Eczema is bad enough. It’s itchy, red, inflamed, scaly and occasionally oozy – wherever it is. But when eczema appears around our eyes, all those things feel magnified, plus, it can leave us feeling embarrassed and less than confident.
So, why does eczema form around the eyes in the first place? Eczema – or atopic dermatitis – is a chronic skin condition that thrives in places where are skin naturally has folds – such as elbows, knees and unfortunately eyelids. Often assumed to be eyelid atopic dermatitis, eyelid eczema isn’t always the result of an allergic reaction. Like all eczema, it can be brought on by a dietary intolerance, stress, environmental factors and even stress.
When treating eyelid eczema, it’s important to identify what kind you have. This will help you get a better understanding of your specific triggers and shape how best to manage your eczema care.
What can cause eczema around the eyes?
There are three main types of eyelid eczema - atopic (or allergic) contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis. We go into more detail on each in the section below.
Unfortunately, it can be tricky working out the cause of your symptoms. The eyes are prone to developing eczema because the skin around the eyes is very thin, with a rich blood flow and very little fat.
Atopic contact dermatitis is caused by an immune reaction to something that you’re allergic to that you’ve used around your eyes. The immune system creates antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) which then causes the itching and irritation of eczema around the eyes.
Atopic dermatitis is usually caused by something internal, such as something you’ve eaten that you’re allergic to, that causes the same symptoms as atopic contact dermatitis.
Irritant contact dermatitis also causes the same symptoms due to something you’ve used around the eyes, but instead of it being an allergen that you’re allergic to, it’s an irritant.
Eyelid Eczema Related conditions
Eczema, especially around the eyes can lead to a handful of other conditions, so it’s important to know what they are and what symptoms you should be looking out for.
The first is Pink Eye, or conjunctivitis. If you have extremely sensitive skin around the eyes, noticeable redness, swelling of the eyelids and discharge, you may have conjunctivitis. If so, it’s important not to touch your eyes too much and see a doctor as soon as possible. Conjunctivitis isn’t usually too serious, but it is uncomfortable and contagious, so should be treated quickly.
Next is Keratitis. If you are noticing a heightened sensitivity to light, grittiness in your eye, chronic eye pain or blurred vision, it could be keratitis. Keratitis is when the protective outer layer of your eye becomes irritated or inflamed. Again, if you have any of the above symptoms, go and see your doctor.
Finally, if you are prone to eczema around the eyes, you need to be looking out for the symptoms of Keratoconus. This is when your cornea begins to change shape and, as a result, you start to experience blurry or distorted vison as well as a sensitivity to light. If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, book and appointment with your optician or doctor.
What Kind of Eczema do You Have?
There are three main kinds of eyelid eczema.
- Atopic Contact Dermatitis – Symptoms of this kind of eczema include red, itchy and often scaly skin. ACD is triggered by an exposure to a topical allergen (not food or drink). Common triggers are makeup (so it might be worth avoiding eyeshadow whilst you treat the affected are) as well as animal dander from pets. If you think your eczema might be caused by an eternal allergen, arrange a patch test with your doctor.
- Irritant Contact Dermatitis – This kind of eczema is triggered by contact with chemicals, solvents and adhesives (such as eyelash glue). The symptoms are the same as Atopic Contact Dermatitis but keep out an eye out for harsh chemicals in products you use on your skin.
- Atopic Dermatitis – Atopic Dermatitis is the result of an internal reactions, usually to food, but also things like hormone imbalance and stress.
How to treat eczema around the eyes
Your best course of action for treating eczema around the eyes is to identify the cause of your symptoms. Which we know, isn’t always easy! If your symptoms are new, and you’ve recently started using something new around your eyes, such as an eye cream or mascara, then it could simply be a case of stopping using it.
But if you can’t think of anything new that could be causing your symptoms, then it might help to stop using one product at a time, to see if you can identify the cause. Some product manufacturers change their formulations, meaning that you could become allergic or sensitive to a product you’ve used for many years.
If you suspect it could be something you’re eating, embarking on a food elimination diet could help. If in doubt, consult a dietician who can help ensure you don’t become nutrient deficient.
Removing makeup each night and cleansing your face twice a day using a cleanser designed with stressed-out skin in mind will help to keep your skin in the healthiest condition.
There are also natural products and remedies you can use to soothe eczema around the eyes.
How to soothe irritated skin around eyes
Natural skin soothing products that are safe to use around the eye to calm the irritation caused by eczema can be useful. These include cucumber slices, used, cold tea bags (green tea is best) and a homemade mix of water or milk soaked oats mixed with honey.
Natural treatment for eczema around the eyes
As well as soothing the skin, there are also plenty of natural treatments that you can try to see which one helps your symptoms the most.
Good ingredients for eczema around the eyes
Because the skin around your eyes is particularly thin and sensitive, we would always recommend avoiding harsh chemicals. We’ve put together some natural treatments that you might like to try.
Pure cocoa butter is a gentle natural moisturiser. It can also help reduce redness and inflammation. Try and find the pure stuff as lot of moisturisers that contain coco butter can also contain a lot of harsh chemicals that should be kept away from our eyes. Apply whenever your eyes feel particularly dry or irritated.
Shea Butter is a great source of Vitamins A and E as well as keratin. These help with the production of new skin cells whilst keeping your eyelids moist. Apply straight to the affected areas twice a day for the best results.
Oatmeal not only soothes the skin but is also a natural cleanser. Just blend 2 cups of oatmeal until they are a fine powder and mix with warm water. Apply around the eyes and leave for thirty minutes.
For many people, aloe Vera is the go- to for both eczema and scar treatment. Aloe vera has proven antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Meaning it treats both the condition itself as well as lightening the red or dark scars it leaves behind.
Carry around some aloe vera gel and apply it directly to the affected areas every 3-4 hours.
It’s not just great for cooking. Packed with Vitamins A and C, when mixed with water or milk, nutmeg powder forms a thick paste that can be applied to your affected areas to reduce redness, inflammation, and alleviate redness.
All honey, but Manuka in particular can help stimulate wound healing and has anti-bacterial properties. For an effective at home salve, try mixing some manuka honey with some manuka oil (two parts honey to one-part oil) and massaging directly onto your affected areas for 2-3 minutes before rinsing with warm water.
If you think you might have Atopic Dermatitis, cutting out certain food groups and slowly reintroducing them is a good way of treating the root cause of your skin condition. Common dietary triggers like wheat, gluten and dairy are good places to start. Cut out one at a time and wait a few weeks to observe results. Before making and serious changes to your diet, we would always recommend seeing a medical professional for advice.
So, whilst eyelid eczema can really get you down, don’t let it stress you out. Take action. Try out some of the above and figure out what works for you and your skin.