Atopic dermatitis, a form of eczema, is a common skin condition. It affects up to 20 percent of people at some point in their lives, according to Cleveland Clinic. Fortunately, dermatitis is not contagious, but it can be uncomfortable with symptoms of dry, itchy, inflamed, and delicate skin.

This skin condition can show up anywhere on the body, including the eyelids. Your eye area is the thinnest and most delicate skin on the face, and it's not immune to inflammation. Knowing how to treat eyelid dermatitis can help speed up healing and encourage a quick recovery from severely dry, itchy skin.

What Is Eyelid Dermatitis?

Eyelid dermatitis is a very common skin condition characterized by dry, itchy, and irritated skin around the sensitive eye area. There are several types of eyelid dermatitis, including the following:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis: An allergic skin reaction that causes inflammation.

  • Irritant contact dermatitis: Occurs when the outer layer of eyelid skin becomes irritated from a trigger substance.

  • Atopic dermatitis: A form of eczema.

  • Seborrheic dermatitis: Occurs on oily areas of the skin and results in inflamed and flaky skin.

Irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis are the two main types of eyelid dermatitis.

What Are the Symptoms of Eyelid Dermatitis?

You can experience symptoms of eyelid dermatitis on one or both of the eyes. The first symptoms to appear tend to be redness and itching. Symptoms typically improve within one to three days depending on the type and treatment.

Symptoms can include:

  • Dryness

  • Flaky skin

  • Scaly, leathery patches

  • Swelling

  • Rashes

  • Bumps

  • Itching

  • Stinging

  • Burning

  • Redness

What Are the Causes and Risk Factors?

If you suffer from eyelid dermatitis, you're not alone. It's a very common skin concern and has many triggers. Eyelid dermatitis is often caused by a substance that comes into contact with the thin, delicate skin around the eyes, sparking an allergic reaction or irritation.

Causes of irritant contact dermatitis include physical triggers like extreme weather conditions, rubbing, and scratching or irritants like cosmetics, soaps, and chemicals. Causes of allergic contact dermatitis can include allergens found in cosmetics, fragrances, pollen, and more. Other causes include certain medications, eye drops, and dust.

According to Cleveland Clinic, those with any of the following may be at greater risk of developing eyelid dermatitis: sensitive skin, asthma, skin inflammation, weak skin barrier, a history of hay fever, and a history of eczema. Genetics can also increase the risk as certain skin conditions may run in your family.

How to Treat Eyelid Dermatitis

Eyelid dermatitis treatments vary depending on the type, symptoms, and severity. Over-the-counter and prescription treatments can provide relief typically within a few days. Good hygiene can also help prevent and manage eyelid dermatitis.

1. Keep the Eye Area Clean

Keeping your eyelids clean is a core part of good hygiene that can help prevent eyelid dermatitis and encourage quick recovery. Avoid touching, scratching, rubbing, or picking at the eye area as this can exacerbate the symptoms. Always wash your hands before touching any part of your face.

2. Stay Moisturized

Dry, itchy skin is a common symptom of eyelid dermatitis. Using a gentle moisturizer that is suitable for delicate skin can help relieve these symptoms. The EltaMD Moisturizer is suitable for eczema-prone skin and is well tolerated on extremely sensitive skin.

3. Identify and Avoid Triggers

Eyelid dermatitis is usually caused by a trigger substance that causes irritation or an allergic reaction. Identifying and avoiding potential triggers can help prevent and manage eyelid dermatitis. Common triggers include irritants and allergens found in your cosmetics or environment.

When choosing your skin care products, makeup, soaps, and detergent, avoid those that contain potentially triggering ingredients, like fragrance, parabens, formaldehyde, and lanolin. According to the National Eczema Society, harsh ingredients in nail polish, nail polish removers, hair dyes, and perfume sprays are common culprits of dermatitis and eczema around the eyes.

Wherever possible, opt for fragrance-free products that are hypoallergenic and suitable for sensitive skin.

4. Over-the-Counter and Prescription Treatments

Steroid-based creams are often recommended to treat dermatitis. Cortisone creams are available over the counter and can help soothe both redness and itchiness.

For severe symptoms, your doctor may recommend a prescription-strength product applied topically or taken orally. Prescription medications for eyelid dermatitis include steroid creams, pills, or shots.

If symptoms persist, become painful, or you develop an infection, seek advice from a board-certified Dermatologist, who can help you get back to feeling and looking your best.


  • Lacey Muinos

    Lacey is a Southern California-based freelance writer who combines her passions—fitness, health, and a vegan lifestyle—with her work to help readers feel and be their best. Her work has been featured in Healthline, Livestrong, Verywell Fit, Eat This Not That, KinderBeauty, and more.

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