Dry Skin Around The Eyes: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
Table of Contents:
- What is Dry Skin, and Why Does It Happen Around Your Eyes?
- Is Dry Skin the Same as Dehydrated Skin?
- The Causes of Dry Skin Around the Eyes
- How to Treat Dry Skin Around the Eyes
- Medical Treatments for Skin Dryness Around the Eyes
- Home Remedies for Skin Dryness Around the Eyes
- How to Prevent Skin Dryness
The area around your eyes is very thin and delicate, so it’s common for your skin to look dry. This is due to several factors, such as the nature of the skin morphology around this area, the fine surface, and the relatively fewer sebaceous glands around the eyes. On top of that, aging, climatic conditions, and excessive washing can also dry your skin.1,2
This article will explain the leading causes of skin dryness around the eyes and eyelids, what symptoms you should watch out for as part of your skincare routine, and the best medical treatments and home remedies you can use to deal with dry skin.
The key components of healthy, smooth-looking skin are water and lipids.
Water is essential for life. Skin tissues (dermis & epidermis) contain almost 80% of water, and it’s this moisture content that allows for essential nutrients and inorganic components to pass into the epidermis layer.3 If there’s a disturbance to the water supply, or it just evaporates too quickly, your upper skin layer can look dry and scaly.
Producing too little sebum (a natural skin conditioner, moisturizer, and emollient) can also contribute to dryness. Sebum can help lubricate your skin and prevent water loss, so if you don’t have enough of it, this can also contribute to dryness.
In normal and hydrated skin, dead cells slough off naturally. However, if you have dry or parched skin, dead cells remain attached to it, an accumulation that appears as scales. This is because this area is very thin and sensitive, so it suffers the most due to excessive water loss.
Although dry skin and dehydrated skin seem to describe the same thing, the two terms cover slightly different areas. The main difference has to do with the reasons behind the issue: Dry skin can be caused by excessive moisture loss and less sebum lubrication. Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, has to do exclusively with a lack of water supply.
There are several factors that can contribute to having dry skin around your eyes. Some are linked to what we could consider everyday activities (like using harsh cleaning products or improper makeup practices), but there’s a little more to this issue. So, let’s go through the causes of dry skin around the eyes in a little more detail.
- Climatic conditions and heat: Extremely hot or cold weather, temperature, and humidity can all contribute to making your skin drier. Central heating and fireplaces can also dry your skin and make it look parched.
- Aging: As you age, your skin produces fewer oils capable of retaining water - which results in your skin feeling more dry and flaky.
- Harsh skincare ingredients and exposure to irritants: Many skincare products, as well as soaps and shampoos, have synthetic detergents or surfactants (surface-active agents that reduce surface tension) that are formulated to remove oil and can dry your skin.
- Improper makeup practices: Certain makeup practices can make your skin more prone to dryness, too, especially if the products you use contain bacteria.
- Harsh rubbing and using hot water: Because the skin around your eyes is so delicate, harsh rubbing and scrubbing can disturb the skin tissues and cause dryness, redness and even itchiness.
- Crying: Although crying can reduce stress, it’s also detrimental to your skin’s health. This is because the salt in tears can draw moisture out of the top layer and dehydrate your skin.
- Excessive washing: Taking long baths or showers can remove natural oils from your skin and also contribute to dryness.
- Repeated chemical exfoliation: If you exfoliate too frequently (for instance, more than twice a week), eventually, your complexion can become flaky and dry.
- Skin conditions and medical treatments: If you have skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, or you’re undergoing treatments or taking certain medications, you might also be more likely to develop a dry skin or flaky skin issue.
There are several things you can do to combat dry skin or parched skin around your eyes and on your eyelids. On the one hand, you have medical treatments, and on the other, home remedies.
One of the most common treatments for dry skin around your eyes and eyelids is based on topical corticosteroids. These steroid medicines can be applied topically and are available in several different forms, such as creams, gels, lotions, ointments, mousses, solutions, and bandages.
Although most people can use corticosteroids safely, they are not recommended if you have infected skin or certain skin conditions like rosacea, skin ulcers, or acne. It’s always a good idea to ask your doctor before you start any medical treatment to treat skin dryness.
Because dry skin is, in most cases, caused by environmental factors, there are several home remedies you can try to deal with this issue. For example:
- Natural oils and butter: Many natural oils, such as jojoba oil or shea butter, have natural emollient properties that can fill the spaces between the skin cells, moisturizing the area around your eyes and eyelids and helping you achieve a smoother surface.4 Another good option frequently recommended by dermatologists is petroleum jelly, which is also an occlusive.
- Humectants and moisturizers: Humectants, glycerin, urea, propanediol, betaine, and natural moisturizing factor NMF, are great for maintaining adequate skin hydration because they bind water and give the skin around your eyes more elasticity.5
- Essential oils: Essential oils can help soothe and nurture your skin, so they are a good home remedy to apply before your usual moisturizer. For example, you can use frankincense, which can smoothen lines and also has astringent properties.
- Aloe Vera gel: Aloe Vera is made of 80% water and has many nutrients and minerals that can help your skin remain soft. It’s also safe for everyday use.
- Vitamin E oil and green tea bags: Although vitamin E is not a hydrating or moisturizing agent, it can nonetheless prevent oxidation and further damage to tissues. Green tea is packed with vitamin E, so you can use tea bags to deal with dryness around your eyes.
- Sunscreen: Some facial sunscreens can protect and soothe sensitive and dry skin (and they all cover against harmful UV light, which can stress your skin’s moisture barrier). Be aware, though, that some chemical sunscreens can be proponents of irritations. Instead, try to use sun-sticks or mineral sunscreens and wear sunglasses to protect this area of your face.
If you want to keep track of the products you’re using and how they might be causing dry skin around your eyes (and share your routine with others) you should try our Inventory Feature
While many of these at-home remedies can help you deal with dry skin, it’s important to reach out to a dermatologist or healthcare provider if your symptoms don’t improve or become worse.
Prevention is always better than cure. If you want to help your skin retain moisture, there are some simple changes you can make to your regimen and habits.
For instance, make sure you keep a healthy diet (with lots of foods high in vitamins A, C, D, and E, as well as selenium and zinc), and always remove your makeup before going to sleep. Avoid formulations containing synthetic detergents, synthetic fragrances, and drying alcohols, and try not to touch your skin too much. Of course, doing your best to keep stress at bay is also helpful!
It’s not uncommon for the skin around your eyes and on your eyelids to feel dry and flaky. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to prevent and treat this issue - from making some simple lifestyle changes to applying topical corticoids and using natural emollients like natural oils and butter.
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- Lintzeri, D.; Karimian, N.; Blume‐Peytavi, U.; Kottner, J., Epidermal thickness in healthy humans: a systematic review and meta‐analysis. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology 2022, 36 (8), 1191-1200.
- Ha, R. Y.; Nojima, K.; Adams Jr, W. P.; Brown, S. A., Analysis of facial skin thickness: defining the relative thickness index. Plastic and reconstructive surgery 2005, 115 (6), 1769-1773.
- SHAI, A., Handbook of cosmetic skin care. 2015.
- Voegeli, D., The role of emollients in the care of patients with dry skin. Nursing standard 2007, 22 (7).
- Yamada, T.; Habuka, A.; Hatta, I., Moisturizing mechanism of glycerol and diglycerol on human stratum corneum studied by synchrotron X‐ray diffraction. Inter. J. of Cosmet. Sci 2021, 43 (1), 38-47.