Note from the author: Hundreds (yes, hundreds) of people have emailed me since I wrote this story last year about treating my perioral dermatitis without antibiotics. The response has been incredibly moving. I love connecting with fellow people struggling with PD, and will continue to be an outlet for advice, support, or just venting. I’ll always respond to emails with “Perioral Dermatitis” in the subject line.
If perioral dermatitis could write, it would type in Comic Sans MS with the caps lock always on. It’s a peculiar, goofy-looking thing that unfortunately, just can’t be ignored. Like set-dressing at a Halloween store, the red, flaky, burning rash around the nose, mouth, and chin lurks when you least expect it to. Some mornings I’ll wake up thinking I’m okay, and then upon closer look, I see the redness and bump—like a parking space you think is open, but it’s actually taken up by a small motorcycle.
And while finding the cause of perioral dermatitis is basically walking through a faulty labyrinth with no exit route, I know that I have certain triggers (stress, late nights, gluten, and Vegas, to name a few). PD has a coven of cohorts, like atopic dermatitis (eczema) and seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff and facial redness/flaking). They all seem to compete for the title of Most Dreadful Skin Monster, but PD is my main nemesis.
Most dermatologists suggest makeup worsens and can seriously aggravate PD, but—surprise, dad!—I’m not a saint. If I listened to everything dermatologists have told me to do, I’d have a smaller chin and filler in my forehead. I’ve been known to cancel whole afternoons and evenings due to persnickety skin, but the practical reality is that I need to apply foundation and get on with the day. I wear makeup 90% of the time because 1) it’s my job to test products, and 2) I’m in love with makeup and nothing can stop me.
To anyone doubtful that I am a foundation (and makeup/fragrance) hoarder, I invite you to look at my beauty closet; I’ll send pics. I’ve consulted organizers and read feng shui textbooks to help me navigate my foundation problem to no avail. It’s the only area where I’m not a minimalist (unless you count clothes, shoes, and bags, too). Staying far away from added or artificial fragrance in foundations is key for me. I try to use products that double as skincare to avoid turning my face into a piping cauldron of redness and itching.
After having tried almost every single face makeup product in the U.S. (and many from other countries), these are my tried-and-true favorites during perioral dermatitis flare-ups. They successfully conceal without making the condition any worse. Unlike a vegan strip steak, they have never let me down. Keep scrolling for the best foundations for perioral dermatitis.
I love this foundation for a lot of reasons. Firstly, it’s SPF 50. The air pump tube component is so easy, mess-free, hygienic, and it makes traveling easy. And then there’s the snail serum. If you’re unfamiliar with the skincare benefits of snail mucin, please enlighten yourself to the wonders of the snail world. The foundation coverage feels light-medium but the color correction is really real. Day or night, it’s perfect.
This is an excellent foundation in very poor packaging. It was developed by a plastic surgeon and dermatologist in Beverly Hills for post-laser skin. Kourtney Kardashian has sung her praises of this foundation loudly, calling it her holy grail and revealing that sister Kendall uses it too (the formula for acne-prone skin).
I’ve used this over freshly micro-needled skin and have never broken out from it. The brand chalks this up to the proprietary oxygenating complex that allows skin to breathe through the product. The pump and cap component need serious help, but this is an holy grail product, especially during a flare-up. (You can read my full review of Oxygenetix Oxygenating Foundation here.)
I’d build a heart-shaped trellis for this product—it’s that good. It’s an unbeatable tag team of niacinamide, non-nano micronized zinc, and hyaluronic acid. Despite popular opinion, I wear sunscreen on my face. Even though I carry an unseasonable tan with me everywhere I go, I do like to protect my face with zinc oxide.
Make sure to shake this up really well before applying it. It’ll have a slight white cast for a few seconds, and then oxidizes to your skin tone like magic.
I live for this family-owned French clean makeup and skincare brand. I find that all of their products help create a perfect daytime look of having done nothing. Like all of my favorite things in life, the product is made in Japan. The brand’s more full-coverage foundation formula, Future Skin, also gets top marks.
Okay so, this isn’t a foundation, but it has the coverage of one. I like to micro-conceal for a fresh look when I don’t feel like beating a whole face, and this is one of the best products for that. It has panthenol, which is a form of Vitamin B5, and it’s known for healing and moisturizing skin. I’ve applied it on top of a PD flare-up and I had no adverse reactions. Here’s hoping for more combination makeup/skincare in 2020.
Camargo FB Jr, Gaspar LR, Maia Campos PM. Skin moisturizing effects of panthenol-based formulations. J Cosmet Sci. 2011;62(4):361-370.