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What Causes Eyelid Dermatitis?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Eyelid dermatitis is caused by an irritant on or around the eyelid that causes the immune system to react. It can also be the result of an autoimmune problem, where the immune system starts attacking the body's own tissue by mistake. Treatment of eyelid dermatitis involves providing medications to ease the itching and irritation in the short term, and finding out what the irritant was so it can be avoided in the long term.

Symptoms of eyelid dermatitis include swelling, redness, puffiness, and itching. The eyelid may feel tender to the touch and it can be difficult to fully open or close the eye, depending on the nature of the irritation. Immediate treatment can include cool compresses and gentle washes to keep the eye clean and dry. People should avoid using eye makeup while the eyelid heals. If they will be in environments where particulates and other irritants are present, even if they don't normally react to them, they should wear eye protection, as tender eyelid may react and grow more inflamed.

One thing to be aware of with irritants and allergens is that sometimes people develop an immune reaction on the first exposure, ensuring that the second time the eyelid is exposed to the irritant, it reacts. Other times, people may be exposed hundreds or even thousands of times before the immune system randomly decides that something is a threat and develops a reaction to it. Thus, people shouldn't assume that because they have never had a problem with something, it cannot possibly be the culprit behind eyelid dermatitis.

One of the most common causes of eyelid dermatitis is makeup. This can happen as a result of a reaction developed over time, and also when makeup companies change ingredients. Sometimes, people who know they have allergies may get in the habit of using the same products, and if the company changes something, they might not notice, and end up mistakenly applying a known allergen to the eyelid. Eyelid dermatitis caused by makeup will get worse each time people use the product.

People can also experience contact dermatitis if they handle an irritant and then rub their eyes. Often, food is behind the irritation; people handle peppers, for example, then rub their eyes without thinking and develop swollen, puffy eyelids. Pollen and other irritants in the environment may also cause eyelid dermatitis and can be hard to avoid unless people stay indoors and use filtration in their homes.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By starrynight — On Aug 03, 2011

@Azuza - I actually got eyelid dermatitis from makeup once before. I tried a new type of eyeliner I had seen a commercial for and it was a terrible idea!

The worst part was I actually didn't put two and two together. So after the dermatitis got better the first time I used the eyeliner again! Then I finally realized that was the cause of all my troubles and switched back to my old brand.

By Azuza — On Aug 02, 2011

I get eyelid dermatitis from pollen in the spring sometimes. It is very, very unpleasant. I especially hate it because I normally wear contact lenses and when I have this problem I have to wear my glasses instead!

One thing I've found that kind of helps me avoid this problem is washing. When I wash my face, I use a really gentle face wash and make sure to actually wash my eye lashes. Pollen and other irritants can get stuck in there, so washing really cuts down on allergic reactions.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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