Breakouts around the mouth – what causes it and how to treat it

Breakouts can be a right nuisance and downright painful, no matter where they pop up. But the more painful ones are the spots that appear around your mouth. What is the cause of breakouts around the mouth? How can we treat it? When is the time to see a dermatologist?

The cause of breakouts around the mouth


One of the main culprits behind our breakouts is good old hormones. If the spots appear on your chin, jawline, and neck, it is often referred to as the hormonal pattern. Usually, they will appear before and during your period.

During any given month, our hormonal levels fluctuate. In the lead up to our period, the progesterone levels go up, and oil glands overproduce oil. This can lead to clogged pores and breakouts. An additional trigger can include stress. When we are stressed, our cortisol levels go up, and these affect other hormones. Likewise, changes in the diet (all.the.sugar.)
Some women experience elevated levels of estrogen, which can make the skin extra sensitive. Think painful, throbbing cysts underneath the skin that hurt to high heavens.
If the breakouts aren’t causing you discomfort, a gentle cleanser will go a long way to keep the area clean and spot-free. You can also spot-treat any blemishes (to avoid overdrying the skin). Avoid picking and squeezing the spots and touching your face. Also, regularly clean your mobile phone.

If the breakouts are persistent, causing you discomfort, and a regular skincare routine isn’t helping, go and see a dermatologist or your GP. A dermatologist can prescribe a more potent treatment. Likewise, GP or a Gynaecologist can refer you to have your hormone levels checked and determine what might be the cause of the imbalance.

Perioral dermatitis

What you might think is a breakout, can in some cases, be perioral dermatitis. It is a rash that looks like small, red, raised bumps around the mouth. If you suspect it is perioral dermatitis, consult a dermatologist or a GP to prescribe treatment.

Several things can cause perioral dermatitis. For example, toothpaste with Sodium laureth sulphate. It is a surfactant used in numerous products that can sometimes trigger perioral dermatitis. Try switching your toothpaste for one without SLS to see if there is any improvement. Some cosmetic products can also cause perioral dermatitis (think primers and foundations) since they can clog the pores.


Breakouts around the mouth have become increasingly common during the pandemic. We are wearing masks for prolonged periods. Since we have to, you know, breathe underneath the masks, it creates a damp environment which can make bacteria thrive and disrupt the moisture barrier. Likewise, the friction can lead to sensitivity, irritation, and inflammation. Even with the vaccine, masks are here to stay for some time.
Some of the things you can do to treat breakouts caused by masks are to avoid makeup (on the lower side of the face, at least). Cleanse regularly with a gentle cleanser or one that contains Mandelic or Salicylic acid, and pay attention to your moisture barrier (hydrate, hydrate, hydrate).

Have you ever experienced breakouts around the mouth? How did you treat it?

Roberta Striga