When you look in the mirror, do you feel like your eyelids have a distinctive shine or oily appearance?

You aren’t alone.

Oily skin can happen virtually everywhere, eyelids included. While this usually isn’t a cause for concern, oily eyelids can present a cosmetic problem.

This article will explore some of the potential causes and treatments of oily eyelids, plus how to prevent them.

The following are some of the most common oily eyelid causes.

Harsh cleansers

Sometimes, the soaps you use to wash your face can strip the skin of excess oils. This can actually work against you because your skin may overproduce oil in response.

Most people can benefit from cleansing with a gentle cleanser no more than twice a day. The skin doesn’t have to be “squeaky” clean — just washing with soap and warm (not hot) water can cleanse the skin.

Topical applications

Sometimes, the lotions and creams you put on your skin can contribute to the greasy appearance of the eyelids. This may be especially true if you apply oil-based products, heavy lotions, or softeners to the skin.

These topicals can give your eyelids a shiny appearance or may affect the products you apply on top of them, creating a slippery and oily-looking surface.

Hormonal fluctuations

Some people naturally have skin that’s oilier than others.

For example, men tend to have higher oil production levels compared to women, according to an article in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology.

This is likely due to greater production of the hormone testosterone.


People who live in humid climates are more likely to have oily skin. The skin also tends to produce more oil in the spring and summer.


An overproduction of oil by the meibomian glands, which are responsible for secreting oil for the eye’s surface, can cause oily eyelids in some people.

Doctors call this condition meibomianitis, or posterior blepharitis. Additional symptoms of the condition include:

  • watery eyes
  • itchy eyelids
  • eyelash loss
  • eyelids that have a crusted appearance

Treating meibomianitis

If you have meibomianitis, cleansing the eyelids regularly may help to control symptoms. However, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

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Seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is an itchy, irritating skin condition that can occur on the eyelids, as well as other areas of the face, scalp, and groin.

These are all oily areas of the body that can also cause redness and scaly skin patches. You may have seborrheic dermatitis on the eyelids alone or find you experience it on other parts of your body as well.

Treating seborrheic dermatitis

You can treat seborrheic dermatitis by washing the eyelids with a gentle soap (such as baby shampoo) daily, rinsing well with warm water, and patting the eyelids gently dry.

Applying warm compresses to your eyes may also help reduce the scaling and oily appearance.

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Treatments for oily eyelids depend on their underlying cause.

You shouldn’t apply topical treatments to the eyelids without checking with your doctor first. The eyelids are an especially vulnerable area that may not respond well to some topical applications.

A doctor may prescribe antifungal gels or pills if they suspect a fungus is causing the dermatitis. Topical steroids may also help, but they’re often used sparingly because they can thin the skin.

Other treatment methods to address potential underlying oily eyelids causes include:

  • switching to a gentle soap
  • cleansing once daily in the evening and splashing with warm water in the morning
  • using bar soaps that are made specifically for the face
  • avoiding oil-containing products on the eyelids

Removing too much oil can cause dry eyelids

Oil helps keep the skin soft and smooth. Removing too much oil can cause dry, flaking eyelids. It’s important to find a happy medium when treating oily eyelids.

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The eyelids can be a very sensitive area. It’s important to treat them gently, even when you have oily skin.

Here are some of the ways you can prevent oily eyelids:

  • Use a gentle cleanser (such as baby shampoo) on the eyelids daily.
  • Apply a non-greasy moisturizer to the under-eye and eyelid area. Look for ones that are noncomedogenic or oil-free.
  • Apply a loose powder or compact powder to the eyelids to reduce oil throughout the day.
  • Apply an eyeshadow primer if you wear eye makeup. These primers are designed to reduce oil and act as a base for eyeshadows to stay on and appear more vibrant, which can be difficult if you have oily eyelids.
  • Use blotting papers on the eyes to soak up excess oil throughout the day.
  • Avoid touching your eyelids (and face, for that matter) throughout the day. You can transfer oils from your hands to your face.
  • Avoid using harsh cleansers, such as those that are alcohol-based, as they can be drying to the skin and can cause oil overproduction.

If your oily eyelids persist, even with these preventive tips, talk to your dermatologist about other possible interventions.

While oily eyelids aren’t usually a medical problem, they can be understandably annoying.

Fortunately, there are several treatments available, many of which are low-cost and require some simple changes to your daily skin care routine.

It’s important to strike the right balance between cleansing effectively to remove oil and preventing excess oil production. If you aren’t sure you’re taking the right approach, talk to your dermatologist.