Dry Skin Around the Eyes: Common Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment
Dry, itchy skin around the eyes and eyelids can affect your quality of life. Whether it’s due to
chronic skin conditions, allergies, or the simple fact that your skin matures as you do, dry eye skin can be irritating and painful.
There are many causes, and finding the right treatment depends on understanding what’s behind these patches of dry, flaky skin.
Follow along to learn more about the root causes of dryness around the eyes and how to address it when symptoms occur.
8 causes of dry skin around the eyes
The skin around your eyes can develop dryness, scaliness, or itchiness for several reasons. These include dry skin in general, medications, vitamin deficiencies, and certain medical conditions like blepharitis and eczema.
1. Dry skin
Dry, itchy skin is certainly not restricted to the area around and under the eyes – it can develop anywhere on the body.
But the skin around the eyes is especially thin and delicate when compared to skin elsewhere. This makes it more prone to patches of flakiness, redness, and itching.
The skin makes natural oils, and it needs both these and moisture to stay flexible and robust. If something happens in the body that interrupts the supply of these oils and moisture, this can cause problems that present as dry patches under the eyes or on the skin around them.
These dry patches can cause the following effects on the skin:
- skin scales and flakes
- a rough texture
- a feeling as if the skin were burning
- a stinging sensation
- skin peeling away
Blepharitis occurs when the eyelids become inflamed. A person with blepharitis will experience redness, itching, and dryness around the eyes. You may also notice scaly skin under the eyelashes.
Blepharitis can also be an underlying cause of dry eyes. But dry eye syndrome, a condition in which the tear ducts do not produce enough fluids, can lead to cases of blepharitis by causing inflammation.
This isn’t a standalone skin problem. The term eczema describes several skin conditions that occur in over 31 million people across the United States.
People who experience eczema symptoms on their face commonly also experience scaly or itchy skin around the eyes.
Types of eczema that trigger eye symptoms include:
- Atopic dermatitis: Adults with atopic dermatitis often find that eye symptoms develop, including itching, swelling, and darker, thicker skin in the area.
- Contact dermatitis: If an irritating or allergenic substance (like a cosmetic product or hair dye) makes skin contact, it can trigger a reaction that causes extremely dry skin.
- Seborrheic dermatitis: This type of dermatitis affects oil-producing glands around the body, including the very edges of the eyelids (where the lashes grow).
Eczema has links to dry eye syndrome, especially if its effects present on someone’s eyelids.
Folks experiencing the effects of eczema around the eye can improve their comfort levels with lubrication from dry eye drops while managing the progression of eczema symptoms elsewhere on the body.
Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that causes flare-ups of red skin across the face and may also lead to red dryness under the eyes.
Its development has possible links to the immune and nervous systems, but scientists are still unsure as to the underlying causes of rosacea.
When rosacea symptoms affect the skin around the eyes, they can sometimes trigger bouts of dry eye.
5. Taking certain medications
Medications can have adverse effects on the body, even if they’re helping a specific health problem.
Some of them, like statins and diuretics, can cause dry skin under the eyes and elsewhere.
The conjunctiva is the clear outer casing of the eye. When it becomes inflamed due to viruses, bacteria, or allergens, this is known as conjunctivitis or pink eye.
Conjunctivitis can lead to dry eye symptoms, and dry eye can increase a person’s risk for conjunctivitis. Both can affect the skin around the eye, creating a painful, irritating cycle.
7. Temperature and air humidity
Colder weather increases the risk of dry, cracked skin on exposed areas. Low temperatures generally mean that the air is drier, which draws moisture out of the skin.
Although it’s possible to wrap other areas of the body to retain warmth, covering the eyes with a scarf is hardly sound health advice. As the skin around the eyes generally remains exposed, cold weather can increase the risk of dry skin in this part of the face.
The summer months can be equally unkind to the skin under and around your eyes, and that’s not due to sunburn, either. Folks who overexpose themselves to air conditioning during the summertime mind find that the dry air dehydrates their skin.
8. Nutrient deficiency
The vitamins and minerals you consume connect deeply with your skin health. Not getting enough of certain micronutrients can lead to dry skin and other dermatological problems.
A 2015 review suggests that deficiencies of vitamin C and calcium can lead to dry skin.
A case study from the same year describes a woman presenting with itchy eyes — only to find that her blood serum levels of vitamin A are severely low. Once vitamin A intake was restored through supplementation, her itchy eye symptoms resolved.
Vitamin D deficiency also showed links with dry skin in an earlier review of studies from 2012, and skin dryness is a symptom of vitamin A deficiency.
Can having dry eyes cause dry skin around the eyes?
While having dry skin around your eyes and dry eyes are two different (although equally frustrating) health problems, there’s a link between them.
Research has found a correlation between dry eye and dry skin. It’s likely that people whose eyes are dry will find that their skin follows suit and vice versa.
Likewise, people with chronic skin conditions like eczema and rosacea might experience dry eye syndrome as a complication.
For this reason, taking steps to manage dry eyes can provide benefits beyond the eyelids. Specialized eye drop can help reduce the impact of this irritating condition on day-to-day life.
Using drops to lubricate your eyes might reduce your risk for related infections like conjunctivitis. Eye drops are also an affordable, effective way to manage the possible eye symptoms of skin conditions with links to dry eye.
Common risk factors of dry skin around the eyes
Some factors make it more likely that people will experience under-eye dryness and skin symptoms around the eyes, including:
- being over 40 years of age
- skin that is black, brown, or fair rather than a medium tone like olive skin
- deficiency of zinc, iron, niacin, or vitamins A and D
- tobacco smoking
- kidney disease and dialysis treatment
- thyroid problems
- receiving chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy to treat cancers
- carrying HIV, even for folks receiving antiretroviral treatment
Home remedies for dry skin around the eyes
Itchy skin under the eyes isn’t usually a cause for medical concern, and you can take positive steps to manage the discomfort at home.
For itching around the eyes
Applying a cold or warm compress to the area can help soothe some of the itchiness around the area.
Replacing the lotions in a skincare routine with creams and ointments can help ease symptoms of dry skin around the eyes. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends choosing products that have at least one of the following listed in its ingredients:
- jojoba oil
- hyaluronic acid
- lactic acid
- mineral oil
- shea butter[a]
For dry eye
People who regularly experience dry skin and dry eye syndrome at the same time can use dry eye drops to stimulate the tear ducts and lubricate the eyes.
When to have a professional treat dry skin around the eyes
Dry skin around the eyes isn’t a life-threatening condition. However, it’s important to seek consultation with a healthcare professional if home remedies aren’t effective or if you experience the following symptoms:
- eye pain
- finding light painful or disruptive
- blurry vision
If the dry skin has links to a condition like eczema, a doctor might need to prescribe ointments and creams that contain medications.
Can you prevent dry skin around the eyes?
It’s possible to reduce the risk of experiencing dry skin in your eye area.
There are certain steps you can add to your daily routine to help keep skin moist and strong, including:
- avoiding washing the face with water of extreme temperatures
- sticking to fragrance-free cosmetics and products that are gentle on the skin
- lightly dabbing the skin dry instead of applying pressure or rubbing
- using moisturizer products
- not spending too long sitting near heat sources or air conditioning units
- staying hydrated
Preventing eczema flares
Eczema is a chronic condition without a cure, but remembering the following can help people reduce their risk of flare-ups:
- stress relief (as stress can be an eczema trigger)
- maintaining a regular sleep cycle
- avoiding irritants and allergens
- following a healthcare professional’s recommendations and using medicated creams or ointments as prescribed
Dry skin around the eyes can be painful and irritating. This skin problem has links to other health problems, like eczema, conjunctivitis, and dry eye.
However, dry skin is manageable through creams, ointments, and lifestyle adjustments.
If you live with a condition like eczema that can lead to dry eye, or you struggle with its effects, eye drop treatments offer a rapid, convenient solution that helps you reduce the risk of related health concerns.
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