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What are those red bumps under your eyes?

There may be a number of causes for this skin condition. Here are a few possible culprits.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jan 29, 2024 • 12 min read
Medically reviewed by Meredith Hartle, DO
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Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jan 29, 2024 • 12 min read
Medically reviewed by Meredith Hartle, DO
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

In this article

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Here at Curology, we currently focus on the diagnosis and treatment of acnerosacea, and anti-aging concerns. We do not treat many of the conditions mentioned in this article. This article is for information purposes only.

Spoiler alert: A variety of factors (including your skincare products!) might be the culprit for unsightly bumps around your eyes.

If you have small bumps around your eyes, you’re not alone. Small bumps around the eyes are a very common skincare concern, though different factors can cause them. Miliastyes, and chalazia are just three types of bumps that can appear under or on your eyelids. Another condition that may be to blame is periocular dermatitis.

The good news is that most of these conditions are treatable. But you’ll have to start with some investigative work or consult a medical provider to understand the cause of the bumps under your eyes. And, if you’re experiencing lasting pain, swelling, or oozing, it’s best to see a medical provider.

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What are the bumps that look like pimples under my eyes?

Are you asking yourself: “Why do I have red bumps under my eyes?”

There are various reasons why you might notice dots that look like pimples around your eyes. One common type of bump is a stye, which is often caused by a bacterial infection in one of the glands near your eyelash roots. This is quite different from milia, small bumps caused by keratin trapped under your skin. 

Another type of bump is a chalazion, resulting from a blocked oil gland in your eyelid. Additionally, allergies can often lead to bumps on your eyelids. Understanding these differences is key to addressing your concern about why you might have red dots under your eyes.

Let’s take a closer look at these conditions:

Periocular dermatitis

Periorificial dermatitis, a benign skin eruption, occurs most commonly around the mouth (perioral dermatitis) but can also occur around the nose (perinasal dermatitis) or eyes (periocular dermatitis). The cause of periocular dermatitis is unknown, but certain environmental exposures and topical steroids have been associated with it.¹ 

The most common symptoms include: 

  • Itchy or tender small red bumps

  • Dry and flaky skin

  • Burning or itching sensation

Milia 

Milia are small keratin-filled cysts trapped under the skin.² They are tiny, white, benign, and commonly confused with acne. 

 You probably have milia if your bumps are:

  • White, yellowish, or skin-colored 

  • Painless 

Styes

Styes often result from a bacterial infection of one of the glands at the root of the eyelash.³ They can appear in the upper or lower eyelid. Styes are small, red bumps that are often painful. 

Other symptoms can include: 

  • Swelling 

  • Redness of the eyelid

Styes are often referred to as a hordeolum. There are two types: internal and external.⁴ 

Internal hordeolum

An internal hordeolum causes symptoms inside the eyelid, affecting the meibomian glands which produce an oily substance for your eye. It can lead to diffuse tenderness and redness of the eyelid. 

External hordeolum

On the other hand, an external hordeolum affects the base of an eyelash. It presents as a small, painful bump or swelling on the edge of the eyelid.

Both types of hordeolum are primarily caused by bacteria, with Staphylococcus aureus being the most common culprit.⁵ While they may look different and affect different parts of the eyelid, the treatment for both is similar. This usually involves applying warm compresses and, in some cases, using an erythromycin ointment to help with healing.⁶

Chalazion 

Chalazion is caused by obstruction and inflammation of oil glands in the eyelid.⁷ It typically presents as small red bumps under the eye or on the eyelid. 

Symptoms can include: 

  • Tearing

  • Red, tender, swollen bumps on the eyelid

  • Possible blurred vision

Risk factors for eye bumps

Certain factors—from poor hygiene to overexposure to sunlight—increase your risk of developing different types of bumps under and around your eyes.⁸ 

Let’s take a closer look at the risk factors:

Poor hygiene (chalazion, hordeolum)

Risk factors for bumps caused by blocked glands include poor eyelid hygiene, like not cleaning your eyelids properly, which can lead to blockages. Chronic inflammation at the edges of the eyelids, known as chronic blepharitis, often results in blocked glands too. If the meibomian glands, which produce oil for the eye, don’t work correctly, the risk of these bumps increases. Also, if you’ve had a chalazion or hordeolum (stye) before, you’re more likely to get another one.

Infections (hordeolum, verruca vulgaris, molluscum contagiosum)

Infections leading to eye bumps can occur due to exposure to bacteria, like in the case of a hordeolum, which is often caused by Staphylococcus bacteria. Viral infections, such as those causing warts, can spread through direct skin contact from person to person. People with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to these viral infections.

Fat accumulation (xanthelasma)

Xanthelasma, a type of eyelid bump, can occur due to high cholesterol levels, which lead to lipid (fat) accumulation in the skin. This condition can also be linked to a genetic predisposition, where your genetic makeup makes you more susceptible to developing diseases or conditions associated with xanthelasma.⁹

Injuries (cysts)

Cysts can form as a result of local skin trauma,¹⁰ which includes any injury or irritation to the skin. They can also occur when sweat or sebaceous (oil) glands in the skin get blocked.

Overexposure to sunlight (nevi, seborrheic keratosis)

Overexposure to sunlight can lead to the growth of certain types of skin bumps, like nevi (moles) and seborrheic keratoses. These conditions are also more common in older people. In some cases, genetic factors play a role, meaning these bumps can be more prevalent in some families or individuals of specific genetic backgrounds.

Each of these factors contributes to the likelihood of developing bumps around your eyes, and the specific risk varies depending on the type of lesion. It’s important to speak with a medical provider as soon as possible if you have any concerns about your skin or eyes.

How can I treat bumps around the eyes?

Treatment options for bumps around your eyes depend on their underlying cause. But in many cases, applying a warm compress for 5 to 10 minutes several times a day could relieve some discomfort. A medical expert can properly diagnose what might be causing the bumps around your eyes and recommend a specific treatment. 

Here’s what treatment you can expect based on your condition:¹¹

For chalazion and styes: These are usually due to blocked or infected glands in your eyelids. Applying warm compresses can help reduce swelling and encourage natural drainage. If they persist or are particularly bothersome, you might need to see a doctor for possible topical or oral antibiotic treatment or even a minor procedure.

If you have a viral infection: Conditions like warts (verruca vulgaris) or molluscum contagiosum are viral. Treatments such as freezing (cryotherapy), cutting them out (excision), or scraping (curettage) are common. You should always get these treatments done by a trained professional and be cautious, as these infections can spread easily.

It’s very important to correctly identify what kind of bump you have. Some might go away on their own, while others need a doctor’s care. Keeping your eyelids clean can also help in both treating and preventing these bumps. If you’re not sure what kind of bump you have, or if it’s causing a lot of discomfort, it’s best to get it checked by a healthcare professional.

Whatever you do, don’t try to pop or squeeze any bumps around your eyes. Popping or squeezing can increase your risk of infection (or worse!). 

As always, prevention is your best medicine. That means that no matter how tired you are at the end of the day, washing your face is critical. Be sure to use proper facial hygiene with skincare products for your unique skin type, including a mild, fragrance-free cleanser, like Curology’s Gentle Cleanser.

Can I wear makeup to cover the bumps?

If you notice redness, a rash, or red bumps around your eyes, it’s generally a good idea to temporarily stop wearing makeup, at least in the affected area. And makeup might be a contributing factor. Many people wear eye makeup every day; however, it has been linked to spreading infection in the periocular region.¹² That’s just another way to say that it spreads in the eye area. 

Remember, depending on the cause and condition, rashes and bumps around your eyes can take time to heal completely, so patience is key. With many conditions, you should notice a gradual improvement once you identify and remove the triggers. 

Preventing bumps under your eyes

Prevention starts with knowing what triggers bumps under the eyes, which could be one factor or a combination of several. 

Below are some common triggers to watch out for:

  • Medications: Topical steroids and inhaled and oral corticosteroids might be a trigger, especially in the case of periorificial dermatitis.¹³ If you’ve recently started using any of these medications, talk to your medical provider about possible side effects.

  • Cosmetics: Makeup and various skincare products can cause reactions, especially for sensitive skin. Some of the ingredients in common products can irritate even the toughest skin.

  • Environmental stressors: Weather conditions like heat, cold, and wind can be irritating. Pollution may also be a trigger.

A good way to identify your triggers is to make a list of anything new in your daily life as soon as you notice redness or bumps around your eyes. Look for changes in medications, cosmetics, and supplements. Jot down any environmental stressors like wind, pollution, or temperature extremes. The more you remember, the more you’ll be able to share with your medical provider, should you need to.

When to seek professional help?

Some conditions, like orbital cellulitis, require urgent medical attention. Skin conditions that worsen, don’t improve, or recur should generally be seen by a medical provider. 

Here are some signs it’s time to see your healthcare provider: 

  • Bumps that do not improve or consistently worsen 

  • Vision changes such as blurriness or impaired sight. 

  • Bumps filled with pus or discharge.

  • Bumps become increasingly painful.

Your dermatology provider may be able to offer advice on some of the above conditions, but for some of them, you may need to see an eye doctor. 

The key takeaways

  • Red bumps under the eyes can be attributed to various factors, and understanding these can be crucial for effective management and treatment. 

  • Different conditions such as milia, styes, chalazia, and periocular dermatitis may be responsible for these bumps. Each has unique causes, ranging from blocked glands to bacterial infections.

  • Correctly identifying symptoms is vital. Milia are small, white, and painless, while styes are typically painful, red, and may contain pus. Chalazia presents as swollen bumps, possibly affecting vision.

  • Knowing risk factors like poor eyelid hygiene, chronic eyelid inflammation, bacterial or viral infections, high cholesterol, and excessive sun exposure can help with prevention.

  • Treatment varies based on the underlying cause, but often includes warm compresses, and in some cases, medical interventions like antibiotics.

  • Avoiding triggers such as certain medications, makeup, and environmental stressors, and maintaining good hygiene can help prevent these conditions.

  • Curology offers personalized skincare solutions, particularly for acnerosacea, and anti-aging, providing an option for those looking for customized skincare routines, although not specifically for bumps under the eyes.

Give Curology custom skincare a try

If you think you’re experiencing a skin condition like any we’ve mentioned here, seeking help from an in-person medical provider is best. But if you’re struggling with acne, anti-aging, or rosacea, we’ve got you. Our licensed dermatology providers can help you get the right, personalized treatment for these skin concerns.

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FAQs

Why is the skin under my eyes red?

There can be several different causes for the bumps around your eyes: bacterial infections,¹⁴ milia caused by keratin trapped under the skin,¹⁵ or chalazia,¹⁶ which results from a blocked oil gland. Allergies can also be a contributing factor.

How can I treat bumps around the eyes?

Treatment options depend on their underlying cause. Applying a warm compress for 5-10 minutes several times a day should relieve some discomfort. A medical expert can properly diagnose and treat the underlying condition.

Can I wear makeup to cover the bumps?

You might be considering using makeup to cover bumps around your eyes. However, it’s important to know that certain triggers can cause these bumps. These include using topical steroids, inhaled and oral corticosteroids, makeup, and various skincare products. Additionally, organisms like bacteria and fungi, as well as environmental stressors like heat, cold, wind, and pollution, can contribute to the formation of these bumps. So, you should be cautious about applying makeup over these areas, as it might make the issue worse.

How can I help prevent bumps around my eyes?

To help prevent bumps around your eyes, you should first understand what triggers them. Medications like topical steroids and inhaled or oral corticosteroids might be a trigger. Cosmetics, including makeup and various skin care products, can also cause reactions, especially if you have sensitive skin. Microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi are potential culprits as well. Moreover, environmental stressors like heat, cold, wind, and pollution can irritate your skin. Being aware of these factors and avoiding them as much as possible can help prevent these bumps.

When to seek professional help?

It’s crucial to seek professional help if certain conditions arise. If the bumps around your eyes do not improve, consistently worsen, or become increasingly painful, it’s time to consult a healthcare professional. Additionally, if you notice changes in your vision, like blurriness or impairment, or if the bumps fill with pus or discharge, these are signs that professional medical advice is needed. Don’t hesitate to seek help in these scenarios to ensure proper care and treatment.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Tolaymat, L. and Hall, M.R. Perioral Dermatitis. StatPearls. (2023, September 4).

  2. Berk, D.R. and Bayliss, S.J. Milia: A review and classification. JAAD. (2008, September 26).

  3. Willmann, D., et al. Stye. StatPearls. (2023, August 8).

  4. Willmann, D., et al. Stye. StatPearls. Ibid.

  5. Willmann, D., et al. Stye. StatPearls. Ibid.

  6. Willmann, D., et al. Stye. StatPearls. Ibid.

  7. Jordan, G.A. and Beier, K. Chalazion. StatPearls. (2023, July 31).

  8. Stokkermans, T.J. and Prendes, M. Benign Eyelid Lesions. StatPearls. (2023, May 29).

  9. Al Aboud, A.M., et al. Xanthelasma Palpebrarum. StatPearls. (2023, October 22).

  10. Zito, P.M. and Scharf, R. Epidermoid Cyst. StatPearls. (2023, August 8).

  11. Stokkermans, T.J. and Prendes, M. Benign Eyelid Lesions. StatPearls. Ibid.

  12. Chang, P. and Moreno-Coutiño, G. Periocular dermatoses. Int J Womens Dermatol. (2017, September 18).

  13. Tolaymat, L. and Hall, M.R. Perioral Dermatitis. StatPearls. Ibid.

  14. Willmann, D., et al. Stye. StatPearls. Ibid.

  15. Berk, D.R. and Bayliss, S.J. Milia: A review and classification. JAAD. Ibid.

  16. Jordan, G.A. and Beier, K. Chalazion. StatPearls. Ibid.

Meredith Hartle is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Curology. She earned her medical degree at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, MO.

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Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Meredith Hartle, DO

Meredith Hartle, DO

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