A person can experience dry skin around the eyes as a result of aging or the weather. It can also occur due to various skin conditions, such as eczema, contact dermatitis, or conjunctivitis.

This article will look at some of the common reasons for dry skin around the eyes, their associated symptoms, and treatment options.

It will also highlight some useful home remedies and prevention strategies, as well as explain when it is a good idea to speak with a doctor.

Dry skin can develop anywhere on the body. This includes the skin around the eyes, which is thinner and more delicate than skin elsewhere on the body.

The skin needs water and oils that it makes naturally to stay soft, supple, and stretchy. If the body does not get the oils or water it needs, skin can become dry.

Typical symptoms include:

  • patches of itchy or scaly skin
  • flaky skin
  • rough skin
  • stinging or burning
  • peeling
  • itching

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), some people have a higher chance of developing dry skin than others, including those:

  • over the age of 40
  • who live in cold countries or climates
  • who smoke
  • who have a vitamin or mineral deficiency, such as vitamin D, vitamin A, iron, or zinc
  • with brown, black, or fair skin, as opposed to a medium complexion

Additionally, some medications, including statins and diuretics, can cause excessively dry skin.

Treatment

Dry skin is common and is not usually anything to worry about.

To treat dry skin, a person can:

  • ensure they drink plenty of water
  • moisturize regularly
  • avoid using harsh skincare products
  • avoid long, hot showers and baths
  • avoid artificial heat sources that dry out the air

Eczema is the name for a group of skin conditions. The condition is very common, affecting more than 31 million people in the United States.

Some people can experience eczema around the eyes. According to the National Eczema Society, eyelid eczema is more common in people who also have eczema elsewhere on their face.

A person may experience itchy, inflamed, or scaly skin on the eyelid.

The following are types of eczema:

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema. The AAD notes that it can often affect the eyes in adults. It can develop on the eyelids and around the eyes, causing the skin to become itchy and swollen. The skin around the eyes may also become thickened and darker.

Atopic dermatitis around the eyes may lead to eye conditions, such as conjunctivitis and keratitis, which is an inflamed cornea.

Treatment

If a person develops atopic dermatitis around the eyes, they should contact a doctor, especially if they are experiencing eye problems that last longer than a few days.

Treatment for atopic dermatitis includes a skin care routine, such as applying moisturizer, and topical medications, such as corticosteroids and topical immunomodulators.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis of the eyelids tends to affect just the area around the margins of the eyelids.

This type of eczema develops in places with a lot of oil-producing glands, or sebaceous glands.

Other common sites include:

  • upper back
  • nose
  • scalp

Treatment

The National Eczema Society recommends washing the area every day with a gentle cleanser. In addition, a person should:

  • moisturize daily
  • manage stress levels
  • get plenty of sleep

Sometimes, doctors will recommend a specialized anti-fungal cream. In severe cases, they may suggest steroid or calcineurin inhibitor creams.

Contact dermatitis

Irritants and allergens cause contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis can occur on the eyelids when an irritant or allergen comes into contact with the skin. This can result from skincare products, makeup, and hair dye.

Sometimes, people might touch an irritatant or something they are allergic to, then rub their eyes. This transfers the irritant or allergen to the eyelid.

Treatment

In many cases, the problem will resolve if the person stops using the product that is causing the reaction.

The skin on the eyelids is four times thinner than the skin on the rest of the face. As a result, doctors will recommend mild creams and emollients.

In severe cases, they may suggest steroid or calcineurin inhibitor creams.

If contact dermatitis returns or does not resolve with treatment, a person may need to undergo patch testing to find out which allergen or irritant is the cause.

Blepharitis is inflammation of the skin on the eyelid.

It usually happens when the skin reacts to bacteria that live on the skin. It is most common in people with seborrhoeic dermatitis, but it can affect anyone.

Symptoms include:

  • small, yellow scales around the eyelids
  • itchy eyes
  • a “gritty” feeling in the eye

Treatment

To treat the condition, people can:

  • place a warm compress on the eye
  • gently massage the eyelid
  • use over the counter artificial tears
  • avoid wearing contact lenses until the problem clears up

Learn more about how to treat blepharitis here.

Conjunctivitis, or pinkeye, refers to the inflammation of the conjunctiva. This is the clear, outer covering of the eye.

Allergies, bacteria, and viruses can call cause conjunctivitis. Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are infections and tend to be contagious.

Symptoms include:

  • crusty eyelids
  • crusty eyelashes
  • pink or red in the white part of the eye
  • excess tear production
  • pus or mucus discharge from the eye
  • feeling like there is something in the eye

Learn more about conjunctivitis here.

Treatment

People can treat conjunctivitis at home with a cold compress and artificial tears.

Sometimes, people may need medical treatment, such as antibiotics and antiviral medications.

A person can treat some causes of dry skin around the eyes at home.

Tips include using a warm or cold compress to ease symptoms like itching, and only using gentle cleaning products.

Creams and ointments can help to relieve dry skin.

According to the AAD, ingredients that can be beneficial include:

  • jojoba oil
  • dimethicone
  • glycerin
  • hyaluronic acid
  • lactic acid
  • lanolin
  • mineral oil
  • petrolatum
  • shea butter

The best way to prevent dry skin around the eyes will depend on the cause.

To avoid developing dry skin, people can:

  • use warm, rather than hot water, to wash
  • only use gentle, fragrance-free cleaning products
  • pat the skin dry, rather than rubbing
  • use plenty of moisturizer
  • avoid sitting or standing close to heat sources like fireplaces
  • drink plenty of water

There is no cure for eczema, but people can help to prevent flare-ups by:

  • managing their stress levels
  • getting plenty of sleep
  • avoiding products that irritate the skin
  • avoiding things they are allergic to
  • following the advice of their healthcare team

Anyone who experiences any of the following should speak with a doctor:

  • pain in the eye
  • sensitivity to light
  • blurred vision

People who suspect they may have a form of eczema should also speak with a doctor, as they may require medicated creams and ointments.

Dry skin can happen anywhere on the body, including the skin around the eyes. It is common and not usually anything to worry about. Sometimes, eczema or infections can cause the problem.

A person can treat some causes of dry skin around the eyes at home. In other cases, a person might require medical help. This includes people who have pain in the eye or blurry vision.

In addition, if someone suspects they may have a form of eczema, they should talk with a doctor.