9 Things That Can Cause Dry Eyelids—and What You Can Do About It

Say goodbye to dry, flaky lids once and for all.

Dry skin can be uncomfortable anywhere on your body, but it can be particularly irksome on your eyelids. For one thing, go-to dry skin solutions—like lotions and creams—are often designed to be kept away from your eyes. Plus, it can be tough to pinpoint why, exactly, your eyelids got dry in the first place. So why do dry eyelids happen, and how can you safely soothe your skin? We talked to a few skin experts to find out.

Eyelid Sensitivity Symptoms

The skin on your eyelids is thinner and more sensitive than the skin on other parts of your body. (This probably comes as no surprise—just touch the skin on your eyelids and the skin on your arms, and you'll be able to feel the difference.) And because this skin is so delicate, it's prone to irritation.

"The skin on the eyelids is one of the thinnest areas on the body," says Christina Weng, MD, dermatologist and founder of Mymiel Skincare. "This makes it more sensitive, in that skincare products and environmental irritants can penetrate more deeply." Dr. Weng adds that this is why eyelids are one of the most common areas where people experience allergic reactions.

If your eyelids are irritated, they might feel dry, flaky, or rough. They might also itch, burn, or sting. These symptoms can range from tedious to severe. But no matter how serious they are, they can be incredibly frustrating.

Common Causes of Dry Eyelids

Environmental Factors

Cold, dry weather can dry out your skin, including the skin on your eyelids. And using lots of hot water—during showers, baths, and your daily skincare routine—can also dry out your skin. "Your eyelid skin can be drier in dry, cold climates where there's little humidity," says Jennifer Wademan, OD. "Additionally, when you use extremely hot water, often it can strip the skin of natural oils, making the eyelids more dry, itchy, and flaky."


As you age, your skin may produce less sebum—an oil that helps moisturize your skin. This tends to happen around age 40, and it can cause your skin to become drier and more sensitive. "Also, the fat around the eyes decreases with age, making the eyelid skin even thinner and more prone to dryness and irritation," Wademan says.

Sun Exposure

Too much sun can burn your skin, leaving it feeling dry and flaky. And since your eyelids are both sensitive and out in the open, they may be particularly susceptible to damage from the sun. "Sun exposure is a big [cause of dry eyelids]," says Carly Rose, OD. "The skin on your eyelids is constantly at risk from assaults from sun exposure."

Contact Dermatitis

If your skin comes into contact with an irritant or allergen, you might experience contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis can cause your skin to become dry, itchy, and irritated. Potential irritants can include things like makeup, sunscreen, perfumes, dust, and more, Wademan says. (Since contact dermatitis is a response to an irritant or allergen, it's temporary, and you can avoid it by staying away from the particular irritant or allergen.)

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a health condition that can cause the skin on your eyelids to become dry and irritated. And though atopic dermatitis can look a lot like contact dermatitis, the two conditions are different. Contact dermatitis is a temporary reaction to an irritant or allergen, while atopic dermatitis is a health condition you can experience on and off throughout your life.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition that typically affects the scalp. But it can affect other areas, too, including the skin on the eyelids. Seborrheic dermatitis is thought to be caused by a specific kind of yeast, and it may flare up on and off throughout your life.


If your eyelids are inflamed, itchy, and lined with dandruff-like scales, you may be experiencing blepharitis. Blepharitis is thought to be caused by bacteria, allergies, or mite infestations, and can be linked to other skin conditions, like rosacea and facial dandruff.


Rosacea is a skin condition that can cause the skin on your face to turn red. And in some cases, it can affect your eyelids—this is called ocular rosacea. And it can cause your eyes to swell, water, burn, or otherwise feel irritated.

Dry Eye

If your eyes aren't producing enough tears, you may have a condition called dry eye. Though dry eye tends to affect the inside of your eyes, it may cause your eyes to get red or irritated—and you might notice that on your eyelids, as well.

How to Treat Dry Eyelids at Home

Identify and avoid irritants

If your dry eyelids are the result of an allergic reaction, figuring out what caused that reaction is key to getting relief. "It's important not just to think about your own products, but also the products used by people around you," Dr. Weng advises. See if you can pinpoint the source of your irritation (a new detergent or perfume?).


Wademen recommends keeping your skin extremely moisturized—especially if you have a skin condition like eczema and want to prevent it from getting worse. Just make sure you're using products that are safe around your eyes and free of potential irritants and allergens.

Wash your eyes and lashes

"In addition to washing your face, you should be cleaning your lids and lashes," Rose says. Talk to your doctor to get product recommendations that will work for you, then make them part of your daily hygiene routine.

Use a warm compress

"Warm compresses are also particularly helpful," Dr. Weng says. She recommends using microwavable compresses because they're easy to reuse and tend to last for a while. Plus, you don't have to worry about dripping water everywhere (like you might with a wet compress).

Stop touching your eyes

"Try not to touch your eyes too much and only when your hands are clean," Wademan says. This is always a good idea, but it can be particularly important when you're dealing with irritation.

Keep hot showers and baths to a minimum

Hot water can dry out your skin, so shorten your baths and showers, and consider using warm water instead of hot water. There's a science to the perfect bath or shower, and the water temperature has a lot to do with it.

Invest in a humidifier

Cold, dry air can dry out your skin, but a humidifier can be a great way to add some moisture to the air in your home. "If your dry eyelids are caused by a dry climate, using a humidifier can help," Wademan says.

When to See a Doctor

You may also want to see an expert—like a dermatologist or an ophthalmologist—to figure out what's causing your dry eyelids and how you can treat them. "If dry eyelids do not resolve with conservative treatment, [if you] develop a rash or breaks in the skin, [or if your eyes] become red or swollen or painful, it's time to see a doctor," Dr. Weng says.

If your dry eyelids are the result of an allergic reaction, for example, your doctor can help pinpoint the allergen and figure out how to avoid it when shopping for skincare products for sensitive skin. If they're caused by an underlying health condition, your doctor will be instrumental in figuring out how to treat them, and that may require a prescription.

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  2. Hou X, Wei Z, Zouboulis CC, et al. Aging in the sebaceous glandFront Cell Dev Biol. 2022;10:909694. doi:10.3389/fcell.2022.909694

  3. MedlinePlus. Contact dermatitis.

  4. MedlinePlus. Atopic dermatitis.

  5. MedlinePlus. Seborrheic dermatitis.

  6. MedlinePlus, Blepharitis. Accessed December 9, 2022.

  7. American Academy of Ophthalmology, Ocular Rosacea. Accessed December 9, 2022.

  8. American Academy of Ophthalmology. What is dry eye?

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