A lot of people suffer from dry eyes. While it is most common in post-menopausal women and people with dry skin, it can happen to anyone, at any age. Unfortunately, this particular condition also often causes dry eyelids, leaving flaky, scaly skin on the eyelids. This in unattractive, irritating and very uncomfortable. There are many over the counter remedies available for dry eyelids, but it is important to speak to a doctor, dermatologist or ophthalmologist as well, just to make sure there isn’t an underlying condition that also needs treating.
Symptoms of Dry Eyelids
A number of symptoms are commonly associated with dry eyelids:
- Discoloration of the skin
Causes of Dry Eyelids
A lot of things can cause dry eyelids. Some of these are significant medical conditions that require medical treatment, such as Sjogren’s syndrome. However, there are many other causes as well, including:
- Hair dyes, particularly if they contain p-Phenylendiamine
- Eyelash curlers, particularly those made of nickel
You may also suffer from a medical condition that can cause dry eyelids, including:
- Dermatitis of the eyelid, which is an allergic reaction to something that touched your eye
- Atopic dermatitis, which is an allergic reaction to an airborne allergen
- Eborrheic dermatitis, which is an allergic reaction to the natural bacteria and oils on the skin
- Blepharitis, which is a chronic condition caused by too many bacteria
Let’s take a look at the top 10 reasons your eyelids are dry.
#1 You React to Ingredients in Your Cosmetic Products
A number of cosmetic ingredients very commonly used in many products have been known to lead to dry eyelids. These include:
- Antioxidants like butylated hydroxytoluene, butylated hydroxyanisole, and/or di-tert-butyl-hydroquinone
- Preservatives, including pheny mercuric acetate, parabens, quaternium-15, imidazolidinyl urea, and/or potassium sorbate
- Pearlescent additives like bismuth oxychloride
- Resins, particularly colophony
- Emollients like propylene glycol and lanolin
- Pigment like nickel
#2 Eyelid Dermatitis
Your hands are filled with various chemicals, like fragrances and lotions. You may not be aware of how often you actually touch your eyes with those same hands. Many people believe they have very clean hands, or simply don’t know that they have certain allergies. For instance, you may be a cook with certain food allergies, a gardener with plant allergies and so on. The most common chemical, however, comes from nail polish. Either way, when these chemicals get to your eye, you can develop dermatitis.
There are many other reasons as to why you may develop eyelid dermatitis. For instance, some people develop it due to scented candles or plug-in air fresheners. Anything that you can smell is something that will settle on your skin. And if your skin is sensitive to that, you may develop dermatitis.
Fragrances and other chemicals can be particularly harsh on the eyes. But so can preservatives. Unfortunately, preservatives – including formaldehyde – are found in many everyday products. A common culprit is found in haircare products, which includes methylchloroisothiazolinone, imidiazolidynil urea and quaternium 15.
Furthermore, you need to be careful about developing eyelid dermatitis because of your soaps, creams, lotions, makeup and more. Eye cosmetics, by contrast, has generally been designed to not have any potential allergenic ingredients. There is one exception, however, which is that most eyeshadows contain metals, and this can cause reactions in certain people.
Last but not least, eyelid dermatitis is not always caused by an allergic reaction. It is possible that it is simply irritated, and this can lead to the skin breaking down. Many people experience this with benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid, tretinoin and other ingredients, often used to treat acne. Usually, you will be able to tell the difference between an allergic reaction and an irritation by the fact that irritations tend to present with red skin that eventually splits.
Blepharitis is actually a medical condition that needs treatment. Three types of blepharitis exist, each with very similar symptoms. This is why you must seek medical attention for a diagnosis and to find appropriate treatment. The table below highlights the different forms of blepharitis below.
|Combination||As it can be difficult to determine exactly which type of blepharitis someone has, most people are diagnosed with a combination.|
#4 Dry Eye Syndrome
Your eyes are covered in a tear film, which contains both water and lubricants. This film is renewed every time you blink. Sometimes, something goes wrong in the tear film. It may produce insufficient oil or water, or the tears may evaporate too quickly, for instance. When this happens, someone has ‘dry eye syndrome’. Often, because dry eye feels irritating, people also develop an inflammation of the lacrimal gland because they rub or touch their eyes. Because less tears are produced while you sleep, many people wake up with dry eyelids and crusty eyes. Treating dry eye syndrome through drops (artificial tears) and ointments (to be used at night), can significantly reduce the symptoms of this problem.
#5 The Environment
Your environment can also contribute significantly to why you have dry eyes. If you live somewhere very dry, with strong winds or, some scientists believe, with a lot of sun exposure, you may also develop dry eyelids. People who live in cities are also more likely to develop these problems, due to the pollution they are exposed to. By having a humidifier in your office, living spaces and bedrooms, you can significantly reduce the sensations of dryness and dry eyelids on the morning.
Sunburn, particularly if you have burned your eyelids or any other part of your face, can be worse for you than you may have thought. The skin around your eyes may dry, leading to dry eyelids. This condition is also commonly seen in welders, who are exposed to very bright lights.
#7 Skin Stress
If the skin around your eyes is stressed, it can lead to dry eyelids. You may, for instance, apply your makeup too harshly, or rub your skin too much. If your makeup brushes are dirty, you are at increased risk of skin stress-induced dry eyelids. Concealer is also a very common culprit.
Psoriasis is a skin condition that essentially means your body produces too many new skin cells. It is not entirely clear why this happens, although it seems that people have certain triggers that lead to a flare-up. While there is no cure for psoriasis, vitamin D supplementation seems to be very beneficial.
#9 Perioral Dermatitis
This is a very serious dermatological condition. If you believe you suffer from this, it is very important that you seek medical attention. If left untreated, it can lead to sores, infections, and scarring. The condition is most common in women and generally caused by poor hygiene.
Finally, there is eczema. Also known as atopic dermatitis, it is a form of skin allergy that can leave patches of the skin red, inflamed and scaly. While it is not common for eczema to happen on the face, it is not unheard of. It is important to seek medical attention from a dermatologist if you do suffer from eczema.
Always remember that dryness around eyes may indicate a serious condition. Pay attention to whether the dryness becomes chronic or the skin gets excessively dry, and visit your doctor in either situation. If you don’t treat it, the dry skin may get significantly worse, so always take care of it as soon as you can.
Resources and References:
- Eyelid Contact Dermatitis – Information on eyelid contact dermatitis. (DermNet NZ)
- Blepharitis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment – Information on blepharitis. (Medical News Today)
- Facts About Dry Eye – Information about dry eyes. (National Eye Insitute)
- What Is Eczema? – Information on eczema. (National Eczema Society)