Dry under eyes? Here are the culprits, plus tips from a top dermatologist on how to get rid of them

June 7, 2021

Eyes got a big lift from the pandemic when above-the-mask beauty became a focal point. All the attention paid to this stretch of skin on our faces sparked a question: Have our under eyes always been this dry-looking? We asked Jessica Wu, M.D., Los Angeles dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face for some fast facts about dry under-eye triggers and how to hydrate your under-eyes naturally. 

Why is the eye area more prone to dryness?

“The skin under your eyes is very thin and has fewer sebaceous (oil) glands compared to the rest of your face,” says Dr. Wu. “So there’s less natural oil to lubricate that area.” Your eye skin is thinner by design to allow for all that scrolling, reading and blinking. (Fun fact: studies show we blink up to 1,000 times a day.) Dry under eyes also show lines and winkles more prominently, which is why so many are interested in how to hydrate the under-eyes naturally.

What do lifestyle and location have to do with it?

Too hot or too cold environments can steal what little oil and hydration we have in the thin area under our eyes. So can staying in all day in heated or air-conditioned environments. 

Eye drops might be a trigger.

“Many people have eyelid eczema or allergies that cause flaky rashes under the eyes,” says Wu. Another culprit? “Some eyedrops can dry out the skin under the eyes.” That goes for antihistamines, too, which can affect oil production and lead to under-eye dryness. 

Don’t rule out aging as a factor.

Just like the rest of your skin, your eyes will get drier as hyaluronic acid and sebum production slow with age. A desire to take on crow’s feet with aggressive treatments or creams not made specifically for the eye area can also lead you down the path of undereye dryness.

Practice eye makeup etiquette.

If you love accessorizing your eyes with makeup but leave it on before lights out, your under-eyes can be more susceptible to dryness, itching and flaking. And, dry under-eyes can cause excessive rubbing that, yes, makes them drier and even more irritated. Completely removing eye makeup and moisturizing your eyes with an eye cream before bed can help keep dryness and irritation away. 

Tip: Application, not your eye cream, can lead to puffy-eyed mornings. Pat eye cream around the orbital bone and keep away from the lashline. Thin under-eye skin acts like a wick that pulls the cream up so your entire eye is cared for.

There’s no such thing as too much moisture.

Eye cream is one of the greatest skincare debates: is it necessary, or is it a ruse?  According to Wu, those with dry under-eyes should side with eye cream devotees when it comes to hydrating the undereye area naturally. “Find an eye cream that’s a little more emollient than your regular moisturizer. Pat it on with your ring finger, which has the smoothest skin. Avoid rubbing the area when you wash or dry your face.” 

And if you need eye drops? “Use eye drops after applying eye cream so your undereye area is protected.” 

When asked how to hydrate under the eyes naturally, Dr. Wu recommends “glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which help hold water in your skin without clogging pores.” Those who have drier skin can lean into “undereye products containing nourishing oils that seal in moisture.” 

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Jacki Marzano is SoCal-based storyteller and head copywriter at Murad Skincare. She's shaped the voice of some of the most recognized beauty brands in the business, has a penchant for sharing homemade cookies, and believes SPF is the secret to getting carded well into your 40s.