I have always struggled with skin issues. Acne, sensitive skin, and random rashes. When a new rash showed up around my face in mid-2018, I had no clue what to do because I had never seen it before. As it turns out, it was called Perioral Dermatitis.
What Is It?
Perioral Dermatitis is a skin rash that shows up around the mouth, nose, and/or eyes. It is usually red and scaly or bumpy. For me, it burned if I put certain products on it but it was not itchy. It honestly looked like a group of pimples because the bumps were full of pus.
In the Beginning
When the rash first showed up, I had just come home from a camping trip in Northern California. All of a sudden, I had a small red spot on my chin and it kept growing. A few years ago, I had a flare up like this and it went away on it’s own. It took forever, but eventually it did go away! I figured this would be the same.
After a month of waiting and watching it grow, with the encouragement from my mom and husband, I made a doctor’s appointment.
I knew that was a good idea when I was coming back on base the day before the appointment and I was asked by the gate guard if “it was a birthmark”. I said no and that I wasn’t sure what “it” was, but I was going to see my doctor tomorrow. He then asked me if everything was okay at home and if I needed emergency medical attention. I assured him that it was truly just a rash and that I was fine; I could wait until my appointment the next day. Deep down, I was super upset that someone would even look at my face and assume the worst. I know he meant well, but it was embarrassing.
The next day, I went to the appointment and my primary care doctor didn’t really know what it was either. We tossed around ideas like it could possibly be poison ivy or an allergic reaction. To treat it, I was prescribed with an anti-histamine, steroid pills, and a steroid cream. My doctor told me that if the rash came back, he would write me a referral for a dermatologist.
I was very transparent on social media, specifically Instagram, about what I was going through. I have never been shy about sharing my skin issues because so many people struggle with them yet society still forces us to believe that if you have skin issues, you’re the weird one. I got many trolls and many people offering me unsolicited advice about how I could “fix” my skin.
Getting messages like these really irritated me because I absolutely hate it when people prey on other’s insecurities just to make a sale or gain a follow. I also have extremely sensitive skin and can’t just go around putting random products on my face.
What is even worse is that when I stuck up for myself and called these people out, one girl went from being super nice to telling me that I deserved to have ugly skin because I was rude.
There were also tons of people who told me that I needed to treat it naturally, using essential oils. I can’t use essential oils on my skin because they make me break out in blisters.
I was also informed that my skin was like this because of toxic chemicals and that I needed to switch to a naturalistic lifestyle. It was strange reading some of the messages I got with people trying to tell me why I was having these issues.
After the First Appointment
After I started the steroid pills, the rash started to go away. It completely cleared up and I was so excited! Maybe it was just a freak thing and it needed an extra boost to start healing up! The steroid pills even cleared up some of the smaller breakouts of acne that I had.
The morning after I finished the steroid pill regimen, I noticed little bumps next to my mouth. By the next day, the entire rash was back and it was even worse than before. Frustrated, I called the dermatologist and thankfully they were able to fit me in the following week because they had a cancellation.
By the following week, my skin was dry, scaly, and so uncomfortable. I had to buy Aveeno’s extra gentle face wash and moisturizer because everything else hurt. Since that face wash didn’t have any acne medication in it, my acne got pretty bad.
As soon as the dermatologist walked in, he knew what my diagnosis was. Perioral dermatitis. The only thing was that we could not figure out what caused it. This type of dermatitis is typically caused by certain nasal sprays and toothpaste with fluoride in it.
We came to the conclusion that it was probably a new face wash that I was trying that caused it. I was put on two months of antibiotics as well as an antibiotic face ointment.
As it turns out, the worst thing to do for perioral dermatitis is to treat it with steroids because then it goes away and comes back with a vengeance. That explained a lot!
The doctor also said that I had the worst case he had ever seen.
Two months on antibiotics is a long time. I dealt with side effects, but I refused to stop taking them because I didn’t want to chance the dermatitis coming back. A lot of people still felt the need to give me unsolicited advice and tell me that I needed to treat it naturally. After my tiff with that one person, I just started deleting these comments. I knew that I was doing what was best for me.
And guess what? The antibiotics worked.
The area around my eye took the longest to clear up because I didn’t want to apply the ointment there and then somehow have it go into my eye. Within a few days of starting my treatment, the rash looked less red and it really started to feel better!
My advice to those struggling with perioral dermatitis would be to go see your doctor! When I was posting about it on Instagram, there were so many people who asked me how I got mine to go away and I was honest with them. I told them that I did not treat it “naturally” and that I was put on medication. Perioral dermatitis is one of those weird things that likes to be left alone and most products make it worse. You should treat it from the inside out.
Sometimes you just can’t treat things naturally. Sometimes we need medicine and science to step in and help us out.
I wear a lot of hats; NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Weight Loss Specialist, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist; wife; fur mom; writer; college student; mental health advocate; pet sitter; Airman; athlete; and many more. I love my home in the southwest and my favorite season is summer. I am a sepsis survivor and I battle with generalized anxiety disorder and depression.