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Merck Manual

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Perioral Dermatitis


Jonette E. Keri

, MD, PhD, University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine

Last full review/revision Jul 2020| Content last modified Jul 2020
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Perioral dermatitis is a red, bumpy rash around the mouth and on the chin that resembles acne, rosacea, or both.

Although the exact cause of perioral dermatitis is unknown, exposure to corticosteroids that are applied to the skin, use of water or toothpaste that has fluoride in it, or both have been proposed as possible causes.

The disorder mainly affects children and women of childbearing age. The rash typically starts in the folds of skin on the sides of the nose (nasolabial folds) and spreads around the mouth (the perioral area). The rash can also spread around the eyes and to the forehead.


  • A doctor's examination of the skin

Perioral dermatitis is distinguished from acne by the lack of blackheads and whiteheads (comedones). Perioral dermatitis can be difficult to distinguish from rosacea. However, rosacea does not cause a rash to form around the mouth and eyes. Other symptoms of rosacea must be present for that diagnosis to be made instead of perioral dermatitis.

Doctors also rule out other types of dermatitis such as seborrheic dermatitis and contact dermatitis.


  • Avoidance of toothpaste with fluoride and corticosteroids that are applied to the skin

  • Antibiotics

People with perioral dermatitis should stop using toothpaste with fluoride and corticosteroids that are applied to the skin. Some oily cosmetics, especially moisturizers, tend to worsen the disorder and should also be stopped.

Doctors give antibiotic creams or gels or tetracyclines or other antibiotics taken by mouth. Antibiotics can be stopped once the rash goes away. If these antibiotics do not clear up the rash and the disorder is particularly severe, isotretinoin, an acne drug, may help.

Pimecrolimus (a drug that suppresses the immune system) cream can be used for people over 2 years of age.

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