Itchy eyelids are a main complaint for Blepharitis sufferers. But sometimes, itchy eyelids can can be due to irritants that cause contact dermatitis.
Not addressing an irritant can cause chronic symptoms, as well as money wasted on ineffective treatments.
Products that don't irritate other areas of your body, can cause inflammation to your eyes. Some doctors refer to the skin around our eyelid as "the canary in the coal mine".
This is because the skin around eyelids is more sensitive compared to other areas of the body.
The thin layer of skin, rich bloody supply and small amount of fat makes the eyelid susceptible to irritation.
Let's look at six products that can cause itchy eyelids.
1) Eyecare Products
Ironic isn't it? Some products designed for the eye can cause irritation.
According to Dr Koo and Chang, common medications contain preservatives. One of these preservatives is benzalkonium chloride (BAC). This is a well-known skin irritant found in:
Eyecare prep solutions
If such an allergy is suspected, discuss with your doctor about using preservative-free medications instead.
Fragranced facial tissues may also contain BAC. Even though they may be labelled "hypoallergic", don't let this mislead you. Be sure to buy "fragrance-free products" next time you go shopping.
Remember, anything that is fragranced is a potential irritant.
2) Shampoo & Soaps
Cosmetics are known to cause almost one third of all eyelid contact dermatitis. Think it's the mascara and eyeliner causing problems? Think again.
Irritation is often caused by indirect contact with products applied to the hair, face or fingernails.
Cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB) is a common chemical allergen found in shampoo and soaps. It is used as a foam booster. CAPB got voted "Allergen of the Year" in 2004. Like with eyecare products, ensure any soap you use around your face is not fragranced.
Since doing my research, I've found that Sterilid eyelid cleanser contains this chemical. I haven't had a problem, but if you notice your symptoms worse following a shampoo, soap or cleanser - check the ingredients to see if it contains CAPB.
3) Hair Dye
Dye your hair frequently? A common chemical found in hair dye is paraphenylenediamine (PPD). PPD was named allergen of the year in 2006 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society.
The reason PPD is used in hair dye is because it provides a permanent dye with a natural look. It allows consumers to shampoo and perm hair without causing discolouration.
Unfortunately, PPD can cause itchiness around the scalp, upper eyelid and ears. Reactions might not be immediate.
Allergies to hair dye can occur two to seven days after exposure.
If you suspect you might be allergic to PPD - it is recommended to undergo patch testing to confirm you are allergic. In the interim, wash out the remaining dye with a strong shampoo and avoid the 2 bottle preparation dyes. Instead it might be worth opting for a semi-permanent hair dye, or one that is PPD-free.
4) Nail Polish.
Did you know that nail polish is the number 1 cause of eyelid dermatitis in the United States?
If we touch our face, 3000 times a day - some of the chemicals used in nail polish can irritate our eyelids.
According to Dr Koo and Chang, many doctors forget that nails can be a source of eyelid dermatitis. Nail lacquer, methacrylates and cyanoacrylates are ingredients in artificial nails. These materials may cause eyelid contact dermatitis. As the skin on our fingers is tougher, this chemical may not irritate the hands. Be sure not to touch your face when the nail polish is still wet - this is when it is most likely to irritate your eyes.
Also, don't forget that the metal nail file you use on your nails can store some of these chemicals. Ensure the file is clean, or invest in a new one if you're not sure.
5) Eye Makeup
A recent study found excessive amounts of nickel, cobalt and chromium are present in eye makeup.
Eyelash curlers, eyebrow pencils, mascara and eye shadow can all contain these metals. These can trigger a low-grade allergic reaction. With 17% of women having a nickel allergy, it might be worth taking a closer took at your makeup.
Stay away from cheaper products imported from China. Brown, yellow, gray and violet eye shadow was found to have the highest nickel concentration. But best to avoid all mica colours if you are experiencing itchy eyelids.
Your makeup applicators can also accumulate these metals, so be sure to regularly change these.
6) Baby shampoo
Suffer from Blepharitis and use baby shampoo? It might be time to rethink your scrubbing solution.
Even the "Improved Formula" contains ingredients like cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB). This is the foaming agent I mentioned above that is commonly found in soaps and shampoos. So best not to directly apply this on the eyelids!
There is even research to suggest baby shampoo can alter the composition of natural oils around the eyelid. This can cause oils to become soapy, thereby increasing inflammation. This may be the case if you don't thoroughly rinse the shampoo off.
Instead opt for safer eyelid cleansers that won't irritate the eyelids.
If you haven't already, visit your doctor to determine if contact dermatitis is contributing to your itchy eyelids.
Patch testing conducted by a dermatologist can help clearly identify which products you should be avoiding. This involves placing a small sample of your products, and applying them with tape onto the back. When positive, a particular patch will show signs of irritation and inflammation. Nail varnish, eye makeup and soaps can be used in the patch test.
If you are not sure what product might be causing allergies, Dr Ing recommends quitting all makeup and products temporarily. Then reintroducing one every 5 days.
As directed by your health practitioner, anti-histamines and cool compress can help ease symptoms of itchiness in the interim.
If any product or solution irritates your eyes, immediately cease using and seek medical attention.