The skin on your eyelids is unique when compared to other parts of your body. The eyelid skin is thinner than other skin, and there’s not a lot of fat cushioning it. Additionally, the eyelids and surrounding areas are vascular, meaning that a lot of blood flows through vessels around the eye. Therefore, irritants or skin conditions may be more likely to affect your eyelid than other parts of your body.
Dry skin on your eyelids can cause your eyelids to be flaky, scaly, and rough. Symptoms that may accompany dry skin on the eyelid include irritation and itchiness, among others.
If you have dry eyelids, you might also experience oozing and crust forming on your eyelids and in your eyelashes. You might see redness on and around your eyelids.
Symptoms may also vary based on the underlying condition.
There are a number of causes of dry skin on the eyelids. External irritants, your environment, and aging can all cause dry eyelids.
There are other factors that cause dry skin on eyelids that may require more medical care. These underlying conditions vary in severity and outlook. Some of them include contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, or blepharitis.
Your environment can cause dry eyelids. When it gets colder out, there is less humidity in the air. Dry climates and cold weather can cause dry skin. Rooms that do not have a lot of humidity can also dry the skin.
Additionally, if you are repeatedly exposed to hot water, you may also experience dry eyelids. This may be from hot showers or face washing.
As you get older, your skin may be more prone to dryness. You may need to take more care of your skin as you age, especially if you’re 40 or older.
It is common to lose oil and sweat glands as you age. Over time, the skin gets thinner, loses fat, and can lose its smooth appearance. For these reasons, aging may lead to dry eyelids.
Dry skin on eyelids may be the result of contact dermatitis. This condition occurs when your skin encounters an irritating substance. This can result in dry, red, irritated, and flaky skin.
Irritants that can cause contact dermatitis include:
- hair products, including shampoo, conditioner, and styling products
- face washes
- eyelash curlers or tweezers
- chlorine from a swimming pool
Products that contain fragrances, metals (like nickel), and certain chemicals may cause contact dermatitis. You may even spread contact dermatitis to your eye unknowingly. This can occur when your hands touch your eyelid after they’ve come into contact with an irritating substance, or when you brush your face against a towel or pillowcase that has an irritant on it. Even polished fingernails or jewelry brushed against the eyelid may cause contact dermatitis.
Contact dermatitis can appear at any time in your life. You may suddenly develop an allergy to a certain substance, even if you’ve never reacted to it before. Keep in mind that the products you use may change ingredients without your knowledge. Avoid any known triggers to keep dry, irritated skin on your eyelid at bay.
Atopic dermatitis is another condition that may affect the skin of your eyelids. It may cause scaling on your skin as well as itching, redness, and oozing.
This is a condition that’s most commonly diagnosed in young children. Atopic dermatitis may appear to be contact dermatitis, so it should be diagnosed by a doctor. The condition may be caused by family history, the environment, or the immune system. The condition is chronic, but you can learn to treat flare-ups appropriately and manage the condition throughout your life.
Blepharitis occurs on the eyelid and is caused by bacteria or another health condition like rosacea. It occurs on the eyelash line or the inner edge of the eye where it meets your eyeball. Blepharitis results in scales on the eyelid as well as irritation, redness, burning, tearing, crusting, and more.
There are different over-the-counter and prescription medications to treat dry eyelids, depending on the condition.
For contact dermatitis, your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter or prescription topical corticosteroid to treat the dry skin. Corticosteroids work to reduce inflammation. Doctors will likely only prescribe a corticosteroid for eyelids for a short period of time because of how thin the eyelid skin is.
Your doctor may also recommend a corticosteroid to clear up atopic dermatitis. Antihistamines and other topical ointments or moisturizers can also be used to reduce itching and swelling.
The main way to treat blepharitis is to practice good hygiene and remove crusts from the eye. Your doctor may prescribe steroid eye drops or recommend artificial tears to keep the moisture in your eyes. There are also prescription topical and oral antibiotics available to treat blepharitis caused by bacteria.
You may learn over time what causes the dry skin on your eyelid and determine how to best manage it at home. The dry skin on your eyelid may be isolated and may clear up with minor lifestyle changes.
Here are ways to treat dry skin on your eyelids:
- Add moisture to your environment, such as with a humidifier.
- Avoid exposure to hot water by taking cooler, shorter showers and baths, and by washing your face only once a day.
- Clean your face with soaps and facial cleansers that are fragrance-free and gentle on your skin.
- Clean your eyelids with safe eyelid cleansers.
- Moisturize your skin using fragrance-free lotions or creams.
- Try not to touch your eyes and eyelids with your fingers.
- Apply cool compresses to your eyelids to soothe dry, irritated, and itchy skin.
- Keep your hands clean and apply warm compresses to the eye if you suspect blepharitis.
Preventing dry skin is an important way to avoid unwanted symptoms. For those with dermatitis, avoiding contact with substances that irritate the eyelid is essential. You should also consider wearing protective eyewear to avoid harmful particles from contacting your eyelid and eye.
You should see an eye doctor if you suspect a more serious health condition like contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, or blepharitis. Your doctor will review your symptoms and conduct a physical examination to diagnose the condition.
You should also see a doctor if:
- your eyelids have been dry for an extended time
- the condition is getting worse
- you’re concerned it might be related to a larger health issue
- you have other accompanying symptoms that concern you
There’s no reason to panic if you have dry skin on your eyelids. There are many different reasons the condition occurs, and many instances of dry skin on the eyelids can be treated at home and prevented in the future.
Underlying health conditions causing dry eyelids should be treated by your doctor, as well as dry eyelids that persist or get worse with time.