Eye Effects in Calgary & Didsbury
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Why Do My Eyelids Feel Dry?

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A woman rubbing her dry and itchy eyelids

The purpose of our eyelids is to protect our eyeballs from foreign bodies, and keep the eye hydrated and moisturized. The skin of our eyelids is very delicate, which means it’s also more prone to irritation and allergic reactions.

Since the skin of our eyelids is so thin, they can easily become dry and irritated for several reasons. Causes for dry eyelids may be due to underlying health conditions like skin conditions, inflammation, environment, age, and lifestyle choices. There are many ways to help treat and prevent dry eyelids.

Causes of Dry Eyelids

There are a variety of factors that may lead to dry eyes. These include underlying health conditions like contact dermatitis and atopic dermatitis and environmental factors like climate and workplace exposure.

Visiting your optometrist can help to determine the cause of dry eyelids. Understanding the cause of dry eyelids will help your optometrist determine a treatment plan. 

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is an itchy rash that develops when the skin has direct contact with an irritating substance. The rash is not contagious but can be very uncomfortable. Contact dermatitis results in dry, red, irritated, and flakey skin. 

Contact dermatitis can develop at any age. A rash may develop after a few days from coming into contact with an irritant. 

A rash will develop within a few days of coming into contact with irritants such as: 

  • Jewelry 
  • Fragrances 
  • Hair products (shampoo, conditioner, styling agents, etc.)
  • Skincare products (face wash, moisturizers, sunscreen, serums, etc.)
  • Cosmetics 
  • Eyelash curlers or tweezers
  • Plants 
  • Dust 
  • Chlorine 

Contact dermatitis may spread to your eye unknowingly. This can happen when your hand touches the eye, after brushing your face against a towel or pillowcase after coming into contact with the irritant. 

Anyone can experience contact dermatitis. Products you have used for years may change their formula, or you may develop an allergy to a substance later in life. To avoid episodes of contact dermatitis, avoid any known irritants you know may cause flare-ups, and wash your hands before any contact with your eyes.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is more commonly known as eczema. This condition causes very dry, irritated, inflamed, and sensitive skin. Eczema flare-ups can worsen due to weather changes, allergies, and exposure to certain soaps, lotions, and cosmetics. The exact cause of eczema is unknown. 

Eczema commonly appears in children before the age of 5 years old, but adolescents and adults may also develop eczema later in life.

Adult eczema is a chronic skin condition that causes red, inflamed, itchy patches of skin on different areas of the body like the face, hands, and eyelids. Eczema can come and go, and skin may return to normal between flare-ups. 


Blepharitis refers to the inflammation of the eyelids and affects the lashline. Individuals with blepharitis may wake up one morning with crusty, itchy, red eyes, and it may feel like the eyelids are stuck together. Others may wake up with dried tears around their eyes that feel gritty. Symptoms of blepharitis are worse in the morning upon waking up. 

While the appearance of blepharitis may look concerning at first, but it’s not contagious and does not damage the eyes. Blepharitis may caused by clogged meibomian glands, infection, or an allergic reaction.   

Symptoms of blepharitis can include: 

  • Watery eyes
  • Red, swollen eyes 
  • Itchy eyelids 
  • Flaking skin around the eyelid
  • Crusted eyelashes 
A woman rubbing her eyes near the bridge of her nose


Dry climates and cold weather conditions can cause dry skin, leading to dry eyelids. Winters in Calgary are cold, dry, and lack humidity. During the winter you may experience dry eyes and dry eyelids.


Our skin becomes looser, thinner, and more prone to dryness as we get older. As we age, it’s common for us to lose oil and sweat glands. This lack of oil production affects the moisture in our skin leading to dry eyes and eyelids.

Lifestyle Choices   

Lifestyle choices such as hydration, diet, alcohol, and tobacco use affect eye moisture and contribute to dry skin around the eyes. Careers where an individual may be exposed to harsh chemicals and fumes can irritate and dry skin.

Frequently swimming in chlorine water, taking hot showers, and washing your face with hot water and harsh soaps can also lead to dry eyelids. These activities strip the skin of its natural oils leading to dryness. 

Symptoms of Dry Eyelids

Symptoms of dry eyelids may appear differently from person to person. Tell-tale symptoms include the skin around the eyes and eyelids appearing dry, red, or flakey. In some cases, you may experience oozing or crusting on your eyelids and between your lashes.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Itchiness
  • Swelling 
  • Stinging or burning 
  • Cracks in the skin
  • Skin texture that appears rough, thick, or hard 
  • Skin that is peeling, crusting, or flaking
  • Skin that feels raw and/or irritated  

Treatment & Prevention for Dry Eyelids

It helps to understand the underlying cause of dry eyelids when developing a treatment plan for this condition. Your optometrist will be able to differentiate whether the dryness is caused by environmental conditions, contact dermatitis, or blepharitis based on your symptoms.    

An optometrist may recommend a corticosteroid or antibiotic to help reduce any inflammation on the eyelid. Antihistamines, topical ointments, and over-the-counter artificial tears can help to reduce any redness, watery, and itchy eyes you may be experiencing with dry eyelids.

To help prevent dry eyelids, add moisture to your environment using a humidifier if you live in a dry climate. Avoid using hot water around the eyes, keep the water warm instead. Use products that are compatible with your skin and fragrance-free! Avoid unnecessarily touching your eyes and be sure to wash your hands! 

Keep your body hydrated by drinking water, and avoid harmful products like tobacco. If you’re working in an environment using harmful chemicals, protect your eyes with safety glasses!

Schedule a Visit in SW Calgary

A visit to your optometrist is not limited to vision correction and eyeglasses alone. Your optometrist is the primary care provider for your eyes, this includes diagnosing and treating red eyes, dryness, and irritation.

Contact our team at Eye Effects to schedule a visit with your optometrist! 

Written by Dr. Jeffrey Waddell

Dr. Jeffrey Waddell is a graduate of the University of Alberta and the Pacific University College of Optometry. He has practiced optometry since 2002. He has practiced optometry all over the United States and Canada, and in Calgary since 2013. Dr. Waddell enjoys spending time in the great outdoors with his wife Alanna, and three children and two dogs. Dr. Waddell has a special interest in pediatrics, dry eye treatment, contact lenses and eye nutrition.
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