How to Treat Eczema Around the Eyes
Eczema can be irritating and upsetting enough. It can cause itchy, red, inflamed, sore, scaly and occasionally oozy skin – wherever it is. But when eczema appears around our eyes, it can feel even worse and 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 our skin naturally has folds – such as our elbows and knees and unfortunately our eyelids. Remedies for eye eczema will depend on what’s causing it.
Eyelid eczema isn’t always the result of an allergic reaction. Like all eczema, it can be brought on by dietary intolerances, 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 search for treatments for eczema around the eyes.
Many people with eczema on or near the eye area will worry about using creams around the eyes that are used to treat their eczema flare-ups elsewhere. And quite rightly so. The eyelids and the skin near your eyes is more delicate than the rest of your face and for this reason, treating eczema on eyelids needs a different approach.
So let's take a closer look at how and why the eyelids may be affected by eczema.
What Are the Causes of Eczema Around The Eyes?
There are three main types of eczema - atopic (or allergic) contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis. We go into more detail on each in the section below. People with eczema may also experience the oh-so familiar rash around the eyes, regardless of their form of eczema.
Unfortunately, it can be tricky working out the cause of our 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. This is perhaps the skin around the eyelids is particularly susceptible to itchy, flaky skin.
The most common form of eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis, so let's take a look at the different types in more detail.
Different Types of Dermatitis
Contact dermatitis is caused by an immune reaction to something that you’re allergic to that you’ve used on your skin, in this case, around your eyes. The immune system creates antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) which then causes the itching and irritation of contact dermatitis 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.
Another type, called seborrheic dermatitis affects the pores of the skin that produce the natural skin oil, called sebum. It most commonly affects the scalp and face, and sometimes this kind of eczema can affect the eyelids.
Want to Know What's Causing Your Type of Eczema?
Take this quiz to discover the potential causes behind your eyelid eczema and the simple yet effective lifestyle changes you can take to address them.
Who Suffers From the Symptoms of Eczema Around the Eyes?
If you had eczema as a child, you’re unfortunately more likely to experience eczema elsewhere as an adult, including around the eyes. We’re also more likely to be prone to eye eczema if someone in our family also struggles with it, or we have sensitive skin.
How to Identify Eczema on the Eyelids at Home
It can be tricky to self-diagnose eczema, anywhere on the body, so it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you think you have eye eczema.
But as a general rule, eczema on the eyes can cause:
- Dry, itchy skin on the eyelids and around the eyes
- Itchy skin that feels worse at night
- Small, raised bumps on the skin that contain fluid that can leak if the affected skin is scratched
- Red or brown discolouration on the skin
- Scabbed skin, that can become thick or scaly
- Bleeding, weeping skin
- Red, raw skin caused by scratching
Eczema can become so uncomfortable that it can affect our sleep, causing us to struggle with day to day tasks. If it’s particularly itchy and we scratch it a lot (many people with it, rub their eyes!), the affected skin can become infected, leading to yellow or green pus oozing from the wound, bleeding and open wounds. Infected eczema is more likely in cases of moderate or severe eczema.
Other Conditions Related to Eyelid Eczema
Eczema, especially around the eyes and eye lid, 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 or a pharmacist 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’re 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 to see your doctor or optician.
If you're 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 vision as well as a sensitivity to light. If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms, book an appointment with your optician or doctor straight away.
Blepharitis is a common condition that causes the skin of the eyelid to become inflamed. It can occur in those without eczema but is more commonly seen in those with seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis can affect the face and scalp, as well as the eyelids and eyebrows.
Blepharitis can often be down to an unknown cause, but it can be caused by the bacteria that live naturally on the skin of the eyelid.
Symptoms of blepharitis include:
- Scaling or dandruff in the eyelashes
- Red, puffy, tired looking eyes
- Occasional red scaly skin patches around the nose
Allergic or Contact Dermatitis or Atopic Eczema: What Kind of Eye Eczema Do I Have?
There are three main kinds of eyelid eczema.
Atopic Contact Dermatitis
Symptoms of this kind of contact eczema include red, itchy and often scaly skin. It’s triggered by an exposure to a topical allergen applied to the skin (so not any food or drink that’s been ingested).
Common triggers are makeup (so it might be worth avoiding eyeshadow whilst you treat the affected area) as well as animal dander from pets. If you think your eczema might be caused by an external 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 an eye out for harsh chemicals in products you use on your skin.
Atopic dermatitis is the result of an internal reaction, usually to food, but also to things such as hormonal imbalances and stress.
The Best Topical Remedies: Treatment for Eczema Around the Eyes
The best remedies for eye eczema will depend on the cause of your symptoms - but we know identifying the cause of your symptoms 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 the cure could simply be a case of stopping using it.
Investigate the Products You're Using
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 suddenly become allergic or sensitive to a product you’ve used for many years, too. So reach out to brands to ask or any product changes.
Cut Out Potential Food Intolerances
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 any serious changes to your diet, we would always recommend seeing a dietician who can help ensure you don’t become nutrient deficient.
A quicker way of finding out if you have any food intolerances is by carrying out a food intolerance test. These can be done with home kits and results will be returned within a week.
Cleanse Your Skin Every Night
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 remedies for eye eczema that might prove useful.
How to Treat Eczema and Irritated Skin Around the Eyes
Natural skin soothing products that are safe to use around the eye to calm the irritation caused by eczema can be really helpful. 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. Cotton wool pads soaked in alkaline salt water can also be useful to help get rid of eczema.
Natural Treatment Options For Eczema That Affects 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. 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 to reduce redness and inflammation. Try to find pure cocoa butter as a lot of moisturisers that contain cocoa butter can also contain a lot of harsh chemicals that should be kept away from the 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 that help with the production of new skin cells whilst keeping the eyelids moist. Apply directly 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 to a fine powder and mix with warm water. Apply around the eyes and leave for 30 minutes.
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 the affected areas to reduce redness and inflammation.
All honey, but Manuka in particular, can help stimulate wound healing and has antibacterial properties. For an effective at home salve, try mixing Manuka honey with 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.
How Long Does Eczema Around the Eyes Last?
If you experience atopic dermatitis, when soothed with the right treatment methods for eczema around the eyes for you, the symptoms may start to improve after a couple of days.
However, if your eye eczema is caused by allergic contact dermatitis, it can take a little longer before you start to notice any difference.
If you have a food intolerance that’s causing eczema around your eyes, it can take around a week of avoiding that food until you see any improvements.
Soothe Your Skin: Eczema Treatment with Sönd
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. Meanwhile, our calming, soothing range of skincare products could be just what you need!
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.