Oily eyelids: causes, treatment and prevention

Excessive production of sebum or oil can lead to oily skin. It can happen anywhere on the body, including the eyelids. Oily eyelids can also result from triggers such as stress, environmental factors, genetics, overwashing, and hormonal changes.

This information comes from the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD).

The sebaceous glands are present under the pores of the skin and produce sebum, an oily substance. Sebum helps keep skin protected and hydrated.

Oily eyelids can occur due to excessive sebum secretion. Hormonal changes, environmental factors such as humidity, and topical applications can also cause excess oil on the eyelids.

According to the DAA, excess sebum can occur with:

  • hormonal fluctuations such as changes in testosterone or progesterone
  • environmental factors such as humidity or temperature
  • certain systemic medications, such as chlorpromazine (Thorazine)
  • using products such as lotions, creams, or makeup that can clog pores
  • certain genes
  • stress

Oily skin is one of the most commmon dermatological concerns. It may require treatment to help prevent breakouts.

This article will focus on the anatomy of the eyelid, some major causes of oily eyelids, and how to treat them and help prevent them.

The skin of the eyelids has no subcutaneous fat and is one of the the finer layers of skin on the body.

The eyelids are made up of:

  • skin and subcutaneous tissue
  • the orbicularis oculi, which are the muscles that move the eyelids
  • tarsal plates
  • lifting device, which acts as main elevator and retractor of the upper eyelid
  • conjunctiva, which is the clear tissue covering the whites of the eyes

The tarsal plates are the main structural component of the eyelids. They contain the Meibomian glands and the eyelash follicles.

Meibomian glands are tiny sebaceous glands that line the edge of the eyelids and are responsible for oil secretion. They constitute a small number of sebaceous glands. These glands help improve the lubricating properties of tears.

External or environmental factors can affect the eyelids as well as internal factors.

the commmon The causes of oily eyelids can be the following:

Aggressive cleaners

Soaps or facial cleansers that contain harsh chemicals can remove excess oil from the skin. This type of product can aggravate the eyelids and eyelid margins, causing them to overproduce oil in response.

Dermatologists recommend people use mild alcohol-free cleansers no more than twice a day. This will help gently remove dirt and impurities without removing excess oil.

People can also use a soft, damp cloth without soap or cleanser to gently rub the edge of the eyelid.

Hormonal fluctuations

The rate of oil production varies greatly from person to person. This is why some people have oilier skin than others.

According to research from 2014, men generally have higher oil production than women due to higher testosterone levels. However, sebum production increases during ovulation in women due to increased progesterone.

Environmental factors

A 2017 report noted that an increase in oil production may occur in spring and summer. Humid climates also tend to impact the amount of sebum produced by a person’s glands. People living in humid climates are more likely to have oily skin due to increased production.

The review also noted that oil production levels can also vary depending on a person’s race. This suggests that, for example, Chinese women may have smaller pore size and density than black people. Enlarged pores can lead to higher rates of sebum production.


Excess oil production by the Meibomian gland can lead to oily eyelids in some people. This leads to eyelid obstruction, a condition doctors call meibomitis or meibomian gland dysfunction.

Meibomitis is an inflammation of the Meibomian glands. When these glands are irritated, it can cause eyelid irritation which increases the risk of conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva).

Meibomite can cause the following symptoms:

  • The eyelids may become sore and swollen.
  • The eyes may be dry and itchy or gritty as if there is something in the eye.
  • The eyes may be red and watery, which can make vision blurry.


Blepharitis is inflammation from the edge of the eyelid. It can cause crusty, dandruff-like flakes on the eyelashes.

Commmon symptoms of blepharitis include:

  • sensation as if there is something in the eyes or a feeling of sand in the eyes
  • eyes that burn or sting
  • tearing
  • itchy eyes
  • light sensitivity
  • red, swollen eyes or eyelids
  • dry eyes
  • occasional crusting on the eyelids or eyelashes in the morning

Blepharitis can also cause more serious problems, such as:

  • blurred vision
  • fall of eyelashes
  • eyelashes growing the wrong way
  • swelling of parts of the eye such as the cornea

Although blepharitis does not affect a person’s eyesight, it can lead to changes in the edge of the eyelid when left untreated.

To avoid this, gently clean the edges of the eyelids (eyes closed) with a gentle wash or with a soft, damp cloth.

Eyelid dermatitis

Eyelid dermatitis refers to inflammation of the eyelid. It can result from allergic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, irritant dermatitis or seborrheic dermatitis.

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition. He is typically mildly inflamed skin with a rash and overlying peeling or peeling. It’s not contagious.

When a person develops this type of dermatitis on their eyelids, it usually appears as a scaly rash that is not itchy.

Treatment for oily eyelids depends on the underlying cause.

Some of the most commmon topical treatments for oily skin include cosmeceuticals. The most commonly used are niacinamide and L-carnitine, which can reduce oily skin.

Retinol and retinaldehyde are types of retinoids. These can cause irritation, but retinoid esters will cause less irritation. Although esters have minimal irritation potential, they require a higher dose (2%) to have an effect.

Systemic treatments for oily skin include:

  • Isotretinoin (Accutane): It is an oral retinoid that can help reduce oil production. People use it to treat oily facial skin. Doctors often recommend a dose of 0.5 milligrams (mg) per kilogram each day or less. A common side effect is dry skin, including around the eyes.
  • Spironolactone: Doctors usually prescribe this drug to treat women with oily skin. A daily dose of 50-200mg can effectively reduce sebum production.
  • Oral contraceptives: They are beneficial for oily skin as they decrease ovarian and adrenal androgens and increase sex hormone binding globulin.

Alternative treatments for oily skin may also include botulinum toxin, photodynamic therapy, and laser therapy.

A person should consult a doctor before considering topical treatments or taking oral medications. Indeed, the eyelids are a particularly sensitive area.

In addition to the treatment methods above, there are various home remedies to help manage oily skin. People often have oily eyelids alongside oily skin.

People might want to try:

  • using a gentle facial cleanser twice a day and after exercise
  • patting the face instead of rubbing or scrubbing
  • use non-comedogenic products and without oil
  • avoiding oil- or alcohol-based cleansers and makeup
  • apply a gentle moisturizer daily
  • wear sunscreen outside
  • use blotting papers and medicated pads to remove excess oil from the eyelids
  • remove makeup before going to sleep
  • avoiding touching the face or eyelids throughout the day

A person may wish to see a dermatologist if their oily eyelids persist even after following these preventative measures.

Learn more about what dermatologists do.

Although doctors don’t consider oily eyelids a medical condition, it can impact a person’s quality of life.

If a person has difficulty with eye makeup such as mascara, they may wish to try a mineral-based powder applied to the eyelashes before applying mascara. This can help reduce oils that could stain makeup.

Several treatment options and remedies for removing excess oil from the eyelids are available. Most of these options are inexpensive and require small changes in a person’s daily skincare routine.

The cleansing step of a skincare routine requires extra care, as over-cleansing can make the skin look flaky and cause it to produce even more oil.

People should test a new product or method on a small patch of skin to help determine if it is suitable for use.

Read on to find out how to perform a patch test.

Oily eyelids are common in most people. Oil buildup and old skin cells can clog the eyelid margins, causing blepharitis.

People with moderately oily eyelids can try home remedies to remove excess oil. If people don’t notice any improvement with the above treatments or remedies, they may want to see a dermatologist.

About Sally Dominguez

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