Dry skin around your eyes and eyelids can look very different from person to person: for some, it will mean having flaky patches of dry skin, while for others, the area around their eyes will become red and inflamed. But regardless of how it manifests itself, the condition is uncomfortable and can feel embarrassing to deal with. We’re giving you the inside track on managing red skin around your eyes, which creams to use for dry or flaky eyelids, and what you can do to reduce your chances of getting another flare-up in the future.
What causes dry skin around the eyes and eyelids?
Causes for dry skin in your eye area are varied, but we’ve broken down a few of the most common ones below. A quick trip to a pharmacist, primary care doctor, or dermatologist is the best way to get a correct diagnosis. Knowing the cause of your rash is essential for treating it quickly and efficiently, so it’s worth checking in for some professional advice.
1. Atopic dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is a skin condition that usually appears in infants and young children. Older children, teenagers, and adults can have eczema flare-ups, and these can sometimes be severe. These rashes are usually pale and scaly, or flaky. If you find yourself dealing with itchy skin around your eyes, mainly if it leaves behind a pale area of skin after you have itched, it might be eczema.
2. Contact dermatitis
Contact dermatitis is a reaction to an irritant such as chlorine, cleaning products, makeup, or skincare. Generally, it’s easier to narrow down a trigger for contact dermatitis than for atopic dermatitis, although the symptoms can be similar. With contact dermatitis, you will likely experience itching and redness around your eyes, but you will not generally see any flaking skin or residual dry patches. If you think you might have contact dermatitis, try to consider when it started to narrow down a trigger. Often switching a product in your routine is the culprit, and switching back will resolve the issue once the area has healed.
3. Cold or dry air
Cool temperatures and icy winds can play havoc with your skin, and the delicate area around your eyes is susceptible to harsh weather. As well as being sensitive to cold air, your skin can also become dried out by air conditioning or heating. You will find that your skin feels tight and itchy if it has become dehydrated by cold, dry air. Switching up your skincare a little can help boost your skin’s moisture levels and relieve symptoms - more on that below!
How do you treat dry skin around the eyes?
Ultimately the best treatment for your dry skin will depend on the root cause of the irritation. There are tried and tested ways to treat each of the reasons for rashes around your eyes that we mentioned above. But before we go into those, we want to share some general advice for looking after your eye area.
- Take off your makeup - always remove your makeup with a gentle cleanser.
- Be sure to moisturize - making sure your skin gets lots of moisture and nutrients is key to having healthy skin.
- Go easy on the exfoliator - if you’re using an exfoliator on your face, make sure it’s gentle enough for sensitive skin.
- Talk to a derm when you need to - dermatologists can be a huge help when you’re struggling with rashes or skin sensitivities, so don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need to.
How to treat dermatitis around your eyes
Depending on how bad symptoms are, dermatitis (aka eczema) can both be challenging to treat. Creams, ointments, and dietary changes can all be prescribed depending on your circumstances.
If you’re dealing with an eczema flare-up that is limited to your eye area and isn’t causing any swelling, or weeping wounds, then some basic TLC could be sufficient. Given how sensitive your skin is in that area, and its proximity to your eyes, an emollient cream could be the best starting point.
Whether you’re dealing with atopic dermatitis or contact dermatitis, look for a scent-free moisturizer. We love La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Eye Cream. It’s specially formulated for eczema-prone skin and contains water from a French water source renowned for treating dermatitis and other skin conditions.
How to treat dry skin
One of the most commonly Googled questions about dry skin is whether Vaseline is suitable for dry skin under the eyes. Petroleum jelly (which is what Vaseline is) has been used to treat dry skin for decades. It’s a good option for treating your eye area because it’s unscented and doesn’t cause a stinging sensation when it’s applied. Generally speaking, Vaseline is well tolerated by people with sensitive skin.
Some people find the texture of Vaseline a bit icky. In which case, what cream is good for dry skin around the eyes? Much like we mentioned above, you’re going to want a scent-free moisturizer focused on giving your skin the moisture it’s craving. Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Eye Cream brings together hydrating technology and also targets dark circles.
If dry air is the culprit for your rashes, getting a humidifier and putting it in the room you spend the most time in can help alleviate symptoms too.
Can stress cause dry skin around the eyes?
If you’ve read all of this and are still thinking to yourself, “ok, but none of this applies to me, so why are my eyelids dry?!” Then you might want to take a minute to check in with how you’re feeling. Have you been feeling stressed recently? Are there any extra stressors in your life that started when you found yourself getting dry skin patches? Stress and anxiety can cause the area around your eyes to become inflamed and sore, and while dermatologists haven’t been able to figure out exactly how yet, they think it has something to do with stress weakening the skin’s natural protective layer. The best treatment, in this case, is to apply a moisturizer and look at how you can spend some time relaxing. Whatever that looks like for you: it can be meditating, a full-body skincare routine, cooking, spending time with friends. Just make sure you’re taking care of yourself because you’re pretty awesome.
The bottom line
The skin in your eye area is the thinnest and most delicate area on your body, so, unsurprisingly, tons of people have to deal with eyelid sensitivities. Though the causes of dry skin and atopic dermatitis are varied, keeping up with a well-thought-out skincare routine and managing stress are two critical components for managing symptoms. People who suffer from flaky or dry skin around their eyes might also find that signs come back when triggered by a whole range of things, from cold weather to various types of food. Across the board, moisturizing with a high-quality unscented moisturizer will help calm your skin down, and if the issue persists, don’t hesitate to discuss it with a medical professional.