The skin around your eyes has suddenly become dry and flaky, and itches. What might this be?

“This is likely allergic contact dermatitis,” says Gary Goldenberg, MD, of Goldenberg Dermatology, and assistant professor of dermatology and pathology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

“This condition is more common in women than men around the eyes,
continues Dr. Goldenberg.

“The most common causes are nail polish, cosmetic products, hair care products and gold jewelry.

“This condition is likely to come and go unless you find out what’s causing the problem and eliminate its contact with the skin.”

Sources of Contact Dermatitis

The skin around the eyes is not immune from contact with allergic substances. Along with the dryness, itchiness and flaking, there may be redness, bumps and blisters.

If your fingers touch the skin around your eyes, such as when you rest your cheek in a palm, and your fingers have prior made contact with the allergen source, this can transfer it to your skin.

For example, do you use any antibiotic creams? If so, do you wash your hands after applying the cream?

If you don’t, it’s possible that residue of the cream remains on your fingertips, and then when your fingertips innocently make contact with your face a short time later — this transfers the allergen substance to the skin around your eyes.

Another substance that’s been known to cause contact dermatitis is sawdust. Are you around sawdust, by chance?

Other possible culprits include various chemicals (e.g., solvents, bug sprays), rubbing alcohol, bleach, detergents, perfume and the rubber from goggles.


It will help if you always wear gloves when working around any chemicals.

Dr. Goldenberg explains, “Treatment involves moisturizers, such as aquaphor, topical steroid cream and non-steroidal creams, like elidel and protopic. Most importantly see your dermatologist, find out the cause and avoid it.”

Dr. Goldenberg of Goldenberg Dermatology provides comprehensive care in medical and cosmetic dermatology, including melanoma and other skin cancer, moles, psoriasis, eczema and acne. He is the medical director of the Dermatology Faculty Practice, NY.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz