Consider an evening primrose oil supplement
If you're actively trying to conceive or are pregnant, skip this step. Otherwise, taking a high quality evening primrose oil supplement can be helpful to some folks with perioral dermatitis. There's no hard data to support it in the current medical literature, but I'm certain it's helped my skin, and I've now seen it help hundreds of others with perioral dermatitis. I take this one because it's organic and vegan, and contains 500mg per capsule, which is a bit higher than most brands.
Step five: Minimize your skincare routine
Most people with perioral dermatitis are doing WAY too many things to their skin. While it feels hard to do less, it's often exactly what your skin is begging you to do. We created this Irritated Skin Kit with the two products we consider essential for perioral dermatitis. The Black Clay Facial Soap and Purely Simple Face Cream have helped soooooo many people heal their skin; you can search the reviews for dermatitis to see what people have experienced when trying to help their skin. Other products can get added to the routine later, but we recommend only these two for 3-4 weeks minimum. And if your skin feels dry as it's healing from perioral dermatitis, you can apply a second layer of the Purely Simple Face Cream about 5-10 minutes after the first layer.
Step six: Actively address your stress
This is the last step, but possibly the most important. If you don't think stress is playing a role in your perioral dermatitis, I'm here to say, respectfully, that you're wrong. Even if stress was not the cause of your perioral dermatitis initially, the condition itself creates stress! I've been the one in front of the magnifying mirror, feeling hopeless and unattractive as my face stings and burns. It's awful. So you have to make a conscious effort to step away from the mirror and incorporate mindfulness practices like meditation, affirmations, yoga, therapy, or anything else that works to bring those cortisol levels down and allow your skin to start healing.
Hope these suggestions help you on your perioral dermatitis journey, and please reach out to us directly at email@example.com if we can answer any questions for you along the way. You're not alone, and you have all the tools you need to heal yourself, starting with the six steps above!
Last tip? Be patient. This is not going to heal overnight, but it is going to heal with time, and you're going to know how to handle it when it decides to flare up in the future.