Why Do I Get Acne Around My Mouth?

Through the years many clients have asked why they develop pimples around their mouth. Acne around the mouth, also known as periorbital dermatitis, is a frustrating, yet common skin problem. While the exact cause of this issue is unknown, I will attempt to explain some of the theories and potential causes of breakouts, ranging from hormonal imbalance to fluoride-containing toothpaste.


Periorbital dermatitis typically affects younger women and children. These demographics support the hormonal theory; younger women and children experience changes in hormone levels more often than older women and men. In men, breakouts around the mouth are typically associated with shaving; using a dull, unclean razor or not properly cleansing before shaving can allow acne-causing bacteria to flourish. AcneMouth


Another prevalent theory points to fluoride-containing toothpaste as a causation factor. This theory originates from a 1975 “Letter to Editor” written by a dermatologist who was actively investigating this issue. It is well-known that exposure to high concentrations of halogens (i.e., chlorine, fluoride) can cause acne; this condition was seen a lot in industrial workers. The dermatologist theorized that the fluoride found in toothpaste could cause similar problems in certain individuals. He went on to suggest that the brightening and flavoring agents found in mouthwash could also contribute to this problem. Knowing this information, he recommended his patients switch from regular fluoridated toothpaste to a non-fluoridated toothpaste. About half of these patients showed improvements. For the other half, he recommended brushing with baking soda and rinsing with a breath freshening mouthwash such as Scope. These patients showed considerable clearing.

In the homeopathic world,  non-fluoride containing toothpaste is encouraged for general well-being. Allopathic (conventional) medicine would disagree due to the strong belief in the benefits of fluoride. One could argue that we get enough fluoride from our drinking water. The health and well-being of your teeth and body are personal, so consult with your favorite health practitioner before making long-term decisions.

Furthermore, I avoid products containing the sudsing agent Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (SLS) and believe these to be harmful. Personally, I use Jason Brand tooth products which are SLS-free. Jason also offers gluten-free, fluoride, non-fluoride, pastes and gels of all flavors.

If you’ve tried all of these options and you still have breakouts, try brushing with baking soda and water or use toothpaste with added baking soda. Additionally, try Scope mouthwash and products without brightening agents and other additives.

Other Potential Causes

Other factors to consider before changing toothpaste include lipstick, makeup products, and “hand to face” activity. Cosmetics sometimes contain chemicals that cause allergic, inflammatory reactions in certain people. Additionally, frequently touching the area around your mouth, can introduce acne-causing bacteria or chemical irritants to the area (drumming your fingers on your face during a meeting, perhaps?).

You may have noticed while eating a sandwich and wearing lipstick that your bottom lip leaves a smudge mark between your lip and chin. Naturally, you may take a dry napkin or paper towel and try wiping it off. However, lipstick is wax-based and doesn’t come off easily so you may continue rubbing causing irritation and further smudging. My recommendation would be to use something to remove the lipstick before eating. It can be as simple as olive oil (that may be part of your salad), soybean, sweet almond or jojoba oil on a soft cotton pad. As always, natural ingredients are the way to go. I recommend reading this post on non-toxic lipstick.

Another issue that can cause extra bacteria is a makeup sponge or powder pad. After eating, women tend to take out their compact and wipe their skin with the thin pad that lives in the compact. This sponge/pad is a bacterial breeding ground. Compacts come with a clear plastic disc insert to protect the powder or cream foundation. However, most people throw the disc away leaving the sponge directly on the makeup.

Tossing the sponge/pad causes a couple of problems:

  • mouthThe sponge/pad picks up oil, bacteria, and debris from your skin and deposits it into the makeup. A shiny, dark film appears on top of the makeup which causes the compact to crack before it’s time.
  • The bacteria and oil continue to be transferred back and forth between your skin and the compact, further clogging your pores.

Since everyone is different, it’s hard to figure out what the exact cause of this issue is but, hopefully, you have learned something new and want to give it a try. If you have success, we would love to hear from you!

Thank you for reading The Freckle blog! Please subscribe to stay informed of all things relating to skin care. Also, check out my website and YouTube channel for product news and recommendations.

Shelley Skin Care
Your Guide to Good Skin


Saunders MA. Fluoride Toothpastes: A Cause of Acne-like Eruptions. Arch Dermatol. 1975;111(6):793. doi:10.1001/archderm.1975.01630180121023: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/fullarticle/535073.


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