What to Do If You Have Sensitive Skin Around Your Eyes

Worry not, there are solutions.

What to Do If You Have Sensitive Skin Around Your Eyes

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Skin sensitivity can occur on any part of the body but it can be especially irritating around the eyes. This skin is thinner than the rest of the face and consequently, more vulnerable to the common skincare issues that almost everyone experiences, including dryness or eczema on the eyelid. 

“The skin around the eye area is some of the most delicate and sensitive skin on the body,” says Zenovia Gabriel, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, hormonal skin expert, and founder of a namesake skincare line. “Around your eyes, the epidermis is very thin with only a few cell layers thick. There are also fewer oil glands as well.”

Since the epidermis contains a thinner layer of collagen, it is more susceptible to UV radiation and photoaging, both of which can be caused by overexposure to sunlight or blue light from phone and computer screens. Harsher ingredients such as those found in physical scrubs, high-dose retinols, and vitamin C can also lead to contact dermatitis — a fancy term for non-contagious skin irritation. These same products sometimes trigger allergic reactions to one or some ingredients, leading to excessive rubbing that exacerbates the dryness even more. 

It also isn’t uncommon to get caught in a vicious cycle of the problem and solution becoming one and the same. For example, if you experience redness or dryness, you may purchase an eye cream that only creates more inflammation and over time and, therefore, causes the epidermis around the eye to become even thinner. Perhaps you stop using eye cream, but now, the lack of moisture creates even more irritation, leading you back to a potentially irritating eye cream. And so on, and so forth. 

In order to address sensitive skin around the eyes, you must properly identify it first. 

“Dryness and eczema around the eyes present with fairly obvious symptoms including redness, irritation, itching, stinging/burning on or around the eye area, and a flakey bumpy rash,” says Dr. Zenovia. “These symptoms most commonly afflict the eyelids but can occur anywhere on the eye area or face.” In certain cases, swelling can also occur. In that case, seek the help of a dermatologist if you can, as they can prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication if needed. 

Though skincare regimens should be personalized, each one should always be rooted in adequate amounts of rest and hydration. “Do not wait to treat dry irritated skin,” adds Dr. Zenovia. “Prevent it first….Practice awareness of your potential triggers.” This includes paying closer attention to how your skin reacts to your lifestyle choices, including the foods you eat and activities you participate in.

If you want to address sensitive skin around the eye with products, practice patience and simplicity when introducing them.

“In general, I find that less is more and recommend introducing products with limited ingredients lists one at a time to prevent excess irritation,” says Sara Perkins, MD, a dermatologist and medical advisor of Hims & Hers. “Introduce only one product at a time. If you have particularly sensitive skin, it may be best to try a small test area prior to applying to both eyelids.”

As far as ingredients are concerned, ceramides are beneficial to the eye area because they reinforce the skin barrier and help it to retain moisture. These lipids also have a reputation for their gentle touch. Ingredients rich in antioxidants, such as green tea and niacinamide, pair nicely as a way to protect the eye area from free radicals, or the unstable molecules in our skin that can lead to damage when left unchecked. 

Additionally, Dr. Perkins says that “sunscreen – particularly mineral sunscreens, as chemical sunscreens can cause irritation – is critical for preventing or minimizing carcinogenesis and photoaging.” And if you do opt for a product with active ingredients, like retinol, test it as you would any other product, and limit your use to every other day, or a few times a week. 

Once you’ve decided on a product, remember that results rarely happen over night, especially those in the skincare category. 

According to Dr. Zenovia, “Generally, most products, including eye products, take four to six weeks of continued use to begin showing results. If you are concerned you may react to an eye cream or eye care product, the safest way to test the product is by performing a patch test on the side of your eye by your temple.” Certain issues may resolve more quickly than others. For example, dehydration and puffiness can resolve in a matter of days or a few short weeks but collagen stimulation can take a few months for true results to show. 

Still, when dryness or sensitivity is your main concern, listening to your body is of the utmost importance. Get used to spotting environmental triggers, prioritize moisture and prevention, and if you can, see a board-certified dermatologist for professional guidance. 

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