Okay, I’m going to tell you my story of how I healed my perioral dermatitis.

I’m not a trained healthcare professional, but I did meet with some as well as naturopaths and followed their advice… which is outlined in detail below.

The result? No more perioral dermatitis. It’s true. It finallyyyyyyy happened.

So here’s my story and a bit of foundational info.

What is Perioral Dermatitis?

Perioral dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition that shows up as a rash around the mouth, and sometimes spreads to the nose and eyes. It’s most commonly seen in women between the ages of 20 and 45, but it can occur in anyone, regardless of age, race, or ethnicity. The rash itself can be quite bothersome, presenting as red, bumpy, and sometimes filled with fluid (pustules). It can also cause a bit of itching and burning.

perioral dermatitis eczema
Peak flare up, so painful (2020)
Photo by: Marquis Matson

Now, what causes this pesky skin issue? Well, the exact cause isn’t entirely known, but there are a few common triggers. These include the use of steroid creams or ointments on the face, exposure to allergens or irritants, hormonal imbalances, and the use of certain cosmetics. It’s also worth noting that perioral dermatitis can become chronic and relapsing, but it may resolve once the triggers are removed.

Interestingly, there’s a connection between perioral dermatitis and women’s menstrual cycles. 

Some women, like me πŸ™‹β€β™€οΈ, experience flare-ups leading up to their period. This is thought to be due to the hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle. (So yeah, this mostly affects young women. Yay.)

In fact, a study found that sex hormones contribute to dermatologic conditions known as catamenial dermatoses, which are skin conditions that flare up in relation to the menstrual cycle. Another study documented a premenstrual flare of facial acne in adult women, showing that skin conditions can indeed be influenced by our cycles.

Remember, if you’re dealing with perioral dermatitis, it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional or dermatologist. They can provide you with the most accurate information and treatment options for your specific situation.

I am not a medical professional and barely know what I’m talking about at all except that I once had uncontrollable perioral dermatitis and now I do not. So I’m simply telling you what I did to make that happen and linking to relevant and reputable sources where I can. From there, you can begin your perioral dermatitis self care journey. πŸ’«

My Journey with Perioral Dermatitis

I started getting perioral dermatitis flare ups a few years ago right after taking oral antibiotics three times in a row in one year. Ugh. I remember being in India and taking tuk-tuk after tuk-tuk to different health shops all over Rishikesh in search of the next thing I found online that was supposed to help treat perioral dermatitis.

None of them worked. My lips were bright red and had a soul-crushing burning sensation that was made worse by everything. Everything I put on it and especially when I didn’t put anything at all on it.

For a few months, I used Vaseline to keep my lips from cracking anymore. (DON’T use Vaseline, it is petroleum-based which makes the skin even more irritated.) I had developed bloody sores all over my lips, not just the corners of the mouth but also all along the whole outer line of my lips. By that time, I was living in Australia and in the sun a lot. Even with a sun hat, the sunshine and excessive heat made my perioral dermatitis flare up even more. (Apparently sun can aggravate perioral dermatitis 😒)

I eventually made my own healing facial oil that didn’t irritate my skin. It didn’t help my skin condition whatsoever, but it prevented my skin from drying out and didn’t irritate it. So it was a tiny step in the right direction.

perioral dermatitis eczema
Began oil treatment (2021)
Photo by: Marquis Matson

Finally, after two years of the pain and an incessant facial rash, I went to a medical professional. This is where I got the perioral dermatitis diagnosed. After giving me the diagnosis, I asked him what I can do about it and what causes perioral dermatitis in the first place.

He said there was no exact cause. And then he said something that shocked me:

“You won’t hear this from many doctors, but treating perioral dermatitis begins inside.”

He tapped his chest. “There is usually some unresolved emotional turmoil that needs attention. Find balance within yourself and that is the best thing you can do to treat the perioral dermatitis.”

🀯🀯🀯🀯🀯

In the meantime, the doctor also prescribed me topical antibiotics, which I had to apply to the affected area twice a day for six weeks or more, until the rash clears. πŸ˜’

Only after six weeks did I find mild relief. I still had symptoms of perioral dermatitis (red rash around the mouth, burning sensation, inflamed bumps that look a lot like acne but are really itchy, bloody cracks around your mouth… yeah, fun stuff) every month. It still felt like anything could trigger perioral dermatitis flare ups, even with the medication.

perioral dermatitis eczema
(2021)
Photo by: Marquis Matson

That’s when I contacted a naturopath and asked her for some natural remedies. I had just taken a short naturopathy course with her where she taught herbal remedies for women to support their menstrual cycles. That’s where I learned, really, how my hormone cycle works and how that affects me day-to-day. She helped me SO MUCH in managing my energy that I knew she would be able to help me with the perioral dermatitis.

(Side note: Since incorporating the natural remedies and self-care practices I learned in the naturopathy course, my period cramps have reduced SIGNIFICANTLY and I have had a flare-up in months 🀯 That’s a whole other post, I so want to get into it here!)

perioral dermatitis eczema
Look at that smile cuz I though it was soooo much better already (2021)
Photo by: Marquis Matson

Okay so after talking with this natural healer, I learned that these flare ups happen most often just before getting your period. So I started noting when the flare ups would occur, and sure enough it was always about 7-10 days before my period.

The naturopath recommended giving myself space.

SPACE!

She also gave me an herbal concoction, but I didn’t take it for too long and honestly didn’t notice much of a difference. Only when I gave πŸ‘ myself πŸ‘ space πŸ‘ did my flare ups start to back off. Instead of the usual flare up, a light facial rash would appear a few days for my period and maybe a tiny crack somewhere on my lip. It was pretty manageable by putting Vitamin E oil on it to protect it from the elements and also soften the cracked skin.

I had to carry around a bottle of Vitamin E capsules and stab them open with a kitchen knife just to get the thick stuff that really did the trick. I’m telling you, I tested the hell out of literally everything.

healed perioral dermatitis
After months of using this cleansing oil and space, there’s only slight redness on my chin (2022)
Photo by: Marquis Matson

So while I still had flare ups, I felt this was a major win. It was annoying, sure, but I had at least managed the pain!

Then my ex mentioned that he heard on a podcast about a man who was taking Betaine HCL Pepsin for his eczema, so he thought I should try it.

And you know how I am about trying things. So I ordered it immediately.

Apparently Betaine HCL Pepsin is a supplement that’s often used to boost stomach acid levels, which can help us better digest and absorb nutrients. Some folks suggest this could indirectly give our skin a boost, too. There’s even a bit of chatter about it potentially helping with skin conditions like rosacea and acne.

And obviously you see where I’m going with this. My symptoms of perioral dermatitis cleared right up. I started this in about February or March 2023. At that time, I went up to visit my friends in Washington. My friend Andrea has suffered eczema as well and was telling me about a new supplement her naturopath had recommended to her and how her flare ups have mostly stopped.

You know what it was?

Betaine HCL Pepsin! Annnnnnddd Akkermansia. Actually, it was this product that is a “mix of health boosting live probiotics”, including the key ingredient Akkermansia.

Again, you know how I feel about trying things…

I added this to my list of natural remedies and by the end of April 2023, I had my last symptom (the tiniest crack on my upper lip, no red rash). I haven’t had any symptoms of perioral dermatitis ever since. I guess it’s only been a few months as of this writing but THAT’S A LOT compared to 5 YEARS of constant flare ups.

I mean, look at my skin now:

In fact, within a few weeks of taking these supplements my entire face cleared up.

The tiny flare up I had in April showed up after a stressful month where I had not given myself any space. (Moved countries, ended a relationship, visited family, and lots of other bigggg transitions.)

Oh yeah, that “more space” thing. So let’s get into the nitty gritty of allllll the natural remedies that help me treat perioral dermatitis once and for all!

Natural Treatments That Helped Me

Before we dive into this, I want to emphasize that what worked for me might not work for you. We all have unique bodies, and what heals one person might not have the same effect on another. So, take this as a starting point, a source of inspiration, but always listen to your body and consult with a healthcare professional when needed. Now, let’s get into it!

Giving Myself Space

This might sound a bit abstract, but trust me, it’s as concrete as it gets. Stress is a well-known trigger for many skin conditions, including perioral dermatitis. When we’re stressed, our bodies go into fight-or-flight mode, which can lead to inflammation and, consequently, skin flare-ups.

In fact, a study found a significant association between psychological stress and skin symptoms among medical students. Other research also showed that psychological stress can exacerbate skin symptoms in college students. So, giving yourself some space to relax and unwind can be a game-changer for your skin health.

So, one of the most effective treatments for me was simply giving myself space. Space to rest, to breathe, to be. That’s when I started therapy. I began problem-solving my life and really made a genuine effort to become the person I wanted to be: patient, open, forgiving, happy. It’s been a couple of years since I started therapy and my life has changed radically in an extremely positive way.

The big thing for me was learning about boundaries. I had none, none for myself or others. I couldn’t recognize when they were needed and got myself into a lot of messy internal conflicts because of it. Once I started to learn how to set and respect boundaries, it’s like my world became light and easy.

Stress levels dropped right now.

I also made sure to carve out time in my day for self-care activities that helped me relax and ground myself. This could be anything from a walk in nature to a yoga session, or even just watering my plants. I got really into drawing digital designs and watercolor paintings. I went for a lot of walks.

I also dropped a few clients and spent fewer hours working each day too. Luckily, I could afford to do that.

Let’s just put it like this: I’m basically on an epic car camping road trip. That’s how much space I’ve given myself.

I also began to look for signs of needing space. I’ve learned that when I’m getting impatient or irritated around things or people that usually bring me joy, then I need space. Sometimes I realize it a little sooner than other times 😬

Betaine HCL Pepsin

This was a game-changer for me. Betaine HCL Pepsin is a supplement that helps boost stomach acid levels, aiding in digestion and nutrient absorption. Some people believe that by improving our gut health, we can indirectly boost our skin health too.

I really like this product:

. Betaine HCL Pepsin

It helps your stomach break down proteins, balances your stomach acid levels, and boosts nutrient absorption from your food. Plus, it’s independently tested for quality and it’s gluten-free. It even includes gentian root extract, a traditional herb that supports digestion. Just remember to check in with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.

I started taking this supplement in early 2023, and within a few weeks, I noticed a significant improvement in my skin. The redness and inflammation were reduced, and the flare-ups became less frequent.

Akkermansia Probiotic

In addition to the Betaine HCL Pepsin, I also started taking a probiotic supplement that contained Akkermansia. This is a type of bacteria that is believed to have various health benefits, including improving gut health and potentially helping with weight management.

I really like this product:

Pendulum Metabolic Daily with Akkermansia

It’s packed with beneficial strains of bacteria like Akkermansia, Anaerobutyricum, and Clostridium, which are known to promote a healthy gut microbiome. Not only does it help manage your metabolism, but it also contributes to overall gut health, which is a key factor in overall wellness.

Not only have these products helped me treat perioral dermatitis, they have also made eating a lot more enjoyable for me. Since my round of oral antibiotics all those years ago, digestion just hasn’t been the same. It felt like a concrete mixer in my stomach. I took probiotics over the years, believe me. But nothing really got things back to the fire metabolism I once had until I started taking this combo.

DIY Oil Cleanser

Last but not least, I started using a DIY oil cleanser for my skin. This was a simple concoction that I made at home using natural oils. It helped keep my skin moisturized without irritating it, which was crucial in managing my perioral dermatitis.

Photo by: Marquis Matson

The recipe includes sweet almond oil as the carrier oil, grapeseed oil, rosehip seed oil, evening primrose oil, tamanu oil, vitamin E oil, and glycerin for extra dry patches. I found this cleanser to be gentle yet effective, and it didn’t trigger any flare-ups.

Remember, treating perioral dermatitis is a journey, and it might take some time to find what works best for you. Test patch areas and if a burning sensation begins, then remove with a damp, cool wash cloth.

Tips for Managing Perioral Dermatitis

Managing perioral dermatitis can feel like a bit of a puzzle, but don’t worry, I’ve got some tips that might help you find your way. It’s all about understanding your triggers, making some lifestyle tweaks, and finding a skincare routine that your skin loves. And remember, it’s not about perfection, it’s about progress.

First things first, identifying your triggers is key. These are the things that set off your flare-ups. It could be anything from certain foods to stress, or even hormonal changes. Once you know what they are, you can work on avoiding them. For me, it was emotional stress (usually family stuff or relationship drama). This is where therapy helped.

Next, consider making some lifestyle changes. This could be anything from getting more sleep, to eating a balanced diet, or even just taking some time each day to relax and unwind. This is where giving myself space helped. Remember, stress is a known trigger for perioral dermatitis, so finding ways to manage it can really help.

Now, let’s talk skincare. When it comes to perioral dermatitis, less is often more. So, try to keep your routine simple and gentle. Avoid harsh products and opt for natural, gentle ones instead. This is where my natural facial oil helped. Give that a try! And remember, always patch test new products to make sure they don’t irritate your skin.

Lastly, the Betaine HCL Pepsin and Akkermansia knocked all symptoms of perioral dermatitis out completely. I’m not sure if I could have treated my perioral dermatitis right away if I had started with these supplements, so try them out first if you’d like.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Identify and avoid your triggers: This could be certain foods, stress, hormonal changes, or even certain skincare products.
  • Make lifestyle changes: Get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, and find ways to manage stress.
  • Keep a gentle skincare routine: Opt for gentle, natural products and avoid harsh ones. Always patch test new products.
  • Consult with a healthcare professional: They can provide you with accurate information and treatment options. See if Betaine HCL Pepsin and Akkermansia are a good option for you. For severe cases, topical medications may be good for you for immediate help. However, do not put anything on your skin without consulting your doctor… apparently anti-itch creams can actually make it worse!
  • Be patient: Treating perioral dermatitis is a journey, and it might take some time to find what works best for you.

Remember, everyone’s skin is unique, so what works for one person might not work for another. It’s all about finding what works best for you. And always consult with a healthcare professional when needed. You’ve got this! πŸ’ͺ

Conclusion

So is there a way to prevent perioral dermatitis? I’m not sure. But I do know that I’m currently preventing flare ups with this perioral dermatitis self care routine. Talk to your doctor before starting anything just to see if this is the right method for you. Let me know in the comments what has worked for you, I’d love to help as many people as possible!

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