Best cream for perioral dermatitis: Soothing formulas to calm redness

Decode the problematic skin concern experienced by Hailey Bieber and TikTok’s Alix Earle

The Evening Standard's journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Ellie Davis3 April 2024
ES Best

Sign up for our free weekly newsletter for hot deals, best buys and expert reviews

I would like to be emailed about offers, event and updates from Evening Standard. Read our privacy notice.

Often misunderstood as a breakout, rosacea or a rash, perioral dermatitis can be challenging to identify.

It presents as a persistent and recurring acne-style eruption around the mouth, or sometimes around the eye (periocular), nose (paranasal) or in all three (periorificial), with small, inflamed papules and pustules and pink irritated patches. It is predominantly experienced by adult women, 90 per cent according to a publication in the National Library of Medicine, with a rarer appearance in children.

Those prone to POD (as it is often dubbed) will be all too familiar with its cosmetic appearance which may cause a lack of confidence but more severely it can trigger a burning, tight and itchy feeling where a soothing cream or more advanced treatment is essential.

Hailey Bieber revealed on TikTok that this is a condition that she has been experiencing since she was 19. The rhode skincare founder documented her flare-up on the platform and shared her routine for tackling it, including a prescription azelaic acid to combat the inflammation, clindamycin for a topical antibiotic and, as you may suspect, her rhode Glazing Milk.

What causes perioral dermatitis?

Unfortunately, according to Dr Sam Bunting, Cosmetic Dermatologist, “No one really knows what causes this annoying skin issue”. But, she adds “the ‘wrong’ type of skincare can aggravate the affected areas. Common triggers include topical steroids (especially the stronger variants) and even fluoridated toothpaste. As with many other inflammatory skin issues, this skin condition is also exacerbated by stress”.

How long does perioral dermatitis last?

When triggered by topical corticosteroid use, simply withdrawing it may clear up its appearance over time (sadly not instantly). Alternatively, a prescription of Clindamycin from a medical professional could speed up the process. Dr Bunting says, “I tend to prescribe antibiotics for around 6-8 weeks, sometimes longer, but that’s usually sufficient to get things going in the right direction, and then if you bring in the right topical ingredients with a minimal skincare routine, in the longer term, that’s what’s going to keep your skin clear”.

How to treat perioral dermatitis

The dermatologist explains, “When someone presents with this, the first thing I do is to suspend the current skincare regime (and frequently impose a makeup cull too). A non-comedogenic regime is the order of the day. Sometimes this alone will be enough to solve the problem”.

She continues, “If topical steroids are the cause, occasionally things will get worse before they get better. But stopping them is essential, so stick with it. More severe cases will benefit from prescription medication. My preferred approach is topical azelaic acid and oral tetracyclines. Usually, treatment for 6-8 weeks will sort things out”.

Ingredient recommendations

Stripping back your skincare routine is essential stresses Dr Bunting. She recommends replacing your current line-up with one key ingredient. “Azelaic acid is my active of choice when it comes to treating perioral dermatitis. This powerful anti-inflammatory, multi-tasking ingredient is the mainstay of my clinical practice when it comes to treating people in the clinic with perioral dermatitis. One of the ways it’s so influential is by downregulating how flarey or prone to inflammation your skin is through interaction with something called toll-like receptors”.

Shop the best creams for perioral dermatitis below

SkinCeuticals Phyto A+ Brightening Treatment


This new addition to SkinCeuticals’ collection is a targeted treatment rolled into a gel-creme moisturiser. The lightweight active formula is designed to calm inflammation and hyperpigmentation for those with oily skin or conditions like acne or rosacea. Brightening, calming and evening out skin’s texture, it’s an effective and potent product yet remains gentle without the irritation often associated with this ilk. It contains 3 per cent azelaic acid for improved cell turnover alongside alpha-arbutin and a phyto botanical blend to smooth, calm and soothe.

Buy now£85.99, Face The Future

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

The Ordinary

The multi-functional acid takes a starring role in this formula from The Ordinary. The antioxidant-rich ingredient has a high-purity concentration of 10 per cent and is offered in a cream-gel texture that feels light and soothing on the skin. Apply night and day to maximise the effect which include a more even texture, brighter and smoother skin. It will also help get breakouts under control.

Buy now£11.10, lookfantastic

Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster

Paula's Choice

Healing is azelaic acid’s MO and proves to be a total game-changer in busting blemishes. Excess oil production can clog the pores and cause breakouts - and that’s when you’ll call in this booster from Paula’s Choice. The formula combines the named ingredient with salicylic acid as well as plant extracts that work for counteract hyperpigmentation, minimise spots, calm redness and speed up the healing process of previous black and whiteheads and scars.

Buy now£40, Paula’s Choice

The INKEY List Super Solutions 10% Azelaic Acid Serum

The INKEY List

The INKEY List’s single-ingredient azelaic acid formulation has a cult following among those with rosacea. Its loyal fan base waxes lyrical on its redness-reducing properties, calming irritation with its quick-absorbing texture.

It was created by the affordable yet high-powered skincare label to improve the appearance of stressed skin and pigmentation and as such it evens out tone. Keep on hand after a breakout to improve the aftermath. It’s gentle so can be used on sensitive skin and can be layered under makeup.

Buy now£11.99, lookfantastic

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermallergo Soothing Cream

La Roche-Posay

La Roche-Posay has long been a go-to label for those suffering from sensitivities and its soothing cream is a demonstration of the brand’s prowess. Often in the arsenal of those concerned about perioral dermatitis as well as any form of dryness, irritation or that dreaded tight feeling, it has an ultra-hydrating formula that offers calming relief.

The Toleriane Dermallergo Cream is renowned for its long-lasting moisturisation that supports the skin barrier and uses probiotics and the French pharmacy brand’s signature Thermal Spring Water to achieve this. It has been approved by Allergy UK and is so gentle that it can be used by those undergoing cancer treatment.

Buy now£23, Boots

Bioderma ABCDerm PERI ORAL


The ABCDerm PERI ORAL cream from Bioderma is designed with little ones in mind. Perioral dermatitis can appear in children and this formula provides soothing, calming relief, while remaining gentle enough for their delicate skin. For adults with sensitive skin, this may work too to combat redness and speed up the recovery process.

Buy now£13.76, Amazon

Lyonsleaf 100% Natural Zinc and Calendula Cream


Lyonsleaf is dedicated to providing all-natural skincare products to soothe all types of skin conditions no matter your skin type. The Zinc and Calendula Cream is made to assist blemish-prone complexions and those with perioral dermatitis and rosacea, acting as a moisture barrier to lock in hydration.

You may be surprised to learn that there is no water contained within the formulation. Instead, the vitamin and antioxidant-rich ingredient lineup includes only pure plant oils like babassu and borage as well as beeswax and the named calendula and zinc oxide components. You can apply on the most sensitive of skin, including children over four weeks old.

Buy now£28.99, Amazon

Avène Cicalfate + Restorative Protective Cream for Very Sensitive Skin


Avène is a destination label for sensitive skin types and a brand you can trust not to aggravate irritation. This is on account of its gentle formulation and the inclusion of its signature Thermal Spring Water that is anti-irritating and nourishing.

In its multitasking Protective Cream, the whole family can take advantage of its soothing effect. Whether you’re experiencing dryness, rashes, perioral dermatitis or even sunburn, layer up on this cream to shield the skin from environmental aggressors and restore with the benefits of postbiotics.

Buy now£12.80, Boots

Dr Sam's Flawless Brightly Serum

Dr Sam's

Cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting is an expert in skin conditions like perioral dermatitis. She recommends azelaic acid to treat it, an active ingredient that forms the basis of her Flawless Brightly Azelaic Acid Serum.

Harnessing a potent 10 per cent of the component, the product is designed to combat the frequency of spots, brighten the complexion and clear pores – the latter on account of the inclusion of niacinamide. You get a double dose of radiance thanks to the addition of vitamin C and pigmentation-fighting from bakuchiol.

Buy now£46, Dr Sam's