Dry eyelids are surprisingly common, so if you suffer from them, know that you’re not alone. Also called eyelid dermatitis, this condition is characterized by dry, itchy and irritated skin on your eyelids. Eyelid dermatitis can also refer to eczema or psoriasis on eyelids, and includes symptoms of redness, itchiness, dryness, irritation and scaliness. It’s absolutely no fun dealing with dry eyelids or eczema on eyelids. It can be annoying, extremely frustrating and painful to boot. On top of that, if you’re constantly scratching or rubbing at your eyelids to relieve these symptoms, it can seriously disrupt your way of life.
Of course, there are ways to treat and prevent dry eyelids that can help alleviate its unbearable symptoms and make life more comfortable. In this piece, we’ll explore causes, prevention and treatment of dry eyelids and eczema on eyelids.
Eczema is basically atopic dermatitis, a skin condition that occurs when the natural skin barrier is compromised. This means that the skin barrier (the outer layer of skin) can’t quite retain enough moisture or protect it from irritants and allergens that can then cause irritation.
Symptoms usually include extreme dryness, itchiness, red or brown patches, raised and oozing bumps and scaliness. What’s more, these symptoms can be exacerbated when you touch or scratch your eyelids, which sometimes cannot be helped or avoided. At times, your skin might be perfectly fine, until a flare-up brings these symptoms back and you have to figure out how to get rid of them.
Types and Causes of Dry Eyelids
There are several causes of dry eyelids and eczema on eyelids. It’s important to know exactly what causes your case of dry eyelids before you can seek to treat them.
- Atopic dermatitis – Also called eczema, this is caused by a gene variation that prevents the skin barrier from providing adequate protection and hydration. There is unfortunately no cure.
- Allergic contact dermatitis – This develops from an allergic reaction to something like pollen or metals like nickel. Some cosmetic products can also cause it.
- Irritant contact dermatitis – This develops when the eyelid is irritated by soaps or detergents that come into contact with skin. People who work with a lot of detergents and soaps are especially vulnerable. For some people, makeup use can also lead to irritant contact dermatitis.
- Seborrheic dermatitis – This type of dermatitis usually affects the scalp and causes an itchy, scaly rash.
Complications of Dry Eyelids
Certain problems and complications can arise from having dry eyelids or eczema on eyelids. It can become a problem to live with the condition.
- Chronically itchy and scaly skin – This begins with a scaly, itchy patch of skin and worsens as you scratch the area. It ultimately can become a vicious cycle of itching and scratching that makes the scaly area larger and more problematic.
- Asthma and hay fever – In children, these conditions can often accompany atopic dermatitis.
- Infections – Scratching your eyelids too often can sometimes lead to infection, like pink eye (conjunctivitis), by allowing certain types of irritants and bacteria to enter the area. Keratitis, an inflammation of the cornea can also occur, as can keratoconus, a condition that causes your cornea to bulge, resulting in blurry vision.
- Insomnia – Sleeping issues can arise as the cycle of itching and scratching worsens or becomes unbearable.
Prevention of Dry Eyelids
There are a multitude of ways to prevent a flare-up of atopic dermatitis on eyelids. It is important to be persistent with these preventative measures to fully keep a flare-up from happening again and again.
- Moisturize daily – Moisturizing every day is crucial. You can moisturize in the mornings and in the evenings before bed for best results. Products that contain glycerin, shea butter and petroleum jelly can be helpful. Apply moisturizer on damp skin for maximum absorption.
- Avoid triggers – Stress, harsh skin care products like cleansers and soaps, detergents, dust and pollen can all exacerbate eczema on eyelids. If you use some type of soap or cleanser to wash your face, you might want to switch it for a gentle, fragrance-, soap- and alcohol-free one.
- Limit shower time – Extreme temperatures can worsen dryness and irritation, as can a long shower or bath time. Try to only bathe for 10-15 minutes tops in warm or tepid water.
- Resist the urge – Scratching your eyelids will only make the condition worse. Try your best to resist the urge to touch your eyelids. Gently massaging them with moisturizer might help relieve some of the itchiness, and won’t worsen symptoms. Putting a cold compress on your eyes can also help alleviate itching.
- Consider your diet – Consumption of dairy may exacerbate atopic dermatitis. You should consult your doctor to determine whether this is the case for you before making any significant dietary changes.
- Avoid makeup – Some makeup like eye shadows (especially glittery ones) and eyeliners can make your dry eyelids even drier and more irritated. False eyelashes and mascara can also contribute to irritation.
Treatment Options for Dry Eyelids
Dry eyelid treatment varies based on severity. For some people, prescription lotions will be necessary. Others might be able to treat flare-ups with regular moisturizers.
- Corticosteroids – These are steroid-based creams that help curb inflammation, the primary cause of eczema on eyelids. They also reduce dryness. Unfortunately, you cannot use them for too long as complications like thinning skin can arise.
- Moisturizing – This treatment option is perhaps the easiest because it is readily accessible without a prescription or doctor’s visit. As previously stated, petroleum jelly can be especially helpful in treating dryness and other symptoms. Look for moisturizers or eye creams that are marked as good for sensitive skin and are fragrance- and alcohol-free.
- Calcineurin inhibitors – This is another medication that fights inflammation. It can be taken orally or applied topically, but it can also suppress immunity and should be used with caution.
- Non-steroidal creams – These are available as an alternative to steroid-based creams. These are best for people who have chronic eczema on their eyelids and need long-term care.
Bottom Line: If you simply have dry eyelids, you can most likely take care of them with proper hydration. If you suspect you have full-blown eczema on eyelids, it’s best to consult a doctor before you decide how to proceed with treatment.