In a recent post I talked about how I had a rash around my mouth for 4+ months this spring/early summer. I discovered the cause of the rash was an allergic contact dermatitis – a reaction to the propolis in some beeswax as well as to jojoba oil. Yes, I am allergic to jojoba oil, too. Lucky me ( I love that stuff!). Anyway, since that post, I have received several requests for what I did to heal that dang rash. While I certainly cannot advise anyone on their specific rash without a full examination and health history, I see no problem sharing with you what I did to help myself. Here’s what worked for me and what I would do if I got this same rash again:
- Stop using everything that may have beeswax, propolis and/or jojoba oil in it. Check your lip balm, lotion, sunscreen, soap, facial cleansers, toothpaste; ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that touches your face. You might be stunned to find out how many products contain these ingredients. [Sometimes ingredients are listed by their scientific names. Beeswax may be referred to as Cera Alba, though in some of my Chinese Medicine text books it is called Cera Aurea (or Huang La in Pinyin); honey is also called Mel (or Feng Mi in Pinyin); and the scientific name for the jojoba plant is Simmondsia chinensis.]
- Apply over-the-counter topical cortisone cream or ointment.** I choose Aveeno 1% cortisone cream (it had fewer unnecessary ingredients and absorbed well) but an ointment (petroleum-based) might feel more moisturizing and might be a better choice. (Apply only to affected skin – if your lips themselves are okay, don’t put this on your lips. It is very drying). Cortisone cream will reduce inflammation and redness but won’t do much more to heal the skin. Follow the directions on the label – don’t overuse the cortisone cream (this can create other problems). [**UPDATE 08/22/12: I now advise against applying cortisone to the face, esp. around the mouth. I have seen too many cases of perioral dermaititis and rosacea lately and these types of conditions can be initially triggered or severely worsened by the use of cortisone creams/ointments on the face.]
- Apply a pure carrier oil (like olive oil, sunflower oil, or safflower oil) to your lips and surrounding skin once the cortisone cream is absorbed (or alternate application of the cortisone with the oil). Good ol’ petroleum jelly is helpful to apply at night to prevent drying, especially if you breathe with your mouth open. I am not a big fan of petroleum jelly, but this is just short-term use until the rash resolves and the skin heals.
- I took 2 Benadryl each night for a week. I figured it might help with the allergic reaction but I am not sure how much it really helped. Also, it makes me soooo sleepy. I can’t take it during the day if I want to function normally.
- Use a very gentle facial cleanser and do not over cleanse. I use Zi Zai’s Herb & Flower Cleansing Powder but I also like Neutrogena liquid facial cleanser (the amber-colored stuff, fragrance-free). Avoid cleansers with alcohol in them – too drying.
- Stay out of the sun.
- Avoid alcohol and spicy foods. Also avoid really hot (temperature) foods and drinks.
- Take smaller bites when you eat. Try not to overstretch your lips/mouth.
- Don’t lick your lips – ever, if you can help it.
- The rash will dry and peel/flake as it begins to resolve. Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT peel off the flakes. This will prolong the healing process. So frustrating, I know, but DON’T PEEL THE FLAKES OFF. Resist.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Take a vitamin B complex supplement. Make sure it has Vit B2 (riboflavin), niacin, Vit B6, and Vit B12. An iron supplement may also help but do not take iron unless blood tests show you are deficient in it (I am iron deficient). Be cautious with Vit B6 and Vit B12 if you have acne (they may cause it to worsen).
My rash was gone within a week but my lips and the skin around them continue to remain very sensitive. So I avoid the sun, alcohol, hot & spicy foods, and I try to never lick my lips. My lips get dry and red quickly if I don’t drink enough water every day. But so far, the rash has not returned (yay!). [As of 2011, I now use only the Zi Zai BeeswaxFree Lip Balm - my lips love it and I only need to apply it once in the morning and once before bed].
Keep in mind that many substances can trigger an allergic reaction. Aloe vera juice/gel and nut-based oils are others to look out for. Some people even develop rashes around the mouth in reaction to the fluoride in toothpaste or contact with mango rinds when eating mangoes. Stay aware of the ingredients in all of your skin care and oral hygiene products.
If you have a similar rash around your mouth or lips, please let us all know what seems to make it better (or what makes it worse) by commenting below. Readers have been sharing their experiences and that information is so helpful, so please check out all the comments below and the comments from the previous post about beeswax allergy.
- My rash has never returned – yipee!! The skin around my lips started to get itchy at one point earlier this year, and I discovered that I accidentally bought toothpaste with propolis in it (hasty grocery shopping that day – I grabbed the wrong box). As soon as I discontinued the use of that toothpaste, the itching stopped and everything was fine within 24 hours.
- I previously had recommended applying pure Vitamin E oil to the lips to help heal the rash. I do NOT recommend this anymore. According to one manufacturer of high quality Vitamin E oil: “Vitamin E Oil is a concentrated product and is mildly caustic to the skin in its undiluted form. Proper dilution of at least 50% within another carrier is required if you are going to apply it directly to the skin.”
- Zi Zai’s Beeswax-Free lip balm is available for sale from our online store.
- I rarely ever get chapped lips anymore and I no longer have to apply lip balm on a daily basis. This is the first time in my life – I previously was addicted to lip balm. I think a big part of the improvement has come from being very aware of when I lick my lips and doing a better job of not licking them at all.
- To learn more about another type of rash around the mouth and near the nose, read That Rash Around Your Mouth Might Be Perioral Dermatitis.