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What Causes Dry Skin Around the Eyes?

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A young woman sitting at a desk in an office with her laptop and holding her glasses in her left hand as she rubs her eyes

We all know that dry-skin feeling—irritating, scratchy, and tight. Just plain uncomfortable.

Our skin needs water and oil to stay supple, soft, and healthy, but dry skin lacks these essential components. While dry patches can pop up anywhere on the body, the skin around our eyes is thinner, more delicate, lacks oil glands, and can be more susceptible to dryness. 

Various factors can impact the skin around your eyes and cause dryness, from weather and climate to eye conditions and skin care

Dry skin is common but complex. Fortunately, you can do a few things to help refresh your skin and re-introduce hydration. And your eye doctor can help. 

Symptoms of Dry Eye Skin

While everyone is different, dry skin around the eyes can cause symptoms like: 

  • Tightness or discomfort
  • Redness or inflammation
  • Rough, flaky, or peeling skin
  • Skin or eye irritation
  • Stinging or burning
  • More noticeable fine lines or wrinkles
  • Sensitivity to certain products or irritants
  • Cracks

More severe symptoms of dry skin can include: 

  • Deep cracks that bleed
  • Severe irritation
  • Skin infections
  • Swelling
  • Crust over the skin
  • Peeling
  • Eye and skin pain

Why Should I See My Eye Doctor for Dry Skin?

Your eye doctor is an essential member of your healthcare team. They specialize in eye health and have the knowledge and skills to assess the condition of your eyes and surrounding structures. 

With a thorough examination, they can determine if the dry skin around your eyes is specifically related to an eye condition or a symptom of a different underlying issue. They’re here to help care for your eye health, including helping keep the surrounding skin healthy.

Common Causes of Dry Skin Around the Eyes 

Many different conditions can lead to dry skin. Sometimes, dry skin is a simple reaction to the weather or climate—other times, it can be a symptom of a deeper condition. Some common causes of dry skin around the eyes are listed below. 


As we age, our skin can lose its elasticity and produce less natural oils, leading to dryness. Dry skin around and under our eyes can also highlight wrinkles and fine lines. 

For dry skin caused by aging, you may find it useful to use a gentle, hydrating eye cream enriched with fatty acids, humectants, and antioxidants. Look for ingredients like glycerin, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin C


Extreme weather, like cold temperatures, wind, and low humidity, can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to flakiness and irritation. During the winter, you can protect your skin against the harsh environment with a barrier eye cream. You should also avoid rubbing your eyes to prevent irritation and inflammation.


Eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin condition characterized by intense itching and rashes. Skin affected by eczema can become scaly, red, crusted, or hardened. Allergens, stress, and irritants can trigger eczema, but flare-ups can occur even when you’re very carefully managing triggers.

There’s no cure for eczema, but controlling it can involve a careful skin care routine, emollients, and mild topical steroids.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction that occurs when the skin comes in contact with an irritant or allergen. If your eyelids touch something irritating, they can become red, scaly, and swollen. They can thicken, sting, burn, or itch.

Common allergens include fragrances, preservatives, and dyes. Avoiding these ingredients in your skin care and makeup products and taking antihistamines and topical corticosteroids can help relieve the symptoms of contact dermatitis.


Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is an inflammation or infection of the eye’s conjunctiva, the clear membrane covering your eye. Pink eye can cause redness, swelling, irritation, and discharge and also affect the skin around your eyes, leading to dry, flaky, sore skin. 

Treating conjunctivitis requires a proper diagnosis and prescription eye drops or ointments. You should also avoid touching your eyes or sharing makeup and skin care products.


Blepharitis is a common eye condition that can lead to inflammation and irritation of the eyelids. It can disrupt the normal functioning of your meibomian glands, which line your eyelids and are responsible for producing the oily layer of your tears. 

There are 2 primary types of blepharitis: 

The accumulation of bacteria and debris along your eyelids and a lack of oil can cause a cycle of inflammation and dryness that can affect your skin. Blepharitis is a chronic condition with no cure, but symptoms can be managed with a combination of self-care measures and medical interventions

Visit Vector Eye Centre 

Dryness around your eyes can be uncomfortable and painful, but identifying and managing its underlying cause can help alleviate your symptoms. Your eye care team at Vector Eye Centre is here to help. Contact us today to schedule an eye care appointment and get treatment for dry eyes and skin conditions that can lead to dry eye symptoms.

Written by Dr. Jamie Bhamra

Dr. Jamie Bhamra is an ophthalmologist with advanced training in cataract and corneal surgery, including refractive surgery, corneal cross-linking, external disease, ocular surface disease, and dry eye disease. He practices comprehensive ophthalmology in Calgary, Alberta.
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