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Medical News Today: Dry skin around the mouth: Causes and remedies

Dry skin around the mouth can result from many issues, including perioral dermatitis, dehydration, allergies, and irritation from the use of certain products. Home remedies can help.

Moisturizing with lotions or oils can often help relieve dry skin around the mouth. It is also a good idea to avoid potential irritants, such as steroid creams or inhalers and fluoride toothpaste.

If dry skin is persistent, a person can often find relief by treating the underlying cause.

In this article, we describe some causes of dry skin around the mouth, as well as treatments and home remedies.

Causes

Dry skin rash around mouth on face
A doctor can diagnose the cause of dry skin around the mouth.

If a person is unsure about the cause of their dry skin, they should see a doctor. Determining the underlying cause is important when deciding on a treatment.

The skin around the mouth can dry out for many reasons, such as:

  • allergies or irritation
  • cold or windy weather
  • overexposure to the sun
  • excessive face washing
  • dehydration
  • perioral dermatitis
  • other medical conditions, such as rosacea, eczema, or psoriasis

However, there may be no identifiable cause. Facial skin is sensitive, and it naturally fluctuates in clearness and health.

Below, we discuss some common causes of dry skin around the mouth.

Perioral dermatitis

Perioral dermatitis is a skin condition that forms a rash around the mouth. It can also spread to the skin around the nose and eyes.

Symptoms of perioral dermatitis include:

  • a red, scaly, or bumpy rash
  • redness and inflammation around the mouth
  • mild itching or burning

The symptoms of perioral dermatitis may come and go over months or years.

One of the most common causes is using topical steroid creams or steroid inhalers over a long period. The condition can also result from skin irritation or rosacea.

In addition, some people get perioral dermatitis because they use heavy face creams or moisturizers, or fluorinated toothpaste.

After a person stops using a steroid cream, the rash may get worse before it gets better. Wash with a mild soap or soap substitute to avoid further irritation.

A lack of oil

The skin produces oil to stay hydrated. Sometimes, it produces too much oil, resulting in pimples, or it may not produce enough, resulting in dry skin. Dehydrated skin lacks sufficient moisture and appears rough or flaky.

Overwashing the face can cause an imbalance in the facial oils, leading to dry skin.

Allergies or irritation

The skin around the mouth may also become dry due to exposure to harsh chemicals, such as those in:

  • soaps
  • makeup products
  • dental products

Avoid facial products that contain these chemicals — and alcohol, in particular — and choose natural products with fewer ingredients.

Cold weather

Colder temperatures and lower levels of moisture in the air can leave the skin dry or chapped. The sensitive skin around the mouth and on the hands is especially vulnerable.

Skin conditions

Certain conditions can damage the skin barrier, leading to dryness and rashes. Some of these issues include atopic dermatitis, other forms of eczema, and psoriasis.

Home remedies

The best treatment entirely depends on a person’s habits and the cause of the dry skin.

If dry skin around the mouth is a long-lasting or frequent issue, consider seeing a dermatologist for treatment. In the meantime, the following tips can often help.

Gently cleanse the area daily

Woman washing face looking in bathroom mirror
Using gentle facial cleansers can help prevent dry skin.

Washing the skin too harshly and with very cold or hot water could result in dry skin.

Also, using soaps or cleansers with fragrances, colors, or other chemicals could dry out the skin even more. Try cleansers or soaps that are free from:

  • alcohols
  • fragrances
  • plastics
  • artificial colors
  • other drying chemicals

Gentle soaps and cleansers are available for purchase online.

Exfoliate dry skin

The body’s skin undergoes a natural cycle. New cells appear, allowing old cells to die. Typically this process takes about 1 month to complete.

However, when dead cells get stuck to the surface of the skin, it can cause clogged pores and dry patches. Exfoliation helps prevent this. By removing the dead skin cells, exfoliation can improve the skin’s health and texture.

A person should cleanse the face every day and carefully exfoliate every few days. Exfoliating every day can irritate or harm the skin.

Facial exfoliators are available for purchase online.

Moisturize the area daily

Many types of skin require the help of a moisturizer to retain water, no matter the season. Moisturizing dry skin overnight, immediately after a wash, or after exfoliating can help keep in more moisture for longer periods of time.

When using a moisturizer around the mouth, be sure that none of the ingredients would be harmful if they were accidentally ingested. Avoid all allergens.

Also, keep in mind that different types of dry skin may require different moisturizers. Trial and error might be the best approach, but always look for products designed for sensitive facial skin.

Alcohols, artificial ingredients, dioxane, and petrolatum tend to make facial skin issues worse. Instead, seek out moisturizers that contain beneficial ingredients, such as:

  • hyaluronic acid
  • ceramides
  • colloidal oatmeal

The following can be beneficial, on their own or as ingredients:

Many natural oils can help relieve dry skin on the face, without including harmful ingredients or chemicals. Coconut oil, for example, may help the skin stay smooth.

However, not all oils are appropriate moisturizers. Olive oil, for one, could damage the skin’s barrier, according to a 2013 study.

Also, adding too much oil to the skin could result in a breakout. Experiment to find the right amount.

Facial moisturizers are available for purchase online.

Change up your habits

Dry skin around the mouth can result from routine activities. Smoking can be one cause, and quitting could help clear up the issue.

Mouthwash, toothpaste, and facial products — including makeup, moisturizers, cleansers, and soaps — can also dry the skin in the area, so trying new products with more natural ingredients could resolve the issue.

Also, a person’s shower habits may be an issue. Standing under or washing one’s face with steaming hot water can strip the skin of the natural oils that keep it moist. Spending too much time in water, in general, can have this effect.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, showers and baths should last only 5–10 minutes, in order to promote healthy skin.

Use a humidifier in winter and limit air conditioning

Chronic dry facial skin is often the result of exposure to dry air. Winter weather and continuous air conditioning and heating remove a lot of moisture from the air, which can dry out the skin.

If dry skin around the mouth is a recurring issue, a person may consider using a humidifier in the winter and limiting their exposure to air conditioning or central heating.

Humidifiers are available for purchase online.

Diagnosis

A dermatologist can often diagnose the cause of dry skin around the mouth. They usually do so after carefully examining the affected area and discussing personal and family medical histories.

Identifying dry skin around the mouth is fairly simple, but understanding the root cause may take an experienced eye. Consider seeing a dermatologist if the dry skin persists.

Prevention

Asian man looking in bathroom mirror shaving
People who shave their face can protect the skin by using shaving gel.

To prevent dry skin around the mouth, avoid habits that trigger dryness or irritation. This may involve:

  • avoiding scratching at the skin
  • using gentle facial products and no longer using those that contain drying agents
  • using new, sharp razors and shaving gel
  • cleansing with warm, rather than hot, water
  • spending less time outdoors in direct wind or cold weather
  • avoiding excessive air conditioning
  • staying away from known allergens

Regularly moisturizing, gently cleansing, and occasionally exfoliating the skin around the mouth can often help prevent dry patches from forming.

Summary

Dry skin around the mouth can result from many issues, including a person’s habits, the indoor or outdoor temperature, an imbalance of oils, or a condition such as perioral dermatitis or eczema.

People can often treat dry skin using home remedies and by making changes to their routine. Anyone with chronic dryness may benefit from receiving a professional diagnosis and treatment.

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