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  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

What might be causing red bumps around your eyes

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

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Curology Team
Jul 21, 2022 · 7 min read

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

If you have small bumps around your eyes, you’re not alone. Small bumps around the eyes are a very common skincare issue, though different factors can cause them. Milia, styes, 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 and may not need medical attention. But you’ll have to start with some investigative work or consult a medical provider. And, if there’s lasting pain, swelling, or oozing, it’s probably best to see a medical provider.

Young woman with red bumps around eyes

Why is the skin under my eyes red?

Whether the bumps are red or not, there can be several different causes for the bumps around your eyes. For example, styes are caused by bacterial infections of one of the glands near the root of the eyelash. This is much different than milia, which is caused by keratin trapped under the skin, or chalazia, which results from a blocked oil gland. Allergies can cause bumps on eyelids and might also be a source of your dots. Here are some potential causes for the reasons you might be asking yourself, “What are the red dots around my eyes?”

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: 

  • Small red scaly papules

  • Pustules or blisters around the eye

  • 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. They appear:

  • White, yellowish, or skin-colored 

  • Painless 

Styes

Styes 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: 

  • Puss at the center of the bump

  • Swelling 

  • Redness of the eyelid

Chalazion 

Chalazion is caused by obstruction and inflammation of oil glands in the eyelid.⁴ They typically present as small red bumps under the eye or in the eyelid. Symptoms can include: 

  • Tearing

  • Red, tender, swollen bumps in the eyelid

  • Possible blurred vision

How can I treat bumps around the eyes?

Treatment options for bumps around your eyes depend on their underlying cause. But in most cases, applying a warm compress for five to 10 minutes several times a day should relieve some discomfort. A medical expert can properly diagnose what might be causing the bumps around your eyes, and recommend a specific treatment. In certain cases, your dermatology provider may prescribe—or stop the use of—corticosteroid creams. A course of oral antibiotics may be necessary. With some conditions, you may be instructed to gently scrub or massage the affected eyelid.

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 skin care products for your unique skin type, including a mild, fragrance-free 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.⁵ That’s just another way to say: 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. 

Close up shot of blue eye

Preventing bumps around the eyes begins with knowing what triggers them, 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 perioral dermatitis.⁶ If you’ve recently started using any of these medications, talk to your medical provider about possible side effects.  

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

  • Microorganisms. These are the little organisms like bacteria and fungi you cannot see. 

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

The most important 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 becoming blurry or impaired. 

  • Bumps fill with puss, ooze, 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. 

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 other common skin conditions, like acne, anti-aging, or rosacea, we feel you. Our licensed dermatology providers can help you with common skin concerns like acne, hyperpigmentation, or rosacea.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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Curology members are paired with an in-house medical provider. They’ll prescribe you a custom cream with a mix of three active ingredients for your specific skin concerns. So let Curology do the busy work for you. 

Our full line of skincare products will complete your routine, each designed by dermatologists to be non-comedogenic, dye-free, paraben-free, and hypoallergenic. They’re made to keep your skin happy and healthy. Interested? You can get a free month of Curology—just pay $4.95 (plus tax) to cover shipping and handling on your first box.*

FAQs

Why is the skin under my eyes red?

There can be several different causes for the bumps around your eyes: bacterial infections, milia caused by keratin trapped under the skin, or chalazia, which results from a blocked oil gland. Allergies can cause bumps on eyelids and might also be a source of your dots.

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, oral antibiotics may be necessary.

Can I wear makeup to cover the bumps?

Preventing bumps around the eyes begins with knowing what triggers them:

  • Topical steroids and inhaled and oral corticosteroids.

  • Makeup and various skincare products.

  • Organisms like bacteria and fungi.

  • Environmental stressors, like heat, cold, wind, and pollution.

How can I help prevent bumps around my eyes?

Preventing bumps around the eyes begins with knowing what triggers them:

  • Medications. Topical steroids and inhaled and oral corticosteroids might be a trigger.

  • Cosmetics. Makeup and various skin care products can cause reactions, especially for sensitive skin.

  • Microorganisms. Bacteria and fungi.

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

When to seek professional help?

  • Bumps that do not improve or consistently worsen. 

  • Vision changes such as becoming blurry or impaired. 

  • Bumps fill with puss, ooze, or discharge.  

  • Bumps become increasingly painful.

• • •

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

  1. Tolaymat, L., & Hall, M. R. Perioral Dermatitis. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. (2022).

  2. Berk, DR, et al. Milia: A Review and Classification. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2008, September 26).

  3. Willmann, D., et al. Stye. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. (2022).

  4. Jordan, G. A., & Beier, K. Chalazion. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. (2021).

  5. Chang, P., et al. Periocular Dermatoses.  International Journal of Women’s Dermatology. (2017, September 18).

  6. Tolaymat, L., & Hall, M. R. Perioral Dermatitis. Ibid.

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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

Kristen Jokela, NP-C

Kristen Jokela, NP-C

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