Eyelid dermatitis in women is fairly common.  In many cases, the initial cause is irritation incurred during the removal of make-up. Mechanical friction, often with a wash cloth or other cleaning product, removes some critical components of the outer layer of the skin that protects the skin. After this occurs, things that normally would not irritate the skin when the normal barrier is intact, may irritate the skin. This results in redness, occasional white scale, and itching and/or burning.

What to do when this occurs?

  1. First is one must not use eye makeup until the rash resolves completely.
  2. If there is no personal or family history of glaucoma (above normal pressure in the eyes), then hydrocortisone 1% ointment (and I stress ointment–not cream) should do the trick.  Apply it up to 4 times a day for the first couple of days, then twice a day for 3-7 days decreasing to once a day as it improves. Then apply every other day for 2 applications. When one is using the medication once a day or less, they should apply Vaseline petroleum jelly to the eyelids, where affected, at bedtime. This is a great, safe moisturizer. Only use a tiny amount.

In general, the rash should resolve within 10 days. If not, one should seek the help of a Dermatologist. Other possible causes would include allergy to nail polish, eye drops, and cosmetics. In my practice, allergy is far less common than irritation.

After the rash has resolved, one can start to use one eye make-up product for 2 weeks. If there is no rash, then add the next one in. The most important part–how one removes their make-up. Use your fingers (best) or the softest possible product. Be gentle–no aggressive wiping or rubbing. Use oils or products like Albolene (a greasy make-up remover that moisturizes and removes at the same time).

Robert S. Bader, M.D., Dermatologist

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