Dry Eyelids: Causes and Treatments

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on November 02, 2022
3 min read

The delicate skin around your eyes can easily be irritated. There are many reasons for dry eyelids and lots of ways you can treat it.

The skin around your eyes is very thin and more sensitive than the skin on the other parts of your body. So, it’s more prone to irritation. Everything from aging to allergens in the environment can make it dry and flaky.

Some common culprits include:

Aging. As you get older, your skin loses moisture and becomes drier. You also lose fat below your skin that's around your eyes. That makes that area extra fragile and more likely to flake and be irritated.

Contact dermatitis. The skin around your eyelids can become dry, red, and itchy when something triggers a reaction. It might be an irritating substance that comes in contact with your skin or an allergic reaction. Some common irritants include:

You can spread the irritant to your eyelids by accident when you touch the trigger, then rub or touch near your eyes. For example, you may get dry, itchy skin after touching your eyes with painted nails. The trigger could be nail polish or polish remover.

Lifestyle choices. Your skin could be dry because of the weather where you live. Skin is usually driest in cold weather. It’s also dry when there's little humidity -- either in the climate or in the air your home. Skin also can dry out when you use a lot of hot water.

Your eyelids can also be dry and flaky because of more serious causes. They can include:

Atopic dermatitis. Also known as eczema, this is a long-lasting condition that gives you red, itchy skin. It’s common in children, but it can happen at any age. You might notice patches of flaky, crusty skin all over your body, especially on your eyelids, as well as your hands, feet, and upper chest.

Eczema usually happens in flares. Skin can return to normal between episodes.

Blepharitis. Usually with this condition, both eyelids get inflamed. Tiny oil glands at the base of your eyelashes clog up. That causes redness, irritation, crustiness, and dryness. Your eyes can be watery and red. The skin around your eyes can be flaky. The specific cause of blepharitis isn’t clear, but it has ties to several conditions including:


Your situation will help determine which treatment is best for you.

If your dryness is because of another condition, talk to your doctor about how to get it under control.

If you have contact dermatitis, learn your triggers and how to avoid them. Also try not to touch your eyelids unless your hands are clean.

If you have eczema, try to avoid triggers and use moisturizer often. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe steroid creams to control itching. They also might recommend antibiotic ointments or creams to fight infection.

If you have blepharitis, warm compresses and gentle eyelid scrubs can ease symptoms. Your doctor might also suggest eyedrops or antibiotics for infection or inflammation.

Lifestyle changes can help soothe your eyelids, too. For example:

  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air inside your home.
  • Take shorter showers or baths, and use warm (not hot) water.
  • Apply moisturizer several times a day, especially after bathing.
  • Use gentle soaps and detergents instead of harsh products that can dry and irritate your skin.