Dry Skin On Eyelid

Dry skin. American Skin Association. Accessed March 2021.

Dry Eyelids: Causes and Treatments

The delicate skin around your eyes can easily be irritated. There are many reasons for dry eyelids and lots of ways you can treat it.

Causes of Dry Eyelids

The skin around your eyes is very thin and more sensitive than the skin on the other parts of your body. So, it’s more prone to irritation. Everything from aging to allergens in the environment can make it dry and flaky.

Some common culprits include:

Aging. As you get older, your skin loses moisture and becomes drier. You also lose fat below your skin that’s around your eyes. That makes that area extra fragile and more likely to flake and be irritated.

Contact dermatitis. The skin around your eyelids can become dry, red, and itchy when something triggers a reaction. It might be an irritating substance that comes in contact with your skin or an allergic reaction. Some common irritants include:

  • Makeup
  • Soap and detergent
  • Sunscreen
  • Chlorine from swimming pools
  • Skin care or hair products
  • Wind or dust

You can spread the irritant to your eyelids by accident when you touch the trigger, then rub or touch near your eyes. For example, you may get dry, itchy skin after touching your eyes with painted nails. The trigger could be nail polish or polish remover.

Lifestyle choices. Your skin could be dry because of the weather where you live. Skin is usually driest in cold weather. It’s also dry when there’s little humidity — either in the climate or in the air your home. Skin also can dry out when you use a lot of hot water.

Your eyelids can also be dry and flaky because of more serious causes. They can include:

Atopic dermatitis. Also known as eczema, this is a long-lasting condition that gives you red, itchy skin. It’s common in children, but it can happen at any age. You might notice patches of flaky, crusty skin all over your body, especially on your eyelids, as well as your hands, feet, and upper chest.

Eczema usually happens in flares. Skin can return to normal between episodes.

Blepharitis. Usually with this condition, both eyelids get inflamed. Tiny oil glands at the base of your eyelashes clog up. That causes redness, irritation, crustiness, and dryness. Your eyes can be watery and red. The skin around your eyes can be flaky. The specific cause of blepharitis isn’t clear, but it has ties to several conditions including:

How to Treat Dry Eyelids

Your situation will help determine which treatment is best for you.

If your dryness is because of another condition, talk to your doctor about how to get it under control.

If you have contact dermatitis, learn your triggers and how to avoid them. Also try not to touch your eyelids unless your hands are clean.

If you have eczema, try to avoid triggers and use moisturizer often. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe steroid creams to control itching. They also might recommend antibiotic ointments or creams to fight infection.

If you have blepharitis, warm compresses and gentle eyelid scrubs can ease symptoms. Your doctor might also suggest eyedrops or antibiotics for infection or inflammation.

Lifestyle changes can help soothe your eyelids, too. For example:

  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air inside your home.
  • Take shorter showers or baths, and use warm (not hot) water.
  • Apply moisturizer several times a day, especially after bathing.
  • Use gentle soaps and detergents instead of harsh products that can dry and irritate your skin.

Show Sources

National Eczema Society: “Eczema around the eyes factsheet.”

Sykes, J. Master Techniques in Facial Rejuvenation (Second Edition), Elsevier, 2018.

Cleveland Clinic: “Aging and Skin Care.”

DermNet NZ: “Eyelid contact dermatitis,” Atopic dermatitis.”

Mayo Clinic: “Blepharitis,” “Atopic dermatitis (eczema),” “Home Remedies: Dealing with the difficulties of dry skin.”

Eyelid dry skin

Eyelid skin stays naturally hydrated, thanks to oils that provide lubrication and moisture barriers as well as lots of blood flow. Yet, it’s prone to skin conditions and can get dehydrated easily for several reasons: failure to retain enough moisture, a decrease in natural oil production and penetration of drying agents because of its thinness.

Eyelid skin is the thinnest skin on the body, measuring less than 1 millimeter (about the thickness of a dime). It comprises several layers of hair follicles, elastin, glands, tissues, muscles, fat pads, nerves, blood vessels and conjunctiva. The upper eyelid skin extends from the eyelashes to the eyebrows, while the lower eyelid skin goes from the eyelashes to the start of the cheek.

Signs and symptoms of eyelid dry skin

Dry skin on your upper or lower eyelids may look like red, rough or flaky patches accompanied by itchiness, tightness or a wrinkled appearance. These dry patches may appear and disappear quickly, as a one-time occurrence, or they may flare up frequently and for longer periods of time.

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Causes of eyelid dry skin

Dry skin is a common issue, and dryness specifically on the eyelids may occur as the symptom (or result) of one of the following underlying conditions:

  • Atopic dermatitis – A type of eczema, this skin condition features inflammation that can be severe and long-lasting. In many cases, it exists with hay fever or asthma. Atopic dermatitis accounts for 16.5 million cases in adults in the U.S.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis – Seborrheic dermatitis isn’t contagious and is not an allergy, although some allergies can mimic it.
  • Blepharitis – With this condition, skin appears red and inflamed, with soreness, itchiness or stinging. Bacterial infections or allergies can cause eyelids to swell as can clogged meibomian glands along the lashes.
  • Psoriasis – A skin disease with no cure, psoriasis looks like scaly, dry patches (or plaques) from extra skin cells. The affected area can be itchy or painful and can flare up in cycles due to stress, certain medications or infections. Of those with psoriasis, 10% have it on their eyelids.
  • Diabetes – People with diabetes can have a lack of tear production, and because of this, may rub or scratch their eyelids causing redness and dryness.

Dry skin on eyelids can happen to anyone at any time during their life. In addition to the underlying conditions listed above, dry eyelid skin can be caused by:

  • Aging – Over time, eyelids undergo several changes, including the decrease in production of natural oils that keep moisture in. This dehydration can result in eyelid skin dryness.
  • Contact with irritating substances (irritant contact dermatitis) – Eyelid skin can come into direct contact with irritants that trigger inflammation. They include creams, soaps and chlorinated pool water. Irritants reduce moisture levels and restrict natural oil production, leaving eyelid skin dehydrated.
  • Exposure to allergens (allergic contact dermatitis) – Eyelid skin can be exposed to allergens when they are transferred to the skin. Some allergens are poison ivy, hair dye chemicals and metals such as nickel. The body triggers an immune response when these substances penetrate the thin eyelid skin, causing an allergic reaction like dryness.
  • Environment – Eyelid skin is susceptible to drying agents found in the environment. These include indoor heating systems used during cold weather that decrease humidity levels. Also in the environment are airborne irritants (dust) and allergens (pet dander) that can make sensitive eyelid skin react.
  • Lifestyle choices – Eyelid skin is affected by the choices people make, such as inadequate hydration, poor hygiene, living in cold climates or professions where there’s contact with chemical fumes.

Treatments of dry skin on eyelids

To reduce instances of dry skin on your eyelids, it may help to:

  • Drink more water and increase your overall hydration.
  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
  • Protect the skin around your eyes with sunscreen and sunglasses.
  • Keep problematic substances away from your face and eyes, including hot water, fragrant soaps, perfumes and makeup.
  • Try to avoid touching or rubbing your eyes.

Self-care with home remedies and products specially formulated for sensitive skin may also offer temporary relief from dry skin on your eyelids. For example, you can use fragrance-free moisturizers, cool compresses or an over-the-counter topical corticosteroid on the affected areas.

When to see a doctor for eyelid dry skin

If you experience dry skin on your eyelids, an eye doctor can help identify the source of the problem and provide any necessary medical treatment.

You should schedule a comprehensive eye exam if:

  • Your symptoms worsen (dry patches start to blister or swelling occurs, for example).
  • The steps you’ve taken at home haven’t helped.
  • Your vision or eyes are affected in any way (such as overly watery eyes, blurriness or light sensitivity).

Eye health is important to your general well-being, so it’s always a good idea to consult with an eye doctor if you notice any changes to your sight or eyes.

Notes and References

Eyelid anatomy. My Plastic Surgeon. Accessed April 2021.

Atopic dermatitis. National Eczema Association. Accessed March 2021.

Seborrheic dermatitis. National Eczema Association. Accessed April 2021.

Dry skin. American Skin Association. Accessed March 2021.

Blepharitis. American Optometric Association. Accessed May 2021.

Page published on Friday, May 7, 2021

9 Things That Can Cause Dry Eyelids—and What You Can Do About It

Lindsey Lanquist is an experienced writer and editor specializing in health, wellness, fitness, fashion, lifestyle, and beauty content. You can find her work in Real Simple, VeryWell, SELF, StyleCaster, SheKnows, MyDomaine, The Spruce, Byrdie, and more.

Updated on December 9, 2022
Fact checked by

Emily Peterson is an experienced fact-checker and editor with Bachelor’s degrees in English Literature and French.

In This Article
In This Article

Dry skin can be uncomfortable anywhere on your body, but it can be particularly irksome on your eyelids. For one thing, go-to dry skin solutions—like lotions and creams—are often designed to be kept away from your eyes. Plus, it can be tough to pinpoint why, exactly, your eyelids got dry in the first place. So why do dry eyelids happen, and how can you safely soothe your skin? We talked to a few skin experts to find out.

Eyelid Sensitivity Symptoms

The skin on your eyelids is thinner and more sensitive than the skin on other parts of your body. (This probably comes as no surprise—just touch the skin on your eyelids and the skin on your arms, and you’ll be able to feel the difference.) And because this skin is so delicate, it’s prone to irritation.

“The skin on the eyelids is one of the thinnest areas on the body,” says Christina Weng, MD, dermatologist and founder of Mymiel Skincare. “This makes it more sensitive, in that skincare products and environmental irritants can penetrate more deeply.” Dr. Weng adds that this is why eyelids are one of the most common areas where people experience allergic reactions.

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If your eyelids are irritated, they might feel dry, flaky, or rough. They might also itch, burn, or sting. These symptoms can range from tedious to severe. But no matter how serious they are, they can be incredibly frustrating.

Common Causes of Dry Eyelids

Environmental Factors

Cold, dry weather can dry out your skin, including the skin on your eyelids. And using lots of hot water—during showers, baths, and your daily skincare routine—can also dry out your skin. “Your eyelid skin can be drier in dry, cold climates where there’s little humidity,” says Jennifer Wademan, OD. “Additionally, when you use extremely hot water, often it can strip the skin of natural oils, making the eyelids more dry, itchy, and flaky.”

Age

As you age, your skin may produce less sebum—an oil that helps moisturize your skin. This tends to happen around age 40, and it can cause your skin to become drier and more sensitive. “Also, the fat around the eyes decreases with age, making the eyelid skin even thinner and more prone to dryness and irritation,” Wademan says.

Sun Exposure

Too much sun can burn your skin, leaving it feeling dry and flaky. And since your eyelids are both sensitive and out in the open, they may be particularly susceptible to damage from the sun. “Sun exposure is a big [cause of dry eyelids],” says Carly Rose, OD. “The skin on your eyelids is constantly at risk from assaults from sun exposure.”

Contact Dermatitis

If your skin comes into contact with an irritant or allergen, you might experience contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis can cause your skin to become dry, itchy, and irritated. Potential irritants can include things like makeup, sunscreen, perfumes, dust, and more, Wademan says. (Since contact dermatitis is a response to an irritant or allergen, it’s temporary, and you can avoid it by staying away from the particular irritant or allergen.)

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a health condition that can cause the skin on your eyelids to become dry and irritated. And though atopic dermatitis can look a lot like contact dermatitis, the two conditions are different. Contact dermatitis is a temporary reaction to an irritant or allergen, while atopic dermatitis is a health condition you can experience on and off throughout your life.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition that typically affects the scalp. But it can affect other areas, too, including the skin on the eyelids. Seborrheic dermatitis is thought to be caused by a specific kind of yeast, and it may flare up on and off throughout your life.

Blepharitis

If your eyelids are inflamed, itchy, and lined with dandruff-like scales, you may be experiencing blepharitis. Blepharitis is thought to be caused by bacteria, allergies, or mite infestations, and can be linked to other skin conditions, like rosacea and facial dandruff.

Rosacea

Rosacea is a skin condition that can cause the skin on your face to turn red. And in some cases, it can affect your eyelids—this is called ocular rosacea. And it can cause your eyes to swell, water, burn, or otherwise feel irritated.

Dry Eye

If your eyes aren’t producing enough tears, you may have a condition called dry eye. Though dry eye tends to affect the inside of your eyes, it may cause your eyes to get red or irritated—and you might notice that on your eyelids, as well.

How to Treat Dry Eyelids at Home

Identify and avoid irritants

If your dry eyelids are the result of an allergic reaction, figuring out what caused that reaction is key to getting relief. “It’s important not just to think about your own products, but also the products used by people around you,” Dr. Weng advises. See if you can pinpoint the source of your irritation (a new detergent or perfume?).

Moisturize

Wademen recommends keeping your skin extremely moisturized—especially if you have a skin condition like eczema and want to prevent it from getting worse. Just make sure you’re using products that are safe around your eyes and free of potential irritants and allergens.

Wash your eyes and lashes

“In addition to washing your face, you should be cleaning your lids and lashes,” Rose says. Talk to your doctor to get product recommendations that will work for you, then make them part of your daily hygiene routine.

Use a warm compress

“Warm compresses are also particularly helpful,” Dr. Weng says. She recommends using microwavable compresses because they’re easy to reuse and tend to last for a while. Plus, you don’t have to worry about dripping water everywhere (like you might with a wet compress).

Stop touching your eyes

“Try not to touch your eyes too much and only when your hands are clean,” Wademan says. This is always a good idea, but it can be particularly important when you’re dealing with irritation.

Keep hot showers and baths to a minimum

Hot water can dry out your skin, so shorten your baths and showers, and consider using warm water instead of hot water. There’s a science to the perfect bath or shower, and the water temperature has a lot to do with it.

Invest in a humidifier

Cold, dry air can dry out your skin, but a humidifier can be a great way to add some moisture to the air in your home. “If your dry eyelids are caused by a dry climate, using a humidifier can help,” Wademan says.

When to See a Doctor

You may also want to see an expert—like a dermatologist or an ophthalmologist—to figure out what’s causing your dry eyelids and how you can treat them. “If dry eyelids do not resolve with conservative treatment, [if you] develop a rash or breaks in the skin, [or if your eyes] become red or swollen or painful, it’s time to see a doctor,” Dr. Weng says.

If your dry eyelids are the result of an allergic reaction, for example, your doctor can help pinpoint the allergen and figure out how to avoid it when shopping for skincare products for sensitive skin. If they’re caused by an underlying health condition, your doctor will be instrumental in figuring out how to treat them, and that may require a prescription.

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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