How to Treat Dry Eyelids, According to Experts

Read this before putting anything near the area.

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Irritation and dryness anywhere on our bodies can be a nuisance. But dealing with dry eyelids specifically is just a special type of pain. 

Not only can dry eyelids hurt and itch, but you also have to be super careful about what you apply in an already sensitive area. This is one area you do not want to irritate more. For that reason, we have to turn to the experts. 

To break down what causes dry eyelids, the symptoms, and how to treat and prevent it, we asked two dermatologists for a definitive guide on how to tackle this skin concern. Read on to learn more below. 

What causes dry eyelids?

There are many causes to dry eyelids and that’s all thanks to the fact that it is just a super sensitive area. “Because the skin of the eyelids is extremely thin, [and] some of the thinnest and most delicate skin on the body, this makes this area of the face much more prone to irritation,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at the Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue. 

Dr. Engelman lists eczema, environmental factors such as cold or dry weather, sun exposure, contact dermatitis, age, excessive eye-rubbing, rosacea, expired makeup, sleeping in makeup, or dry eyes as just some of the many ways that will cause dry eyelids. Anar Mikailov, MD, board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of Skintensive and KP Away, agrees and adds other skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis and rosacea and health conditions like cutaneous T-cell lymphoma may also be a cause of dry eyelids. 

What are the symptoms of dry eyelids?

Dr. Engelman says that common symptoms of dry eyelids include irritation, swelling, itching, flaking, and overall discomfort. “If you notice the skin surrounding your eyes is flakey or irritated, this could be dry eyelids,” she says. “Oftentimes people with dry eyelids will notice it most when applying makeup, as it will appear extremely flaky and irritated.” 

She says that those with already dry or sensitive skin are more prone to getting dry eyelids, but it can still happen to anyone. Dr. Mikailov adds that those who are prime to allergic reactions or have underlying atopic dermatitis such as eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, or psoriasis will also make you more likely to experience dryness in that sensitive eye area. 

How to treat dry eyelids topically:

In some cases of eyelid dermatitis, Dr. Mikailov says that prescription medicine may be necessary. (“Do not use a steroid cream without speaking to your doctor first,” he says). But it’s more important to find the cause of the dry eyelids and to prevent them.

Dr. Engelman says it’s important to remember to include your eyelids during your skincare routine; she says putting on moisturizing products will help prevent dry eyelids. Dr. Mikailov says to look towards creams that are tested to be hypoallergenic or suitable for eczema-prone to prevent eyelid dermatitis. Products like the Avène Tolerance Extreme Cream, KP Away Lipid Repair Emollient, or Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream for Sensitive Skin are his top picks. 

Additionally, you can tweak your skincare routine. Dr. Engelman says to gear your routine towards something gentler for the skin. She says to try products that are suited for sensitive skin, like gentle cleansers and moisturizing products to ease dryness. 

Dr. Mikailov says to avoid cleansers that have acids and fragrances. If you’re using known harsh ingredients like retinoids, vitamin C, alpha hydroxy- and beta hydroxy acids, he says it’s best to skip until the dryness is treated. Even if you are not using these ingredients for your eyes, he says that ingredients can migrate and irritate the lids. Dr. Engelman adds that avoiding essential oils and propylene glycol are also known to add irritation, so she recommends skipping these as well. 

Other ingredients to avoid include lanolin and surfactants. Dr. Mikailov says you might also want to stay away from any eye makeup or even contact lens solution (if you’re able to use your glasses over your contacts for a bit). 

If you suspect that your skin or makeup products are the main culprits to your dry eyelids, Dr. Mikailov suggests to stop using them for about two weeks. 

Other ways to treat dry eyelids:

There are other things you can do to help alleviate dry eyelids. The first is adjusting the water temperature when you wash your face and take a shower. Dr. Mikailov says to avoid washing your face with hot water as that can strip the skin of its natural oils and moisture. Instead, use lukewarm water. As for showers, he says to make sure your eyes aren’t under steam the entire time. It’s best to keep showers short — three to five minutes tops — using lukewarm water. 

You can also consider using a humidifier. Dr. Engelman says that humidifiers are a great way to add moisture to your environment to prevent and treat dry eyelids. Her personal pick is the Canopy Humidifier, which she says is super easy to clean.  

Lastly, you can consider a warm or cold compress. Dr. Mikailov says that compresses can potentially soothe and relieve dry, tight, and itchy feelings around the eyes — at least temporarily. Dr. Engelman prefers a cold compress over warm one as cold compresses can also reduce swelling and irritation. So, this one is up to personal preference. 

But if none of these treatments remedy your dry eyelid symptoms after about a week, then it might be time to seek professional help. “Go to a doctor as it may be a more serious condition such as atopic dermatitis, blepharitis, or contact dermatitis,” says Dr. Engelman. “None of these conditions are necessarily harmful, but require prescription medication to ensure your eyes are protected and [can] heal.” 

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