Why Is the Skin Around My Eyes Dry?

While dry skin is never pleasant, it can be even more irritating when it occurs on the skin around the eyes. In addition, dry skin around the eyes can also be a cause of concern considering how sensitive the skin and our eyes are. We do not want this area to be irritated for long, so determining the cause of the dry skin is crucial for quickly treating and relieving it.

There are various contributors to dry skin around the eyes, some due to allergies while others result from an infection. In most cases, you can treat dry skin around the eyes by drinking more water and avoiding activities that dry out the skin, but a doctor is a valuable resource for more serious cases or those where the above actions do not remedy the dry skin. 

What Does Dryness Around the Eye Mean? 

The skin around the eye is some of the most sensitive in our entire body. This is because of how thin it is, a fact that only becomes more apparent when we consider how easily it wrinkles and shows the veins lying underneath the skin (which is often more prominent in those with lighter-toned skin). 

You can experience dry skin anywhere on your body, and it is all based on a lack of hydrating compounds. When it comes to the skin, two components are essential for its moisture: water and oils. Water allows the skin to remain supple, while the oils that reside on the skin’s surface moisturize the skin and prevent water from leaving it. These ingredients are also essential for allowing the skin to stretch and bounce back, the lack of which can contribute to wrinkles. 

Because of how thin and delicate the skin around the eyes is, it is easier for water to escape, leading to dry skin. 

Symptoms Of Dry Skin Around the Eyes 

Those who experience dry skin around the eyes may notice any of the below symptoms:

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

What Causes Dry Skin Around the Eyes? 

Various situations and conditions can contribute to dry skin around the eyes. Some are environmental, whereas others result from a condition affecting the body. 

Eczema

One of the most common conditions associated with dry skin is eczema, a name used for a group of skin conditions. Eczema is a common condition, with the National Eczema Association estimating that 31 million Americans have some type of eczema. 

There are seven types of eczema, and eczema affecting the eyelids is most common in those who also experience eczema somewhere else on their face. The types of eczema include:

  • atopic dermatitis
  • seborrheic dermatitis
  • contact dermatitis
  • neurodermatitis
  • stasis dermatitis
  • dyshidrotic eczema
  • nummular eczema

While each type of eczema has different triggers, when affecting the skin around the eye they all have similar symptoms of itchy, scaly, or inflamed skin on the eyelid. 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for eczema, so one of the key components of treatment is preventing flare-ups, which can be done by:

  • lowering stress levels
  • avoiding any allergens
  • getting enough sleep
  • avoiding irritating products on the skin

Environment

Just like the rest of your skin, when the environment is too dry, the skin around your eyes can become dry. This is especially common in the colder months when humidity is lower. If your bedroom has low humidity, you may also notice dry skin around the eyes. 

Frequently exposing yourself to hot water, such as when taking a shower or bath, can also lead to dry skin around the eyes. 

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis, more commonly referred to as pink eye, results when the clear, outer covering of the eye called the conjunctiva becomes inflamed. 

There are various causes of this inflammation, including bacteria, viruses, and allergies, and the cause of the inflammation will impact what treatment is most effective. 

Symptoms of pink eye include:

  • crusty eyelids
  • crusty eyelashes
  • watery eyes
  • pink or red eyes
  • mucus or pus discharge from the eye
  • feeling as though something is in the eye

Pink eye can often be treated at home by using eye drops to hydrate the eye and applying a cold compress. However, some people (depending on the cause of their pink eye) may need antibiotics or antiviral medication. 

Blepharitis

Blepharitis occurs when the skin of the eyelid becomes inflamed, usually due to a reaction of the skin to bacteria that lives on it. This condition is most common in those with seborrheic dermatitis (a type of eczema), although anyone can have it. 

Symptoms of blepharitis include:

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

How To Treat Dry Skin Around the Eyes? 

When it comes to treating dry skin around the eyes, following the below tips can help remedy and prevent dry skin in most cases. 

  • moisturize regularly
  • drink plenty of water
  • avoid long, hot showers and baths
  • avoid harsh skincare products
  • refrain from using artificial heat sources that dry out the air
  • use a humidifier

For those who suspect eczema is the cause of their dry skin around the eye, it is best to see a doctor. Once the doctor determines the eczema type, they can create a skincare routine that may consist of topical medications to manage eczema flare-ups and prevent the possibility of eye problems. 

How To Soothe Irritated Skin Around the Eyes? 

Some ingredients that can soothe and moisturize the skin around the eyes include:

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

Is Vaseline Good for Dry Skin Under the Eyes? 

Vaseline, a brand name for petroleum jelly, is very beneficial for dry skin under the eyes because it is a highly hydrating product that also serves as a protective barrier. In addition, unlike many products, Vaseline is gentle and safe enough to use on the delicate under-eye skin. 

Vaseline possesses strong occlusive properties, which allow it to soothe dry and irritated skin, even the thin skin under the eyes. As an occlusive, Vaseline does not add moisture to the face but instead seals existing moisture into the skin, preventing it from escaping. It also serves as a barrier for irritated skin and protects it from the environment. Of all the oils, petroleum jelly is far superior at retaining moisture in the skin. 

How To Get Rid of Dry Eyelids Overnight? 

Depending on what is causing the dry skin, it might not be possible to see full results overnight. However, there are still actions you can take to quickly see improvements in the quality of your skin. 

Use A Humidifier

One culprit of dry skin is a dry environment, which is especially common in the colder months when the air is naturally less humid. It is also common to turn on heating units in the colder months, which can also dry out the air. 

When sleeping, try using a humidifier in your room. This provides your body with hours of more humid air, which may help return moisture to your dry eyelids. 

Apply Vaseline

As discussed previously, Vaseline is an excellent product to apply to the eye area to serve as a protective barrier and retain moisture. However, Vaseline is a very thick product, making it unideal to use during the day. 

To still reap the benefits of Vaseline, try applying it to the skin around the eyes before going to bed. By providing your eyelids with extra protection at night, you may see a dramatic improvement come morning. 

When To See a Doctor? 

The following symptoms warrant a visit with a doctor:

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

If the dry eyelids persist, despite trying the above remedies and suggestions, it is recommended to visit a doctor and determine the cause of the dry skin. 

For those who suspect eczema is the dry skin culprit, speaking with a doctor will allow you to get medicated ointments and creams that can help with flare-ups. 

Get Help from An Online Doctor 

An online doctor, which you can meet with through healthcare apps such as DrHouse, offers a quick and convenient way to discuss the cause of your dry skin and receive medication if needed. All doctors available to meet with through DrHouse are board-certified and qualified to write prescriptions and recommend referrals depending on the cause of your dry skin.  

Key Takeaways 

Compared to the rest of the skin on the body, the skin surrounding the eyes is especially thin and delicate, making it more susceptible to dryness. There are various contributors to dry skin around the eyes, including the environment, eczema, or inflammation/infection. Adopting certain habits, such as avoiding hot water and applying creams and ointment, can help manage most cases of dry skin. 

For those experiencing difficulties in vision or pain in the eye, it is recommended to visit a doctor. Those who suspect their dry skin is due to eczema also benefit from seeing the doctor to determine a skin routine to prevent flare-ups. Online doctors are a helpful resource to conveniently meet with a doctor and receive any treatment plans and prescriptions needed to treat your dry skin around the eyes.

Sources

DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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