Eczema is a condition that causes, rashes and dry skin, as well as itching. Because the skin on your face is more sensitive than skin on other areas, when eczema occurs on your face, it can be especially uncomfortable and even painful. The skin can feel tight, hot, and itchy. Scratching can cause sores and scarring.
Eczema on the face may appear as red, white, or purple bumps depending on your skin color. It may also show up as a rash, blisters, or cracked skin. It occurs in both children and adults.
There’s no cure, so you might have repeated flares where symptoms last a few weeks, go away, and then return.
Here’s what you need to know about facial eczema, including the different types, causes, and treatments.
Eczema is a skin condition characterized by dryness, itchiness, inflammation, and rough patches. Here’s a look at five types of eczema that can affect the face.
1. Atopic dermatitis
It’s a chronic condition. So, although symptoms can improve after a few weeks or months, they usually return over the course of a person’s life.
Symptoms of atopic dermatitis include dry patches and itchiness in the area around the forehead, cheeks, and eyes. Other areas of the body commonly affected by atopic dermatitis include the inside of the elbows and back of the knees.
Causes & triggers
Different things can trigger atopic dermatitis, such as genetics, in which case a family history of eczema is a risk factor. Irritants and allergens may also play a role, so you might develop dermatitis on the face if you have food allergies or hay fever.
2. Seborrheic dermatitis
Although atopic dermatitis is a common form of eczema, seborrheic dermatitis is a common type of eczema on the face. Seborrheic dermatitis may also affect the scalp and chest. It’s triggered by an overgrowth of the yeast Malassezia.
You’re likely to have dryness, itchiness, and redness around your eyebrows, ears, and hairline. It can develop in babies and adults. It’s known as cradle cap in babies and typically lasts until about 6 months old.
Seborrheic dermatitis can also form on the scalp. People with dandruff sometimes have this type of dermatitis on the face.
Causes & triggers
Several factors can trigger flares or make this type of eczema worse. Your skin might worsen when under stress or when exposed to sun and high humidity.
3. Irritant contact dermatitis
The products you use on your face can also trigger dryness, itchiness, and redness. These include facial washes, exfoliating creams, makeup, sunscreen, and other cosmetic products.
Irritant contact dermatitis affects people of all ages, including babies. Your baby might have this type of dermatitis if they’re sensitive to lotion or baby wipes. Some babies also have irritant contact dermatitis around their mouth due to excessive moisture from drooling.
Causes & triggers
Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when certain ingredients and fragrances in cosmetic products irritate the skin.
4. Allergic contact dermatitis
Allergic contact dermatitis differs from irritant contact dermatitis, as the former is an allergic response on the face.
If you’re allergic to an ingredient in a skin-care product — or other products that come in contact with your face — your immune system triggers a response. This causes eczema and allergy symptoms like dryness, hives, itchiness, and redness.
Allergic and irritant contact dermatitis can affect other areas of the body, in addition to the face.
Causes & triggers
You might have an eczema flare after using certain skin care products on the face, hair dyes, makeup, nail polish, and even after wearing certain types of jewelry.
If you’re allergic to nickel, earrings made from this metal might also cause a reaction. Symptoms might start around your ear and spread to other parts of your face.
5. Light sensitive eczema
You can also develop eczema symptoms on the face if you’re sensitive to sunlight and humidity.
Light sensitive eczema is common in children but also affects adults.
Symptoms can be temporary, especially when caused by medications like diuretics or high blood pressure medicines. Your skin might improve once you stop taking these drugs. For others, light sensitive eczema is a chronic condition.
Causes & triggers
Dryness, itchiness, and redness may worsen in sunlight or in humid conditions. Wearing sunscreen and staying indoors during hot, humid weather may improve symptoms.
Here are images of facial eczema on adults, children, and babies.
The various types of facial eczema can cause similar symptoms, so they often respond to similar treatments.
Keep your skin moisturized
To relieve symptoms, keep your skin moisturized to reduce dryness and promote healing. This helps reduce irritation and itchiness and prevents skin cracking.
Use moisturizers that treat eczema
Look specifically for moisturizers that treat eczema. These include products with ingredients like ceramides to improve your skin’s barrier and ease irritation. You can also apply an over-the-counter topical cortisone cream to stop itching and inflammation.
Identify and avoid products that cause irritation
You can also treat facial eczema by identifying triggers and removing the source of irritation. Keep in mind that labeling a product as “sensitive” doesn’t mean that it can’t cause irritation.
Even so, choosing fragrance-free or hypoallergenic makeup and skin care products can reduce the risk of irritation.
Apply sunscreen when outdoors
Applying sunscreen to your face helps treat and prevent light sensitive eczema, as does avoiding extreme temperatures and high humidity.
See a doctor if OTC moisturizers don’t work
Applying moisturizer twice a day, especially after cleansing your face, helps your skin retain moisture. If over-the-counter moisturizing creams don’t work, or if your facial eczema doesn’t respond to self-treatment, see a doctor.
Your doctor might recommend other therapies, including:
- prescription topical corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
- prescription antihistamine
- light therapy
- steroid-free topicals such as crisaborole
- immune modulators such as topical tacrolimus and pimecrolimus
Here are some tips to prevent facial eczema.
- Apply moisturizer to your face twice a day.
- Avoid products that irritate your skin like certain cleansing soaps, exfoliating creams, and toners.
- Don’t apply makeup during a flare. This can irritate eczema symptoms.
- Wear sunscreen and avoid extreme heat and humidity.
- Use fragrance-free products.
- Pat your face dry with a soft towel instead of rubbing your skin.
- Treat other allergy symptoms, which could trigger facial eczema or make it worse.
For some people, eczema is a chronic, lifelong condition with repeated flares. Symptoms might go away and later return. Some people can also outgrow eczema with age — but others don’t.
Even if your eczema doesn’t completely disappear, treatment can reduce the severity of symptoms and decrease the frequency of flares.
See a doctor if self-treatment and over-the-counter products aren’t resolving your facial eczema.