A person may experience dry patches of skin around the eyes or under the eyes due to aging or the weather. It may also occur due to various skin conditions, such as eczema, contact dermatitis, or conjunctivitis.
This article discusses some common causes for patches of dry skin around the eyes, their associated symptoms, and treatment options.
It also highlights some useful home remedies and prevention strategies and explains when it is a good idea to speak with a doctor.
Patches of dry skin can develop anywhere on the body. This includes the skin around the eyes, which is thinner and more delicate than skin elsewhere.
The skin needs water and oils that it makes naturally to stay soft, supple, and stretchy. The skin can become dry if the body does not get the oils or water it needs.
Typical symptoms include:
- patches of itchy or scaly skin
- flaky skin
- rough skin
- stinging or burning
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 years
- 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
- who have brown, black, or fair skin, as opposed to a medium complexion
Additionally, some medications, including statins and diuretics, can cause excessively dry skin.
Dry skin is common and not usually anything to worry about.
To treat dry skin, a person can try:
- ensuring they drink plenty of water
- moisturizing regularly
- avoiding harsh skin care products
- avoiding long, hot showers and baths
- avoiding artificial heat sources that dry out the air
Eczema is the name for a group of skin conditions. The condition is 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 with eczema elsewhere on their face.
A person may experience itchy, inflamed, or scaly skin on the eyelid.
The following sections outline some types of eczema.
Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema. The AAD notes that it often affects 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.
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 moisturizers, and topical medications, such as corticosteroids and immunomodulators.
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 many oil-producing glands, or sebaceous glands.
Other common sites include:
- upper back
The National Eczema Society recommends washing the area daily with a gentle cleanser. In addition, a person may try:
Sometimes, doctors will recommend a specialized antifungal cream. In severe cases, they may suggest steroid or calcineurin inhibitor creams.
Learn about natural remedies for seborrheic 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 skin care products, makeup, and hair dye.
Sometimes, people might touch an irritant or something they are allergic to and then rub their eyes. This transfers the irritant or allergen to the eyelid.
The problem will often resolve if the person stops using the product 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 can undergo patch testing to determine which allergen or irritant is the cause.
Read about common triggers of contact dermatitis.
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.
- small, yellow scales around the eyelids
- itchy eyes
- a “gritty” feeling in the eye
To treat the condition, people can try:
- placing a warm compress on the eye
- gently massaging the eyelid
- using over-the-counter artificial tears
- avoiding wearing contact lenses until the problem clears up
Learn more about how to treat blepharitis.
Conjunctivitis, or pinkeye, refers to the inflammation of the conjunctiva. This is the clear outer covering of the eye.
Allergies, bacteria, and viruses can all cause conjunctivitis. Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are infections and tend to be contagious.
- crusty eyelids and 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
People can treat conjunctivitis at home with a cold compress and artificial tears.
The best way to help prevent patches of dry skin around the eyes will depend on the cause.
People may be able to avoid developing dry skin by:
- washing with warm water rather than hot water
- using only gentle, fragrance-free cleaning products
- patting the skin dry rather than rubbing
- using plenty of moisturizer within a few minutes of washing and drying off
- avoiding sitting or standing close to heat sources such as fireplaces
- drinking plenty of water
There is no cure for eczema, but people can help 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 the following issues should speak with a doctor:
- pain in the eye
- sensitivity to light
- blurred vision
People who suspect they have eczema should also speak with a doctor, as they may require medicated creams and ointments.
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about dry skin around the eyes.
How do you treat dry skin around the eyes?
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 such as itching and only using gentle cleansing products.
Creams and ointments can help relieve dry skin.
According to the AAD, ingredients that can be beneficial include:
If home remedies do not improve symptoms, talk with a doctor or dermatologist who may recommend medications.
What causes dry skin around the eyes?
Eczema, blepharitis, and conjunctivitis are common causes of dry skin around the eyes. Treating these underlying conditions will often reduce or resolve symptoms.
Dehydration and some deficiencies can also cause dry skin, which may affect the skin around the eyes.
For example, people with dry skin may have a deficiency in:
- vitamin D
- vitamin A
Patches of dry skin can occur anywhere on the body, including 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.