Itchy dry and irritated eyelids are very common but the causes can vary from eyelid eczema, contact allergies to hayfever.
There are relatively few products available for irritated skin around the eye and you have to be very careful what you use in this area as the skin is thin and more sensitive. You can’t just use normal products you would use for skin irritated elsewhere.
The key is to identifying the correct cause of the symptoms and treat it with the correct product. If you treat irritated or swollen eyes or eyelids with the wrong product, it can make them a lot worse.
Here are some common causes itchy eyelids;
Make Up Eye Allergies
The most common cause for eyelid irritation is contact dermatitis from eye cosmetics. Many cosmetics contain irritants (especially those in darker colours and with glitters in). Mascara can also cause inflammation of the eyelid as it’s easy for bacteria to get into mascara bottles and multiply due to the damp and closed environment of the mascara container.
How to treat/prevent make up eye allergies
Never leave make up on over night. Always cleanse all make up off before bed however if your eyelids are irritated avoid using normal make up removers as these contain solvents that can further irritate or eve cause eyelids dermatitis. Use a natural light oil to remove make up or a with a non-chemical non-perfumed cream cleanser for sensitive skin.
Avoid using waterproof mascara as this is tough to remove and means you have to really scrub the eye area which can either trigger a skin reaction or make an existing one worse.
Do not use perfumed eye creams around the eye area.
Replace mascara regularly and avoid dark or glittery eye shadows.
Red, dry and itchy eyelids can also be caused by eczema. Due to the skin around the eye being so sensitive, even if there is no eczema elsewhere on the body, eczema can occur just around the eyes and it here where often sufferers will see the first signs of eczema.
Eyelid eczema is usually accompanied by flaking and drying of the skin to the edge and under the eye too as well as flaking and dryness of the eyebrows.
How to treat Eye Lid Eczema
Prescription corticosteroid eye creams can be prescribed for eyelid eczema, however steroids have been associated with side effects such as increased inner eye pressure (intraocular pressure) leading to glaucoma and damage to the optic nerve. Steroids also have been known to cause the eye’s natural lens to become cloudy, producing cataracts.
Non-steroid alternatives for eye eczema are harder to come by. Certain plant extracts can act in similar ways to steroids and are known as ‘phytosteroids’ but are not associated with the same negative side effects as steroids and are more gentle on the skin so better suited for use around the eye area. The plant extract cardiospermum halicacabum is a phytosteroid that has be studied widely for its beneficial effects on skin irritation and itching.
Hay fever and allergies such as dust mite allergies can cause the eyelids to become red and swollen. The constant watering of the eyes that comes with allergies can cause the skin around the eye to become very dry and irritated. Hay fever also makes the actual eye itchy and so frequent rubbing of the skin around the eyes can also cause irritation and dryness.
How to treat hay fever and allergies
Antihistamines are the most common way to treat hay fever but try to avoid those containing Diphenhydramine, which can dry the eyes out and make itching worse.
While with allergies the eyes themselves are treated, few products are recommended for the dry itchy and sore skin around the eyes. Any eye gels or creams containing plant equivalents to steroids are good for reducing itching, redness and irritation around the eyes.
Placing used cold green tea bags over eyes while sleeping as green tea has a strong anti-inflammatory action and can help ease irritation.
Blepharitis is often mistake for eye eczema but in fact, is a specific eye condition that causes inflammation and infection of the eyelids. It occurs when dirt leads to bacteria in the eyelids. Symptoms include itching, redness and burning of the eyelids and is sometimes accompanied by a sensitivity to light.
How to treat Blepharitis
There is no specific treatments for it and steroids are often not effective for this condition.
More helpful are any eye creams or gels that contain natural and gentle anti-inflammatory ingredients as well as washing the eye regularly with slightly salted water to try and rinse out the bacteria.
Also use natural or OTC eye lubricants if the eye itself is dry. Most doctors will prescribe antibiotic eye drops if the eye becomes infected.
Research also shows that Omega 3 long chain fatty acids help with this condition. Flaxseed Oil is a rich source of Omega 3.
Contact lens solutions
Preservatives in contact lens solutions (in particular Thimerosal) can cause contact dermatitis of the skin around the eye and on the eye lids, causing redness, itching and dryness.
How to treat/prevent contact lens solution eye allergies
Rinse off with warm clean water any contact lens solution that runs over the skin around the eye immediately after putting contact lenses in.
Try to wear glasses at times when you are not out and about.
Apply eye cream or gel with anti irritation and moisturising ingredients straight after installing the lens and only eye concealers that are mostly natural and/or mineral and that contain protective ingredients and are designed specifically for sensitive and irritated skin around the eyes.
Most shampoos contain harsh preservatives and are highly perfumed. When washing shampoo typically runs over the face and across the eyes and can cause mild allergic skin reactions in the delicate skin around the eyes and on the eye lids. In particular anti-dandruff shampoos that contain strong anti-fungal agents are common triggers for skin allergic reactions.
How to treat/prevent shampoo eye allergies
Ideally switch to hair products that are chemical-free and suitable for sensitive or allergy-prone skin.
If using normal shampoos, wash hair separately with hand-held shower head making sure little or no shampoo runs over the face or wear swimming goggles in the shower when washing hair to try and protect eye area from exposure to shampoo suds.
Tie long hair back off the face when sleeping.
Conjunctivitis can be caused by either bacteria or viruses and causes redness of the actual eye itself and itching around the eye and on the eye lids.
In bacterial conjunctivitis, the eyes are often bright red and the eyelids stick together, especially in the morning. Swelling of the eyelids is common due to localised bacterial inflammation.[/quote] A discoloured mucous discharge is often seen.
In viral conjunctivitis there is less redness of the eyes but they take on a glassy appearance and are often running with tears. It’s the constant watering of the eye that causes dryness and itching around the eye.
How to treat/avoid conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis is highly contagious and is very common in children as they catch it from other kids at school but it can easily be then passed on to adult family members. Most doctors will prescribe antibiotic eye drops are prescribed.
Cold sores are caused by the herps simplex virus. Although is commonly assumed cold sores only effect the lips, in fact the virus can also effect the eyes.
The herpes virus also causes chickenpox and shingles which can also affect the eye and cause redness and swelling of the eye lids as well as itchiness around the eye. So, if you have a cold sore and sore eyes, the two may be related.
How to treat herpes eye irritation
Liquorice contains anti-viral agents that are very effective against the herpes virus.
Look out for lip balms containing liquorice and use on the lips and around the eyes to help prevent cold sores. Make sure the balms contain actual liquorice extract and not just liquorice flavouring.
The key cold sore fighting ingredient in liquorice is glycyrrhizic acid (GA). GA specifically targets the genes that are required to maintain the virus in its latent state by interfering with the production of special proteins that feed the infected cells. Published research has shown that liquorice has the ability to weaken the cold sore virus which lies dormant in the skin between outbreaks.
In addition a natural lip balm contaiining a high concentration of GA was found to be effective in a double-blind trial, carried out by the Herpes Viruses Association. It reduced the severity and duration of outbreaks for over 73% of subjects tested and, furthermore, 83% of subjects using the liquorice balm reported experiencing less outbreaks than when using their conventional treatments. While using the liquorice lip balm, testers reported that on average their outbreaks were only half their normal length and the time between outbreaks was much longer.
Try also drinking liquorice tea and wash the eyes with left over cold liquorice tea.
4 quick tips to identify different eye conditions;
If your eye lids are red and flaky and dry and you have flakes in your eyebrows too, it’s most likely to be eye eczema
If your eye itches and is “milky” red, it is most likely an eye allergy.
If you eye burns or stings, it is probably dry eye.
If your eye lids stick in the morning and is red, it is usually a bacterial or viral infection