Eyelid dermatitis

Eyelid dermatitis is a very common skin disorder. In fact, our eyelids are one of the most sensitive parts of our face due to their structure and function.

Like all facial skin, the skin on our eyelids is always exposed to external aggressors. It is also a lot thinner, making it more susceptible and more easily irritated than the rest of our face.

Our eyelids are prone to different kinds of irritation and the symptoms are usually

  • rash,
  • oedema,
  • itching.

These symptoms can be attributed to different disorders, so it can sometimes be challenging to figure out what triggered them.

Pathological causes

Atopic dermatitis is the most common cause of irritated eyelids. It presents with the classic symptoms of eczema, as well as annoying itching which makes you scratch, triggering a vicious inflammatory circle.

Other dermatological conditions which can affect the eyelids are seborrheic dermatitis and rosacea.

Greasy flakes and red patches typical of seborrheic dermatitis appear on the eyelids.

Rosacea of the eye area, instead, can cause red, weepy eyes, the feeling of having something in your eye, pain and burning, dryness, itching, photosensitivity, blurred vision, telangiectasia of the conjunctiva and the lid margins, a rash on the eyelids and around the eye. Blepharitis, conjunctivitis and irregular eyelid margins can also occur.

Eyelid contact dermatitis

Allergic or irritant contact dermatitis are also very common in the eyelid area. 

As the name suggests, contact dermatitis is an inflammation caused when a substance comes into contact with your skin.

Irritant contact dermatitis (ICD) can be caused by physical or chemical triggers. If you are particularly prone to ICD, your eyelids can be irritated by dry air or very cold temperatures.
Touching your eyes frequently with your hands, something we do unconsciously, especially when we are tired or stressed, can also cause irritation.

There are a number of everyday substances which can trigger ICD in the eye area.

Some cleansers contain surfactants which do not pose a problem to facial skin but when they come into contact with the eyelid, where the skin is thin and sensitive, they can irritate it. This situation is made worse if you do not rinse your eyes thoroughly after cleansing.
Some eye make-up removers can also irritate your lids if not used properly. The surfactants in some make-up removers can cause irritation if they are applied with a cotton disk and then not rinsed off. So always make sure you read the instructions carefully on the products you use.

Allergic contact dermatitis, on the other hand, is caused by a substance you are allergic to. Dermatitis of the eyelids can be triggered by:

  • nickel,
  • fragrances,
  • some preservatives in make-up, skincare products, eye drops or contact lens solutions.

Keep an eye on medicines

Certain medications like antibiotics, antivirals or anti-inflammatories can also cause eyelid dermatitis.

Or it can be triggered by prolonged use of eye drops for glaucoma or some latest-generation biological drugs prescribed to treat skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis.


How to deal with eyelid dermatitis

As we have seen, the causes and effects of eyelid dermatitis are vast. Our eyes play an essential part of our everyday life, so you should never underestimate an irritation in the eye area but seek medical advice immediately. Your doctor will carry out tests to find out what triggered it and will prescribe the most suitable treatment.

Practical advice

Gentle cleansing with a product specially formulated for eyes is fundamental.
Before cleansing, make sure you wash your hands properly and then afterwards dry your eyes carefully without rubbing them.

Alongside any drugs you may be prescribed (or if the irritation is minor and your doctor doesn’t consider it necessary), you can also use specific cosmetic products which:

  • are specially formulated for the eye area;
  • contain soothing active ingredients;
  • contain the three essential lipids for the epidermal barrier (ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids); 
  • have an emollient effect, creating a protective film to help restore balance to the skin underneath.