Eyelid dermatitis causes the skin on or around the eyelid to become dry, itchy, and irritated. Moisturizing the skin, avoiding allergens, and applying topical medication are some ways of managing itchy eyelids.

“Eyelid dermatitis” may refer to contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, or seborrheic dermatitis on the eyelids. When the cause is an allergen or irritant, the condition is called eyelid contact dermatitis.

This article discusses how to recognize the symptoms of eyelid dermatitis. It also looks at how to manage eyelid dermatitis with medical treatments and home remedies, causes of the condition, and more.

Closeup of a person with their eyes closed.Share on Pinterest
Adene Sanchez/Getty Images

Dermatitis on the eyelids causes inflammation of the thin, sensitive skin around the eyes. The eyelids become:

  • irritated
  • swollen
  • dry
  • reddened or discolored

It can affect one or both of the eyes.

If this condition persists, the eyelids can become thickened in a process called lichenification.

When eyelid dermatitis occurs due to an irritant, symptoms typically develop within a few hours or days of contact with a trigger substance. Symptoms usually subside after a person removes the trigger.

For all types of eyelid dermatitis, it is best to keep the eye area clean and avoid touching it or scratching. This helps prevent further irritation or infection.

Other treatments may depend on the cause of eyelid dermatitis. As the skin on the eyelids is thin and delicate, it is best to contact a doctor or pharmacist for advice before applying any topical treatments.

Identifying and avoiding triggers

Where possible, it is helpful to identify and avoid contact irritants and allergens that can cause flare-ups. These can include:

  • certain makeup brands
  • sunscreen
  • perfumes
  • swimming goggles
  • eye drops
  • false eyelashes
  • contact lens solution
  • airborne allergens


Moisturizing creams can relieve dryness and itching. A wide range of creams is available with and without prescription.

It is best for people to contact a doctor or pharmacist for advice first, as some moisturizers can also cause dermatitis.

Using calcineurin inhibitors

This medication treats inflammatory disorders, including atopic dermatitis. They are available as a cream or ointment, which is particularly suitable for delicate areas of skin.

A person should use calcineurin inhibitors with caution, as they may cause side effects such as itching and burning.

Using corticosteroids

A person can apply steroid-based creams directly to the eyelids to treat inflammation and reduce dryness.

For widespread cases of dermatitis or eczema, a doctor may recommend corticosteroids in tablet form. The strength of the medication depends on the severity of the symptoms.

People should use corticosteroid creams cautiously as they can lose some of their effectiveness if a person applies them for too long. When a person applies them close to the eye for long periods, there is a risk of glaucoma.

These creams can also induce certain short-term side effects, such as acne, hair growth in the area, and thinning of the skin.

Corticosteroid tablets are reserved for the most severe symptoms, as their side effects can be serious. Possible effects include:

A person’s doctor can help them identify the cause of eyelid dermatitis and advise on a suitable treatment plan.

Learn more about topical and oral steroids for eczema.

There are several types and causes of eyelid dermatitis.

Allergic contact dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis develops due to an allergic reaction that causes inflammation of the skin, such as pollen in a person with hay fever.

Some cosmetic products or metals, such as nickel, are common causes of allergic skin reactions.

Irritant contact dermatitis

Irritant contact dermatitis can happen when the eyelid comes into direct contact with a substance that irritates the outer layer of the skin. Examples include certain types of makeup, soaps, and detergents.

Atopic dermatitis

This can develop on the eyelids and cause other eye issues. It is unclear what causes atopic dermatitis, though there seems to be a genetic component.

Learn more about atopic dermatitis.

Seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common condition that causes the skin to become inflamed and flakey. It often occurs on the scalp but can also affect oily areas of skin, such as the eyelids.

If eyelid dermatitis is due to contact with an allergen or irritant, it may resolve on its own once a person avoids the trigger.

However, the exact cause of eyelid dermatitis is not always clear, such as in the case of atopic dermatitis. This means that a person may require treatments to encourage symptoms to heal, as there is no known trigger to avoid.

Preventive measures may also help eyelid dermatitis to clear up. These measures include avoiding harsh soaps and eye makeup.

The following actions may help prevent outbreaks of eyelid dermatitis:

  • Avoiding scratching or rubbing eyelids: This can cause further damage to the skin and increase the risk of infection.
  • Making dietary changes: Food allergies can trigger dermatitis. Examples include cows’ milk, eggs, soya, and wheat. It is best to contact a doctor before making any significant dietary changes.
  • Trying anti-itch products: Over-the-counter medications can reduce the urge to itch. A cool compress may also help.
  • Wearing protective gear: If a person works with irritants, wearing goggles or a shield to protect the eyes may help.
  • Moisturizing regularly: Regularly using a gentle moisturizer on the eyelids may prevent symptoms from developing and help alleviate itching. However, people should take care not to get moisturizer in the eyes.
  • Avoiding harsh soaps: It may be best to use milder soaps and avoid soaps with a fragrance, as they can irritate the skin.
  • Restricting makeup use: Eye makeup, such as eyeshadow or mascara, can irritate the sensitive eye area. Using less makeup or switching to hypoallergenic brands can be helpful.

The causes, types, and triggers of eyelid dermatitis vary. It may be necessary to try several of these actions before finding the most effective ones. A person’s doctor can also help them find ways to prevent a dermatitis flare-up.

The skin around the eyes is thin and delicate, and so the eyes are susceptible to irritation.

While it is difficult to predict who will develop eyelid dermatitis, certain factors may increase its likelihood. These include:

  • Age: Infants are more susceptible to certain types, such as seborrheic dermatitis, also called cradle cap.
  • Genetics: Skin conditions often run in families.
  • Certain professions: These include any with frequent exposure to potential trigger substances, such as agricultural, construction, cosmetic, and beauty workers.
  • Certain medications: Some medications can trigger dermatitis. A person’s doctor can help them identify whether this is the case and advise on any necessary changes to their current medication.
  • Medical conditions: Hay fever, asthma, or other conditions such as acne or psoriasis can cause dermatitis to develop.

If a person experiences persistent symptoms of dermatitis or if symptoms do not respond to home treatments, it is best to contact a doctor for advice. A doctor may be able to diagnose the form of dermatitis via a physical exam and asking questions about symptoms.

If the doctor suspects an allergy, they may recommend a patch test. This involves placing a common allergen on the skin to test for an allergic reaction.

Some complications that may occur with eyelid dermatitis include:

  • Skin infections: Scratching or rubbing the eyes can make the skin vulnerable to infections.
  • Eye infections: Bacteria can get into the eye from repeatedly touching or rubbing the region, causing infections.
  • Difficulty sleeping: The symptoms of eyelid dermatitis can cause discomfort while sleeping.
  • Other skin conditions: It is possible for eyelid dermatitis to occur before skin inflammation on other areas of the body.
  • Neurodermatitis: Chronic scratching or rubbing can increase the urge to itch. Persistent scratching can cause the skin to become discolored and thickened.

Receiving an accurate diagnosis and following a suitable treatment plan can help reduce the risk of complications.

Here are some common questions about eyelid dermatitis.

How can someone treat eczema on their eyelids?

In some cases, avoiding triggers can help clear eyelid dermatitis. If symptoms are due to a condition such as atopic dermatitis or seborrheic dermatitis, a person may require topical medication, like topical calcineurin inhibitors and corticosteroids.

What can trigger eyelid eczema?

Numerous allergens and irritants can trigger eye eczema. Examples include eye makeup, eye drops, false eyelashes, swimming goggles, and airborne allergens.

How can someone get rid of eczema on the eyelids naturally?

Home treatments for eyelid dermatitis can include moisturizing, avoiding harsh soaps, and wearing protective eyewear when spending time around triggers. However, in some cases, medical treatments may be necessary to help manage symptoms.

Is Vaseline good for eyelid dermatitis?

According to the National Eczema Association, petroleum jelly can help to repair the skin barrier and retain moisture, so Vaseline may improve eyelid dermatitis symptoms.

However, people should be careful with application to ensure this product does not get in the eye itself.

There are several possible causes of eyelid dermatitis, including contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis. It can cause symptoms such as dryness, itchiness, and skin irritation.

Depending on the cause, it may be possible to treat eyelid dermatitis with moisturizers, calcineurin inhibitors, and corticosteroids. Avoiding triggers and taking preventive steps may also help.

It is best to contact a doctor as soon as a person has concerns about eyelid dermatitis. They can help determine the cause and advise on treatments to help manage symptoms and reduce flares.