THIS IS HOW I TREATED MY PERIORAL DERMATITIS - A FACE RASH THAT MANY WOMEN STRUGGLE WITH

Photo by  Eva Schwank

Photo by Eva Schwank

If you have read the headline, then you know that this post is not going to be very glamorous - It’s going to be about a face rash.

I do find it a bit embarrassing writing about this, as rashes are often thought of something caused by bad hygiene. That, however, is so not the case! A rash on your skin is most likely to develop due to an allergic reaction, often due to using the wrong skincare products for your skin or you might eat something to set it off. There are many reasons why you might get a rash - and finding the cause is super important but can often be hard to work out. I’ve therefore decided to share my latest experience, as the rash I had, called Perioral Dermatitis, is very common in women between 16 to 45 years old.

HOW IT STARTED

It all started with me noticing some very small and itchy red lumps around the corner of my nose. This was not the Perioral Dermatitis, but a mild rash that I have experienced a couple of times before in recent years. And here comes the somewhat embarrassing part… this small rash was caused by a yeast infection. Eeek. Doesn’t sound very nice I know, but it is super common so we shouldn’t be so afraid to talk about it.

We all have many types of fungi living our body, including the genus of yeasts known as Candida. At normal levels, the fungus is not problematic. However, when Candida begins to grow uncontrollably, it can cause an infection known as candidiasis. Typically, the healthy bacteria in your body keep Candida levels under control. However, if healthy bacteria levels are disrupted or the immune system is compromised, Candida can begin to overproduce. There are many reasons why this can happen, but the most common causes are (healthline.com):

  • Taking antibiotics

  • Eating a diet high in sugar and refined carbs

  • High alcohol intake

  • A weakened immune system

  • Taking oral contraceptives

  • Diabetes

  • High stress levels

After a period of a bit too many evenings socialising, going out for lovely meals and parties, I had definitely not treated my body that well and I am not surprised that my rash was caused by me having too many sugars and alcohol. The way to get rid of a rash caused by a yeast infection is to apply Canesten… apply it a couple of times a day and it will be gone within 2 - 3 days. However, I did not have such a cream at home so I went looking through my cupboards for anything else that might work. Bad idea!!

DEVELOPING PERIORAL DERMATITIS

I ended up finding a cream that was prescribed to me ages ago for a skin condition on my leg. I remembered how well it worked on my irritated skin back then so I slabbed some on around my nose in hope of it clearing up my modest rash. And it did clear up - within hours!! I was amazed by this magical cream I had just re-discovered. So I applied it to other places on my face as well to see if it would work there too. Two days later the rash came back, and it was redder and itchier than before. So what did I do..? I reapplied the cream of course. Then it became a vicious circle. I would constantly apply this cream and the rash would get a bit better, only to get way worse the next day. It was getting out of hand spreading to the other corner of my nose, down my cheek and I even started getting the rash on my chin. For about a month this was going on and it was really starting to upset me. Not only was it red and lumpy, but it was quite painful as well and putting makeup on to cover it up added to the discomfort. I tried swapping all of my skincare products, changed my toothpaste and shampoo, stopped having dairy and anything else I could think of as a possible cause of the rash. Nothing worked! So I googled it and Perioral Dermatitis came up, I started reading about it and saw photos of other people suffering from this - and I soon realised that this is what I had!

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SOME FACTS

Perioral dermatitis is an inflammatory rash involving the skin around the mouth. The rash may spread up to the nose or even the eyes. In that case, it’s referred to as periorificial dermatitis.

It usually appears as a scaly or red bumpy rash around the mouth. There may be a clear fluid discharge. Redness and slight itching and burning can also occur.

Perioral dermatitis is more common in women between the ages of 16 to 45 years, but can be seen in all ages, races, and ethnicities. It also occurs in children of any age.

Without the right treatment, cases of perioral dermatitis go away, but may reappear later. Episodes of perioral dermatitis can last weeks and even months. (healthline.com)

In this photo of me you can see the rash at the corner of my nose. This is not from when it was at its worst, but still pretty bad.

THE CAUSE

The most common cause of perioral dermatitis is excessive use of topical steroid creams, for example, steroids like hydrocortisone. I had been applying a topical steroid cream to several parts of my face for over a month, and instead of treating skin condition it was the cause of it all! How stupid of me to not do better research before applying something so strong to my face. But I finally figured out the main cause of my rash which was step one in terms of treating it.

THE SOLUTION

There are a lot of suggestions and opinions out there on how to treat perioral dermatitis, and now I am going to add to this by telling you how I treated my rash. First of all, I stopped using the hydrocortisone cream immediately!! I had read that once you stop using the cream your rash will get a bit worse before starting to get better. That definitely happened to me too. The rash got worse than ever for the next 3 - 4 days and I was about to book an appointment with my GP for some proper medication for this just before it finally started to improve. I avoided using any of my skincare products on the rash, only gently washed it with warm water. I also did not apply any makeup to this area either to make sure I didn’t irritate the inflamed skin. So my nose was glowing red for about a week. Luckily I was home in Norway on a little vacation, so I didn’t have to go to any castings or photoshoots looking like this. So keeping the rash free of any products that might make it flare up again is key!! After leaving it completely alone for 2 - 3 days I started applying some Canesten cream and it felt soothing - but be aware!! Some versions of Canesten contains hydrocortisone, so it is vital that you use the cream free of any steroids. If it says on the tube that it can be used for babies with nappy rash, then you are safe to use it too :) Then my mum actually found a cream at a health store especially for treating inflammation and eczema. It is completely natural free of alcohol, perfume and parabens. Although my rash was starting to get a lot better, the skin was super dry and sensitive but I was still afraid to apply moisturiser to the area in case it might flare up the rash again. So I applied this gentle all natural cream instead. I don’t know if it was part of making my rash go away, but it certainly didn’t make it worse. The cream is handmade in Norway and called Calendula Salva. Unfortunately, I don’t think you can get this cream outside of Norway, but there are many other natural creams available on the marked also containing Calendula.

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I started seeing my skin improve about 1 week after I stopped using the hydrocortisone cream, and 10 days later it was completely gone. So hang in there, and don’t be scared by the fact that it will get worse the first few days before getting better.

So a quick recap for you who struggle with perioral dermatitis:

  • Stay away from using any form of topical creams containing steroids, including cortisone creams!

  • Only gently clean your face with warm water and stay away from applying any products to the inflamed area during the healing process.

  • Apply Canasten after 2 - 3 days

  • Apply 100% anti-inflammatory creams after 2 - 3 days

  • Be gentle to your skin during the weeks after it has healed to avoid re-flares

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