Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional nor does this article constitute medical advice. I am simply sharing my own personal experience.
At the end of April 2022, I found myself suddenly dealing with a skin issue.
My chin was dry, red, occasionally itchy, and I was really confused about how this happened and why suddenly my regular skincare routine was falling short.
I haven’t really ever dealt with acne throughout my life. The only time I’ve had skin concerns, they’ve pointed to some other issue. For example, when I was in my 20s, I had “breakouts” on my chin, cheeks, and under my nose. I think I intuitively knew it was diet-related, and that I was sensitive to dairy, but the doctors I went to see told me that dairy doesn’t impact skin that way (I honestly don’t remember precisely what they said, but I know they weren’t helpful).
ANYWAY, back then I cut out dairy and my issues went away rather quickly. And there are now studies that show that dairy can actually impact skin this way, so HA.
All that to say, I’ve never just had skin issues, and when I do, they’re “telling” me something.
Back to my recent chin skin mystery.
I thought it might be mask related (even though I hadn’t had any mask related skin issues for the past couple years). My skin had been more dry than usual this winter, and I had been using lanolin to protect it from the dry, winter air. And then I couldn’t find my giant jar of lanolin, so I hadn’t been using it for a few days.
Cue the rather sudden appearance of this particular issue.
My first thought was that the lanolin had provided some kind of protection or barrier from whatever mask-related issue was popping up now (i.e. the mask provides a nice moist environment for bacterial or yeast overgrowth).
Some internet reading confirmed that this was a possibility.
So I self-treated based on this assumption.
I began with cleansers to target yeast, toned with ACV, and used coconut oil for moisture.
Y’all, that apple cider vinegar BURNED. I took the burning to mean “it’s working.”
I was also scrubbing and exfoliating, and using salicylic acid to target bacteria.
In reality, nothing was really happening. While it seemed the anti-fungal products were helping at first, it became clear that my skin was getting more irritated (surprise, surprise, I was being VERY rough on my skin).
So, I kind of avoid going to the doctor unless I really need to. I’m not against Western medicine or seeing doctors, and I appreciate all medical professionals. However, I’ve generally found (like with my dairy thing) that I’m pretty good at figuring out the root of something on my own. I also feel that diet/nutrition is the root of a lot of things, so I generally start there.
And I ALSO think that the earth has a lot to teach us about healing ingredients (again, I’m also pro-prescriptions as needed, but many medicines also have natural origins, like aspirin/salicylic acid, which is from willow bark).
This is a personal thing, and I’m very privileged and grateful to have been in good health all my life with access to free healthcare. Any issues I’ve faced have been relatively minor and have not impacted my life too greatly. Please don’t take this as a recommendation to never see the doctor.
OKAY, back to my chin.
My approach was not working, so I sent some photos to a friend who works in the medical field (this is kind of what I do to find out if I really should physically go see a doctor 😅).
My friend suggested “perioral dermatitis,” which I of course googled and then scoured Reddit forums for anecdotal information.
This seemed to be what was happening.
What is perioral dermatitis?
“Perioral (periorificial) dermatitis is a red rash that circles your mouth. Your skin can be scaly, dry and flaky with swollen, inflamed bumps called papules. It is one of many types of dermatitis. Perioral dermatitis can look like acne and is often mistaken for it.”
And, conveniently, “the exact cause [of perioral dermatitis] is yet to be determined,” and “Triggers for perioral dermatitis may differ for different people.”
Hence…all the internet research…
Here are the Reddit threads I found to be most helpful
- “How to treat perioral dermatitis” (5 years old)
- Don’t use creams containing steroids
- ACV and coconut oil might make things worse
- Avoid SLS and fluoride
- Zinc! (a soap was specifically mentioned)
- Avoid products with sulfates
- Some people are prescribed antibiotics
- “Perioral Dermatitis: Who has beat this devil? How did you do it?” (3 years old)
- One course of antibiotics worked for someone but didn’t for others
- Avoid SLS and sulfates
- Red wine could be a trigger
- Wash with African black soap and apply zinc topically
- Azelaic acid
- + more
- “What has worked for you?” megathread (1 year old)
- Eliminate things with SLS
- Fluoride-free toothpaste
- Azelaic acid
- Mineral sunscreens only
- No exfoliants
- Cut out mint and cinnamon
- Flare-ups may be occur at certain times in the menstrual cycle
- Sulphur soap
- Addressing the gut, probiotics
- + more (this thread is really long!)
- “What did and didn’t help my perioral dermatitis” (3 years old)
- Black clay facial soap
- “Need some recommendations on perioral dermatitis skin care. Had it for 3 years now.” (1 year old)
- Probiotics + zinc cream
- Azelaic acid
- AND, this is not a Reddit thread, but this blog post is super helpful and Phoebe (Feed Me Phoebe) talks a lot about the skin-gut connection! She also specifies other major triggers, including:
- Foods that are inflammatory for you, which differ for everyone (e.g. gluten, soy, corn, etc.)
How I treated MY perioral dermatitis
Again, I’m not suggesting you should follow what I describe below. I’m simply sharing what worked for me.
The cause for PD could be different for each person, but from what I’ve read, it seems to generally be about the skin having a sensitivity to something. Common things (based on anecdotal evidence from the forums I read) seem to include fluoride (water, toothpaste), SLS (soaps, shampoos, conditioners, toothpaste), chemical sunscreen, and stress.
The biggest thing with the solutions I read about involved ceasing use of any of these offending products (in addition to using healing supplements/products).
I had literally just bought chemical sunscreen to wear daily on my face (and for sunny weather outings). I do usually opt for mineral sunscreen, but I went with chemical this time for ease of application and removal with daily use.
Which maaaay have been the primary culprit.
I immediately vowed to stop using the sunscreen.
I continued to brush with my fluoride toothpaste, but did stop using SLS soaps and washes on my face and in my hair (I wash my hair about once/week anyway, so I actually haven’t needed to wash it while dealing with this skin issue).
I nearly spent hundreds of dollars within minutes of reading about perioral dermatitis because I wanted ALL the solutions so I could handle this quickly. Instead, I decided to take a step back, keep it simple, and work with what I already had.
Zinc happened to be mentioned in all of the threads I read, so I decided to start there.
Which is why I applied some diaper rash cream to my face.
Yep. I used diaper cream on my face because that’s what was handy and full of zinc (because I’m currently staying with someone who has kids). Really, any zinc ointment would have worked. I’m sure even mineral sunscreen would have worked 😂.
After one day of using zinc ointment, things looked a bit gnarly but I could tell they were improving. On day two, things were peeling and flaking off (I didn’t get any photos of this stage).
On day three, *poof* I had baby-fresh skin on my chin.
Now, zinc ointment is very white, so I was using this while at home and as an overnight treatment. If I was going out into the world, I used lanolin to provide a protective barrier on my skin and keep the flaking in check.
And for cleansing, I used mostly just warm water, but I also made a mask with charcoal (breaking open some activated charcoal capsules), bentonite clay, spirulina, and chamomile/lavender tea water.
My mind is a little blown that zinc treated this so quickly and effectively.
But I’m not questioning it too much. I’m just sooo pleased to have been able to address what was going on with my skin.
Going forward, I’ll gradually replace my products with SLS-free (and maybe fluoride free) products. And DEFINITELY going back to mineral sunscreen.
It also seems like beer, gluten, eating high amounts of simple carbs, and of course, sugar, are potential triggers for me, so I’ll be limiting these and monitoring my skin if I do have them.
Photos of my ✨transformation✨
For comparison, my skin with previous dairy issues (2014-15-ish I think?):
Now that I’m looking back on these, I actually think this might have ALSO been perioral dermatitis, with dairy being the trigger, especially since once you’ve had PD, you “have” it for – pretty much – ever and it can come back once it’s re-triggered. Dairy was definitely not the trigger for my 2022 PD though. Note that this previous (what I’m now calling) PD occurrence also appeared around my eyes.