Dry Eyelids

Dry eyelids affect many people, especially those who already have issues with dry skin. Dry, flaky skin can sometimes be embarrassing, especially if you suffer from eczema or psoriasis. Dry, scaly, or flaky skin on your eyelids may be the worst of these conditions, as it can be extremely uncomfortable, irritating, and unattractive. Before applying lubrications, moisturizers, or lotions to your eyelids to relieve the dryness, it is important that you talk to a dermatologist to find the underlying cause. Your dry skin could also be a sign of an underlying skin condition such as blepharitis. We will go over the symptoms, causes, and treatment methods for dry eyelids below, and we will also discuss other skin conditions that can cause this problem.

Symptoms of Dry Eyelids

  • Dryness
  • Scales
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Soreness
  • Discoloration of skin

Causes of Dry Eyelids

Dry, itchy eyelids can be caused by a variety of underlying problems. Some of these may be major, such as Sjogren’s syndrome. Other common causes include:

  • Cosmetics (eyeliner, foundation, eye shadow)
  • Shampoo
  • Food
  • Allergies
  • Cleansers
  • Hair Dye containing the ingredient p-Phenylenediamine
  • Eyelash Curlers (the nickel body can cause irritation)
  • Underlying Skin Conditions (see below)
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis

Underlying Conditions that can dry eyelids include:

  • Eyelid Dermatitis, which is known to manifest itself as an allergic reaction to something that comes into direct contact with one’s eyelids.
  • Atopic Dermatitis , which is the result of airborne allergens.
  • Eborrheic Dermatitis, which happens when the skin reacts to its own natural oils and bacteria.
  • Blepharitis, a chronic inflammation of the eyelids caused by excess bacteria.

Common cosmetic ingredients that can cause dry eyelids include:

  • Preservatives such as parabens, pheny mercuric acetate, imidazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15, and potassium sorbate
  • Antioxidants such as butylated hydroxyanisole, butylated hydroxytoluene and di-tert-butyl-hydroquinone
  • Resins such as colophony
  • Pearlescent additives such as bismuth oxychloride
  • Emollients such as lanolin and propylene glycol
  • Fragrances
  • Pigment contaminants such as nickel

Treatment for Dry Eyelids

The skin around your eyes is much more sensitive than the skin around other parts of the body. Simply applying lotions or moisturizers is unsafe, and not recommended by most dermatologists. Companies make specific types of gels and creams for the skin around your eyes. Using these types of lubricants can help you achieve the moisturized skin you are looking for on your eyelids. Another good treatment option is to gently wash with baby shampoo and wipe the area clean. Talk with a dermatologist, possibly one referred by your ophthalmologist, or if possible, try talking to an ophthalmologist who specializes in dermatology.

Another strategy is to avoid known allergens. Discontinue using make-up until your condition heals. Try not to touch dirty surfaces with your hands. Unfortunately, many people naturally touch their face and eyes without thinking about it. Keep your hands clean by constantly washing them or by applying an antibacterial gel. Wash your face twice a day, especially before bed and before reapplying make-up. Warm washcloths or warm pads can help to soften the dry skin on your eyelids, making it easier to remove.

Talking to Your Eye Doctor

Here are some questions to ask your eye doctor about dry eyelids:

  • Which over-the-counter moisturizers should I use on my eyelids?
  • Do I need prescription strength medication to clear up my dry eyelids?
  • What is the underlying cause of my dry eyelids?
  • If treatment does not work, how long should I wait to contact you again? What will my next treatment options be?
  • How long should it be before I find relief?
  • Can you refer me to a dermatologist or an ophthalmologist who specializes in dermatology?
  • What symptoms would warrant an immediate trip to the doctor?

Did you know…most face lotions and moisturizers do not contain a sufficient amount of moisturizer for the skin around your eyes?

References:
  • J. Weizer, MD; J. Stein, MD, MS “Reader’s Digest Guide to Eye Care” (Quantum Publishing, Ltd. 2009) 131; 105
  • S. Moore, MD; K. Yoder, MD “Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness & Surgery” Revised 5th edition (The Berkeley Publishing Group, 2006) 42-43
This article was last updated on 07/2014