Dry eyelids can result from a common skin condition, such as atopic dermatitis, or environmental factors, such as dry air during the winter.

Dry skin on the eyelids can be uncomfortable, but there are several effective ways of treating the condition at home. More severe cases of dry eyelids may require treatment from a doctor.

Symptoms that may accompany dry eyelids include itchiness, discoloration, and irritation.

In this article, we discuss the symptoms and causes of dry eyelids. We also look at home remedies and medical treatments that may help relieve symptoms.

Dry skin occurs when the top layer of the skin fails to retain enough moisture to function correctly. There are many possible reasons for this happening.

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is a common skin condition that typically starts during childhood. Atopic dermatitis may result from an infection or inflammation, and it is more likely to affect people with asthma, hay fever, and other allergies, including food allergies.

The most common symptom of atopic dermatitis is itching. The condition can also cause:

  • dry, scaly skin
  • pain or tenderness
  • rashes that ooze fluids or bleed after scratching
  • lichenification, which is the thickening and hardening of the skin

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a skin condition that occurs following contact with an irritant. Irritants that may cause contact dermatitis on the eyelids include:

  • makeup
  • sunscreen
  • face washes
  • hair products
  • chlorine from swimming pools
  • dust

Contact with an irritant may cause a person’s skin to become dry, inflamed, and itchy. It can also lead to burns or blisters on the skin.

Environment

Certain environments may lead to dry, itchy skin that becomes rough and scaly over time.

For example, dry air can reduce moisture in the top layers of the skin, causing it to become dry. Dry air is more common during the winter when the temperature drops.

Exposure to water can also dry out the skin. Long baths or showers may reduce the oils in the skin that typically help it retain moisture.

Aging

Aging decreases the amount of oil in the top layers of the skin and reduces sweat glands in the skin. These effects may prevent a person’s skin from retaining moisture.

Certain factors, such as smoking or too much sun exposure can accelerate the aging process.

Aging causes the skin to wrinkle and start to crack. It may also lead to areas of dry, flaky skin that itch.

Dry skin may cause discomfort, particularly when it affects the eyelids, where the skin is thinner than it is in other body areas.

Some common symptoms of dry skin include:

  • flaking surface
  • rough texture and cracks
  • itching
  • painful burning or stinging
  • wrinkly and loose appearance
  • peeling
  • rawness or irritation

The symptoms of dry skin can vary in severity from mild to severe.

Some people with dry skin on the eyelids may only experience mild itching or not even notice it. Others may experience more intense irritation, which worsens during blinking. Sometimes, the eyelids may become swollen.

The best way to treat dry skin on the eyelids depends on its cause.

Moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis is treatable with moisturizers or corticosteroids. However, doctors only recommend corticosteroids in the short term as they may increase eye pressure when applied to the eyelids.

A person can treat contact dermatitis by avoiding known triggers, including cosmetics, sunscreen, or chlorine. Doctors recommend that people use trial and error to identify their triggers, as these will vary from person to person.

A doctor may also prescribe other medications to treat related symptoms. For example, they may suggest antihistamines to help with sleeping or antibiotics for associated infections.

A person can often treat their dry eyelids at home with over-the-counter moisturizers.

Some active ingredients in moisturizers include:

  • olive or jojoba oil
  • shea butter
  • lactic acid
  • urea
  • glycerin
  • lanolin
  • petrolatum
  • dimethicon

To help with dry skin, the American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends:

  • moisturizing several times a day, including right after bathing
  • using a humidifier
  • avoiding bathing or showering for longer than 5 minutes
  • using warm rather than hot water to bathe
  • avoiding prolonged sun exposure and tanning beds
  • washing with gentle cleansers and using skin products for sensitive skin

Dry skin is usually treatable at home with moisturizers and general skin care.

If home remedies do not ease the symptoms or the symptoms worsen, a person should speak with a doctor. Dermatologists are skin specialists who can provide treatment options.

Dry eyelids have several possible causes, including dermatitis and natural aging. They may occur when the top layer of the skin fails to retain enough moisture.

People can usually treat dry eyelids at home by applying moisturizers and using warm, not hot, water to bathe.

If the symptoms persist, a person should speak with a doctor. A doctor can prescribe medications, such as corticosteroid creams to reduce the symptoms.

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