An Overview of Dry Skin Under Eyes: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment Methods

Whether due to aging, a skin condition like eczema, or the weather, having dry skin under the eyes can not only be irritating, but painful as well.

Read more about having dry skin under your eyes, and its causes, in addition to prevention and treatment methods.

Close-up of a woman's eyes.

PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou / Getty Images

Dry Skin Under the Eyes

Anyone can get dry skin, anywhere on the body. Skin needs water and oils that the body produces naturally to stay healthy and elastic. If this moisture is lacking for some reason, the skin can dry out. This usually results in itchy or scaly skin, feelings of tightness or stinging, or even peeling. It can be uncomfortable, and for some people, even make them self-conscious if the skin takes on a scaly or rough appearance, or if they scratch enough to cause bleeding.

The skin around the eyes is especially thin and sensitive, so when dry skin occurs here, it can be painful or bothersome. If there is a medical condition behind the dry skin, it can even affect the eyes and vision.

Causes

There are a variety of causes of dry skin under the eyes. Knowing what is causing the dryness is important, as conditions are treated differently.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is a common condition that can cause red, dry, swollen, and itchy eyelids, dry eyes, and crusty flakes on the eyelashes. It’s not contagious, and typically isn’t damaging to the eyes. If oil ducts get clogged, it can cause dry skin under and around the eyes. This can be treated by cleaning your eyelids regularly.

It often doesn’t completely go away, but you can manage the symptoms. Your dermatologist, ophthalmologist, or other healthcare providers can discuss with you what may be causing your blepharitis.

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis, also called pink eye, is when the whites of the eye turn pinkish, usually because of viruses, bacteria, or allergens. It may also be very itchy and can cause swelling of the eyelids, more tears, crusting of eyelids or eyelashes, and eye discharge.

Cold compresses and artificial tears can help, but your healthcare provider can evaluate you to see if the conjunctivitis is bacterial or viral. If caused by bacteria, they may need to prescribe an antibiotic.

Eczema

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, can occur anywhere, including under and around the eyes. It usually occurs more often in those who have eczema in other places as well. This can be especially bothersome because the skin around the eyes is so thin and sensitive, which makes it more likely to develop things like an irritant and allergic contact dermatitis.

Avoiding any known irritants or allergens can minimize the risk of dermatitis. Topical treatments like creams or steroids may be used to treat this eczema. More serious forms may require oral steroids or other immunologic drugs.

Ocular Rosacea

Rosacea can occur in and around the eyes and include things like swollen or red eyelids, bloodshot eyes, conjunctivitis, crusty eyelids, and itching. If not treated, it can affect the eyes.

Treatment can include warm compresses, an eye cleanser, and eye drops/medication. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe an antibiotic.

Other Reasons

There are other, more general causes for dry skin, especially around the eyes. These causes include: 

  • Being middle age or older: less sebum, which keeps the skin soft, is produced
  • People with very dark or very fair skin are more likely to have dry skin than those with a medium complexion
  • Medications like statins or diuretics
  • Cold outdoor temperatures
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiencies
  • Undergoing dialysis
  • HIV
  • Diabetes, thyroid, or kidney disease

Symptoms of Dry Skin Around the Eyes

The skin around the eyes is thinner than other skin on your body, and so it may get drier more easily. Common symptoms of dry skin include:

  • More noticeable fine lines
  • Itchy skin
  • Flakes or rough texture
  • Cracks in the skin
  • Skin may sting or burn
  • May look wrinkled

Management and Prevention

Depending on what is causing the dry skin around your eyes, the specific treatment may depend on the underlying condition. Your dermatologist and/or eye doctor may have specific topical medications or treatments that they require, and certain treatment plans you should follow. Always follow their guidelines first when you are under their care.

Taking care of the skin around your eyes can help prevent and manage any dry skin that might arise. Things you can do include:

  • Look at the products you use: do they irritate your skin? Are they filled with chemicals or irritants? Are you using harsh products or too many products, too often?
  • Follow a good skincare routine: wash your face twice daily with a mild, soap-free cleanser and use an oil-free moisturizer
  • Look for hypoallergenic makeup products to minimize allergic reactions
  • Use sunscreen
  • Take your makeup off before going to bed
  • Be aware of rubbing under your eyes
  • Stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet, as this affects skin health

Too much sun exposure or smoking can also cause dry skin. Minimizing your sun tanning, using sunscreen regularly, and quitting smoking can all help your skin stay healthy.

Home Remedies

There are things you can do at home to reduce dry skin and to help treat it. Things you can do at home include:

  • Use warm instead of hot water; this helps to keep from drying out your skin
  • Use a fragrance-free cleanser
  • Blot with a towel instead of scraping
  • Use moisturizer right after drying off the skin, to trap the existing moisture in the skin
  • Ointments or creams are better for moisture than lotions
  • Choose products labeled “gentle” and fragrance-free when possible
  • A humidifier can help put moisture into the air, especially in your bedroom while you sleep

If you are not allergic, these ingredients in creams or ointments can be helpful:

If you have a specific medical condition like the ones listed above that is causing dry skin, talk with your healthcare provider before using any home remedies. They might have specific suggestions for you.

When to Seek Professional Treatment

If nothing is helping with the dryness around your eyes, see your healthcare provider or a dermatologist. If you notice anything out of the ordinary with your eyes or vision or start having any problems with your eyes, see your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Treatment may be necessary to avoid any eye or vision problems.

Summary

Dry skin can be uncomfortable, and if it gets very bad, even painful. Because the skin around the eyes is so thin, dry skin can be especially irritating here, and even affect the eyes. Even if you don’t have a clinical diagnosis of a skin disorder, there are things you can do to minimize dry skin and help prevent and/or treat it at home, like using gentler products, moisturizing, and lifestyle changes like avoiding excess sun and smoking. If nothing is helping, see your healthcare provider. They can help you manage it so that it doesn’t get worse and affect your eyes.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you get rid of dry skin around the eyes quickly?

    While there is no quick and dirty way to get rid of dry skin, you can start by re-evaluating the products you use, and choosing ones that are gentle on the skin, and fragrance-free. This minimizes any allergens or irritants. A good moisturizer will be helpful as well—choose an ointment or cream over lotion. After you shower or wash your face, put the moisturizer on as soon as possible, to trap the water in your skin.

  • How long does dry skin under eyes last?

    Once you start treating it, you’ll see improvements and healing in about two weeks or so. If you have a medical condition causing dry skin, this may vary, depending on the severity of the condition and the treatment plan your provider has developed.

  • Will dry skin cause eye bags under the eyes?

    Dry skin doesn’t typically cause bags under the eyes. Common causes are aging since the skin loses elasticity and fat shifts, genetics, lifestyle habits like poor sleeping and smoking, and different conditions like allergies or thyroid conditions may cause under-eye bags.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Eye Institute. Blepharitis.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Conjunctivitis (pink eye): Causes.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Conjunctivitis (pink eye): Symptoms.

  4. National Eczema Society. Eczema around the eyes.

  5. National Eczema Society. Treatments for eczema.

  6. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Rosacea treatment: Eye problems.

  7. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Dry skin: Who gets and causes.

  8. NIH News In Health. Keep your skin healthy.

  9. National Institutes of Health. Skin care and aging.

  10. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Dermatologists' top tips for relieving dry skin.