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

January 11, 2023

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 eyelid skin and undereye skin 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 eye skin, its triggers and how to hydrate your under-eyes naturally to achieve youthful skin.

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 skin under eyes also shows lines and wrinkles 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, causing skin dryness. Staying in all day in heated or air-conditioned environments can also cause flaky skin under and around your eyes.

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. So while you may be trying to treat a dry eye, you might be adding to the dry underye and eyelid skin you’re seeing. It’s also important to learn the types of eczema and allergies that may be adding to your discomfort.

Don’t rule out aging as a factor

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

Practice eye makeup etiquette

If you love accessorizing your eyelids with makeup but leave it on before lights out, your under-eyes can be more susceptible to dryness, itchy skin and flaky skin. And, dry under-eyes can cause excessive rubbing that, yes, makes them drier, leaving you with sensitive skin that is even more irritated. Completely removing eye makeup and moisturizing your eyes with an eye cream before bed can help keep dryness and irritation away. Don’t forget, your eye area is delicate skin so it must be taken care of to prevent dry skin.

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 to achieve healthy skin, or is it a ruse? According to Wu, those with dry under-eyes should side with eye cream devotees when it comes to naturally achieving skin hydration in the under-eye area. “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.