What Are the Common Causes of an Allergic Reaction on the Eyelids?

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  • Written By: A. Pasbjerg
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2019
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An allergic reaction on the eyelids, which typically leads to eyelid redness, swelling, and itching, may be caused by a variety of irritants. One frequent offender is makeup that is applied on or around the eyes, as these products can contain allergy-inducing ingredients. Other types of products and medications used in or around the eyes, such as ointments, drops, or contact lens solutions, are also often to blame. The eyelids may also be involved in a more general systemic allergic reaction to environmental triggers such as pollen, animal dander, or pollution.

A very common cause of an allergic reaction on the eyelids is makeup, so women in particular may be prone to this issue. Products like eye shadow, mascara, and eyeliner all come into direct contact with the eyelids, and if they contain preservatives or other chemicals to which the user is allergic, irritation and inflammation can occur. Unfortunately, unless one knows exactly which ingredients will cause a reaction, finding out which cosmetics may be a problem will likely be a matter of trial and error.


In addition to makeup, certain other products that are made to come in contact with the eyes may sometimes lead to an allergic reaction on the eyelids. Eye creams or lotions may cause contact dermatitis on the eyelids that can make them itch, flake, or even blister. Topical ointments designed to fight off minor infections may lead to a reaction if used near the eyes. If a person uses eye drops or contact lens solutions that include ingredients such as thimerosal to which users are sometimes allergic, the conjunctiva located on the inside of the lids may become inflamed and red.

While an allergic reaction on the eyelids is sometimes a localized response to specific irritants, many times it is part of an overall allergic reaction in the body, usually to substances in the environment. Seasonal allergies like hay fever, which occur due to things like pollen and grass, often affect the eyelids in addition to causing other problems like a stuffy or runny nose. People who are allergic to other common triggers like animal dander, dust, and mold frequently notice irritation on their eyelids. Those who live in areas with high concentrations of pollution in the air may also tend to have red, itchy eyes, as can people who work with strong chemicals that give off fumes.


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