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Oct 17, 2020

What Is Periocular Dermatitis?

Periocular dermatitis is a skin condition that, as its name suggests, affects the skin around the eye. It’s a tricky type of dermatitis to manage because the cause of the outbreak can be very hard to pinpoint. In this blog, we take a look at the particular characteristics of periocular dermatitis and try to work out what might be causing a flare-up.

First things first, what actually is periocular dermatitis and how do you distinguish it from any other skin problem?

It’s not necessarily as easy a task as you’d think; periocular means ‘around the eye’ and dermatitis refers generally to skin irritation, so in theory periocular dermatitis could be referring to any sore or irritated skin around the eye. It can look spotty, inflamed, 

But in fact, it can be defined more accurately by what it’s not.

It’s not, for example, seborrheic dermatitis, which is a flaky, crusty, sometimes scaly skin condition that can affect the scalp, eyebrows and sometimes spread onto the ear area.

It’s not classic eczema, which is a chronic condition that can affect anywhere on the body and tends to run in families, although it can look similar to periocular dermatitis, and people prone to eczema can also suffer from outbreaks of periocular or perioral dermatitis.

It’s not psoriasis, which is again its own separate chronic condition, and which is definitely not just skin-deep; psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that has symptoms that involve the way the body works, not just the skin.

It’s not rosacea in any of its varieties, either, although outbreaks of both can look remarkably similar, especially the bumpy, spotty flares of subtype 2, papulopustular rosacea, and both periocular and perioral dermatitis are sometimes placed in the rosacea family of skin problems. Rosacea is affected by some of the same triggers (such as stress and irritant skincare) but some others as well, and sufferers have a life-long tendency to flare-ups.

It’s not acne either, although it can look similar, with inflamed pustules and angry-looking spots. Acne affects a wider area of the face and comes on gradually, and unlike periocular or perioral dermatitis, acne doesn’t usually itch. 

So what is periocular dermatitis? Like perioral dermatitis, a similar rash affecting the area around the mouth - or periorificial dermatitis, an outbreak of the same sort of problem around the mouth, nose and eyes - the periocular version seems to be closer to a persistent allergic reaction than a chronic condition.

That means essentially that it’s triggered by something you’ve come into contact with, either something in the environment or that’s touched your skin. Once you’ve had one incident of periocular dermatitis, you are prone to more flares, especially if you come into contact with the trigger again.

Typical triggers include: 

  • Topical corticosteroids
  • Makeup
  • Heavy or comedogenic skincare
  • Sunscreen
  • Microorganism overload such as yeasts, mites and bacteria
  • Stress or high emotion
  • Weather or environmental conditions
  • Hormonal changes or imbalances

So the main strategy for tackling outbreaks of periocular dermatitis is to identify and avoid those triggers, and look after your skin with extra gentle, non-irritating skincare.

See our blog How Do You Calm Down Periocular Dermatitis? for more information on how to manage outbreaks of the condition.

Recommended products for skin prone to periocular dermatitis

Balmonds Skin Salvation
with hemp and beeswax

Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream
with shea butter and calendula

Balmonds Omega-Rich Cleansing Oil
with rosehip and calendula

Important Note

If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.

If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.

Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.

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