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Why should you not put eye cream on eyelids?

Putting eye cream on eyelids is a common mistake that many people make in their skincare routine. However, this can actually do more harm than good. There are several reasons why applying eye cream to the thin, delicate skin of the eyelids should be avoided.

The skin on the eyelids is very thin and sensitive

The skin on our eyelids is the thinnest on our entire body, even thinner than the skin on our lips. It measures at only about 0.5 mm thick compared to the skin on the rest of our face which is about 2 mm thick. This means it has less natural oils and moisture and is extremely vulnerable. Eye creams are formulated for the under eye area which is still very delicate but not quite as paper thin as the lids. Putting rich creams meant for that area can overwhelm and irritate the thinner lid skin, potentially causing inflammation, allergic reactions, burning, stinging, and redness.

Eyelid skin has fewer oil glands

In addition to being thinner, the skin on the eyelids has far fewer oil glands compared to the rest of the face. Oil glands are important for providing natural moisture and oils to keep skin supple and protected. Without as many oil glands, the lids can’t tolerate the heavier moisturizing ingredients found in most eye creams. Silicones, mineral oils, and petrolatum used in eye creams to smooth and hydrate can be comedogenic and lead to clogged pores, breakouts, and irritation on the lids.

The ingredients may seep into the eyes

The skin on the eyelids is in very close proximity to the eyes. Many of the active ingredients commonly found in eye creams like retinols and fragrances can easily transfer and seep into the eyes when applied to the lids. This may result in painful irritation and stinging. At best it can cause blurred vision, and at worst it can do damage to the sensitive membranes and tissue around the eyes. Even natural botanical extracts and oils found in eye creams may trigger allergies and inflammation when they come in direct contact with the eyes.

It can contribute to dryness

While it may seem counterintuitive, using eye creams meant for the under eye area can actually contribute to dryness on the eyelids. As mentioned, the lid skin produces less oil on its own. Most eye creams are not designed to mimic and replace those oils the way a proper eyelid moisturizer would. Instead, eye creams focus more on anti-aging and brightening effects. They deposit active ingredients meant to penetrate thicker skin and don’t have the right emollients to augment the lids’ natural moisture barrier. Over time, this can disrupt the skin and leave it drier.

It can encourage milia

Using heavy eye creams not suited for the thin lid skin can lead to tiny bumps of trapped keratin called milia. Milia are more likely to form in areas prone to clogged pores and irritation, like the eyelids. The thick formulas found in most eye creams simply cannot be properly absorbed by the lids. The excess sits on the skin and contributes to blockages and blemishes. Milia are harmless but can be frustratingly difficult to remove. The best way to discourage them from forming on the lids is to use only light moisturizers designed for that area of the face.

It may cause puffiness

Some of the active botanical extracts and essential oils in eye creams can trigger swelling when applied to the eyelids. Natural extracts like arnica, chamomile, aloe vera, and lavender contain compounds that help soothe and depuff under eye bags. However, on the thin lids, they may have an adverse effect for those with sensitivities and actually promote puffiness. Additionally, heavier eye creams may physically block proper lymphatic drainage from the orbital area above the eyelids, also causing fluid retention and swelling.

It can increase sun sensitivity

Many eye creams contain ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids and retinoids meant to increase collagen production and cell turnover for anti-aging benefits. However, these can make skin more sensitive to UV damage when applied to the eyelids. Thinner skin is already less equipped to handle sun exposure. Using targeted treatments on the lids without proper SPF protection can make them even more vulnerable to burning and pigmentation. Always pair eye creams with adequate sunscreen. But for the lids, choose ones made just for that area to avoid irritation.

Proper eye creams for eyelids

Instead of standard eye creams, look for options specifically made for the eyelids. Ideal eyelid creams will be extremely gentle, fragrance-free, and non-comedogenic. They should also contain sun protection like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to shield the thin lid skin from burning. Precautions should be taken even with eyelid-specific products. Avoid touching the cream directly to the eye itself and use sparingly. Discontinue use if any irritation develops. Consult a dermatologist for product recommendations tailored to your skin’s needs.

Ingredients to avoid on eyelids

When shopping for an eyelid cream, steer clear of products containing:


Fragrances, whether natural or synthetic, increase sensitivity and irritation on the delicate lids. Go for fragrance-free formulas.

Essential oils

While many oils have calming properties, they may provoke allergic reactions on sensitive lid skin when used in high concentrations. Always patch test.


These vitamin A derivatives boost collagen but also thin the skin. They make lids more prone to sunburn. Avoid unless recommended by a doctor.

Alpha hydroxy acids

AHAs like glycolic and lactic acids should not be used on the eyelids as they can increase UV damage and dryness.

Thick emollients

Mineral oil, petrolatum, silicones and waxes can clog pores. Lighter oils like jojoba or squalane are safer options for the lids.

How to apply eye cream properly to avoid eyelids

When using any eye cream, it’s important to take precautions to keep the product away from the lids. Follow these tips:

Apply to under eyes only

Dot eye cream on the under eye area from the inner corners outward, stopping before reaching the lashline. Don’t rub onto the upper lids.

Use a small amount

Only use as much as needed to lightly dab and gently massage into the under eye skin to avoid excess product migrating upwards.

Avoid lash line

Keep eye cream at least a few mms away from the base of the lashes to prevent it from transferring onto the lid margins.

Pat gently

Avoid pulling or tugging the under eye area which can drag cream upwards onto the lids. Gently pat product in instead.

Clean hands

Use a clean finger or applicator to apply eye cream to prevent bacteria transfer. Don’t touch the lids after application.

Rinse if needed

If cream does get onto the lids, rinse immediately with cool water to remove. Avoid using soap which may irritate.

Alternative treatments

For concerns like hydration, anti-aging effects, and brightening on the eyelids, there are some alternatives to heavy eye creams:

Eyelid serums

Gel or liquid serums absorb easily and work better with thin lid skin than thick creams. Look for hydrating and brightening ingredients like niacinamide.

Gentle creams

Lightweight lotions and gels meant for the eye area hydrate without clogging pores or irritation.

Hydrating masks

Choose sheet masks or hydrating gel packs safe for the delicate eye zone to nourish lids without risk of sensitivity.

Cosmetic correctors

Tinted concealers and highlighters boost radiance without putting active ingredients on the lids.

Home remedies

Natural oils make excellent substitutes for moisturizing and nourishing the eyelids. Organic options like coconut, jojoba, or almond oil suit most skin types. Avoid essential oils. Apply just a tiny amount along the lash line with a clean finger. Other soothing home treatments include cooled black tea bags, cucumber slices, and chilled aloe vera gel directly from the plant.

When to see a doctor

If you develop symptoms like redness, swelling, stinging, blurred vision or puffiness after applying any products to the eyelids, discontinue use and schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist or dermatologist right away. Signs of an allergic reaction or injury to the eye itself require immediate medical care. Additionally, seek professional advice if you notice any unusual symptoms on the eyelids like lumps, bumps, flaky skin or pigmentation changes which could indicate a more serious condition.


The skin on the eyelids is exceptionally delicate and requires special care. Using eye creams meant for the thicker under eye area can irritate, dry out, and damage the thin lid skin. Always check that products are specifically formulated for use on the eyelids before applying. Take precautions with eye creams to avoid accidental contact with the lids. With proper care, your eyelid skin can stay smooth, healthy and hydrated.