Perioral Dermatitis Vs Rosacea: What Is The Difference?

Perioral Dermatitis Vs Rosacea featured photo

Disclaimer: This article is for medical purposes only. If you are experiencing symptoms of perioral dermatitis or rosacea, consult your doctor immediately.

Perioral dermatitis and rosacea are two skin conditions that look similar to each other. To make the confusion even worse, both rosacea and perioral dermatitis can also have similar symptoms such as redness of the skin, swollen bumps, itchiness, and sensitive skin.

While these two skin conditions can look alike, the main difference between perioral dermatitis and rosacea is the location of the symptoms. Perioral dermatitis commonly appears around the mouth. Rosacea, on the other hand, typically develops on the chin, nose, cheeks, and forehead.

There are several factors that can cause perioral dermatitis and rosacea. In this article, we will talk about what perioral dermatitis and rosacea are in detail. We will also talk about their symptoms, causes, and treatment options. If you want to know what the difference is between perioral dermatitis and rosacea, read on!

Perioral Dermatitis Vs Rosacea

Perioral dermatitis and rosacea are both skin conditions that are often confused with each other. This is because they can look similar. However, they are not the same.

Perioral dermatitis is a rash that develops around the mouth and can be caused by using topical steroids or corticosteroids. Rosacea, on the other hand, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that can be triggered by several factors such as sun exposure, drinking red wine, or eating spicy foods. Rosacea can also be hereditary and this skin condition typically appears on the cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead. 

You can definitely get both skin conditions at the same time. Both perioral dermatitis and rosacea are not contagious so you don’t have to worry about spreading them. Let’s take a closer look at what perioral dermatitis and rosacea are to understand their differences better.

What Is Perioral Dermatitis?

Perioral dermatitis is a skin condition that commonly occurs in females who are young adults but, it can also affect men. This skin condition causes red rashes to appear around your mouth and it also often gets mistaken for acne.

Perioral dermatitis is actually an appropriate name for this skin condition as “peri” means around while “oral” means “mouth”. It is also often called peri-orificial dermatitis by dermatologists as “orificial” means “an opening”. While perioral dermatitis commonly appears around the mouth, you could also develop this rash around your nose and eyes. 

This skin condition is not contagious. It will also look like acne breakouts in people who have lighter skin while dark-skinned people will experience skin-colored breakouts. People who have perioral dermatitis also often have atopic dermatitis or eczema.

While perioral dermatitis often appears in young adults, mostly females, childhood perioral dermatitis can also affect children both girls and boys [1].

A more severe type of this skin condition is called lupoid perioral dermatitis. This causes red and brown denser bumps that affect both light and dark-skinned people. Granulomatous periorificial dermatitis, on the other hand, primarily affects dark-skinned children in the prepubertal stage. It is an uncommon inflammatory skin disease in children and only a few cases of this condition have been reported in adults [2] and it can also appear in light-skinned children [3].

Symptoms Of Perioral Dermatitis

As we said earlier, perioral dermatitis is a rash that appears around the mouth. It is often mistaken as acne as this condition can sometimes have acne-like symptoms such as papules (large, inflamed bumps) or pustules (pus-filled whiteheads). However, perioral dermatitis can also be dry, flaky, scaly, and itchy.

The rash typically forms a ring around the mouth and does not often form near the lips. For young adults with light skin tones, it can often look like acne while darker bumps will form on people with darker skin tones. Perioral dermatitis can be itchy, and non-itchy, and can cause a tight and burning sensation in the affected area.

What Causes Perioral Dermatitis?

What Causes Perioral Dermatitis

There are no known exact causes of perioral dermatitis [4]. However, according to this study, the use of topical corticosteroids can be related to the appearance of perioral dermatitis.

Aside from using topical corticosteroids such as gels, creams, and steroid ointments, there are other factors that can trigger perioral dermatitis. These triggers can include the use of petroleum or paraffin-based skin creams, makeup, cleansers, birth control pills, sunscreens, and fluorinated toothpaste.

Bacteria, fungal infection, weak skin barrier, or even constant drooling can also trigger perioral dermatitis. For children, this skin condition can also be triggered by thumb sucking and lip licking or chewing.

What Are The Treatment Options For Perioral Dermatitis?

In some cases, perioral dermatitis may go away on its own [5] but consulting your dermatologist is the best way to help treat your skin condition. Your healthcare provider may advise you to stop using topical corticosteroids altogether. They can also prescribe you an antibiotic like tetracycline or erythromycin.

Aside from avoiding topical corticosteroids and taking oral or topical antibiotics, having good skincare products can reduce your symptoms. Using gentle, mild, and fragrance-free cleansers can prevent skin irritation and keep perioral dermatitis breakouts from happening. Using topical azelaic acid can also help perioral dermatitis.

You may also need to switch to fragrance-free and mineral powder makeup as liquid makeup can be absorbed by the bumps on your skin. Make sure to also clean your brushes to avoid transferring any bacteria to other parts of your face.

Perioral dermatitis can take a couple of weeks to a few months to go away completely as long as you avoid what triggers your skin condition.

What Is Rosacea?

Rosacea is also a skin condition that causes broken blood vessels and rashes to appear on your nose, cheeks, chin, and forehead. This condition commonly affects middle-aged or older people.

This inflammatory skin condition also affects both light and dark-skinned people. However, it is mostly underdiagnosed in people with dark skin tones as dark skin typically masks the redness of the skin. Like perioral dermatitis, rosacea can also have acne-like bumps on the affected skin.

Symptoms Of Rosacea

The symptoms of this skin condition will depend on the type of rosacea, and there are four types. People with rosacea typically have a weak skin barrier function.

Erythematotelangiectatic Rosacea (ETR) is a type of rosacea that causes broken blood vessels to appear on your cheeks and nose. ETR can spread and cover more skin if left untreated.

Papulopustular Rosacea has acne-like symptoms such as red, swollen, pus-filled bumps, however, you can still experience facial flushing and redness. Acne rosacea typically appears on the chin, forehead, and cheeks.

Phymatous Rosacea causes thick skin, specifically on the nose. This type of rosacea can also cause scarring and discoloration.

Ocular Rosacea primarily affects the eyes and its symptoms include watery and bloodshot eyes as well as a feeling of irritation and burning in your eyes. This type of rosacea can also cause dry and sensitive eyes.

Causes Of Rosacea

Like perioral dermatitis, rosacea’s exact cause is unknown. However, there are also certain factors that can trigger rosacea. This skin condition can be hereditary or be triggered by external factors such as sun exposure, extreme weather, eating, and drinking certain foods and beverages. Spicy foods and drinking alcohol, specifically red wine, can cause rosacea symptoms to flare up.

Other factors such as stress, exercise, or anxiety can also trigger rosacea. Unfortunately, there can be a lot of factors that can cause rosacea symptoms to flare up. But, if these factors do not cause your to break out badly, you don’t have to avoid them completely.

Make sure to consult your doctor if there are certain triggers that cause your symptoms to flare up. You can also keep a list of things that causes triggers your symptoms so you can identify and avoid them.

What Are The Treatment Options For Rosacea?

There are over-the-counter (OTC) products that you can use to improve your skin’s condition. Using products that have anti-inflammatory properties such as aloe vera extract can help soothe your skin.

Make sure to use gentle and mild cleansers to avoid irritating your skin further. Look for rosacea-friendly ingredients in your skin care products such as hyaluronic acid, azelaic acid, and niacinamide.

Avoid using retinol, unless you have the go signal of your dermatologist, as this can also cause skin irritation and worsen your red skin. If you have rosacea, make sure to consult your doctor about your condition. They can give you possible treatments such as topical medications or oral antibiotics to help keep your symptoms at bay.

When To Consult A Doctor

When To Consult A Doctor

It is always best to consult a doctor at the first sign of symptoms, whether it be perioral dermatitis or rosacea. Your healthcare provider will assess your skin and give you the treatment or medication that is best for your skin condition. Your doctor can give you topical and oral medications to help treat flaky skin, facial redness, and other symptoms of your skin condition.

While there are a lot of OTC medications for rosacea and perioral dermatitis, it is important to get a correct diagnosis. This way, you can control perioral dermatitis and rosacea with the right products or medical procedures as necessary. Speaking to a doctor when your symptoms are still mild can prevent your condition from getting worse.


Rosacea and perioral dermatitis can look a lot. It is understandable why people often get confused about which is which. However, if you know what you are looking for, you can tell the difference between rosacea and perioral dermatitis.

Perioral dermatitis develops around the mouth while rosacea appears on the cheeks, chin, nose, and forehead. This article talked about what perioral dermatitis and rosacea are. We also talked about their causes, symptoms, and treatment options so you know what to look for if you develop symptoms. You can develop rosacea and perioral dermatitis at the same time.

We hoped this article helped clear out any confusion regarding perioral dermatitis vs rosacea. If you have any other questions, let us know!