"I have oily eyelids. What's up with that?"

Image: iStock.

There must be something in the air at The Glow HQ, because in recent weeks a handful of staff members have developed a very niche beauty complaint: oily eyelids.

Certain areas of the face are notorious for oil production — yes, T-zone, we’re talking about you — but the eyelids? The one part of your face you never really see? Um, no, we didn’t expect that. The good news is, there are some explanations for your glossy lids — and ways to prevent them from getting in the way of your makeup.

Why does this happen?

According to Dr Michael Freeman, a dermatologist from The Skin Centre, having oily eyelids isn’t a particularly common complaint — in fact, the eyelids tend to be drier than the rest of your skin. However, oiliness can result from a number of factors.

For instance, it could be tied to generalised oily skin, so consider whether the oiliness is limited to the eyelids or whether it’s appearing on other parts of your face and body.

Artist's impression of oily eyelids. Pssst... this is actually face gloss. (Image: Getty)

"People who are on cortisone, for instance, will have extra oil in their skin; people who have naturally raised hormone levels and sometimes people with seborrheic dermatitis can have increased oil in the skin. If there's no obvious dermatitis, angriness, redness, then it's more likely to be the hormonal link," Dr Freeman explains.

It's also possible to stimulate the skin's oil glands, so if your eyelids are oily and they appear darker than usual it could be the sign of a mild allergy or that you've been rubbing your eyelids.

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As for the women in our office who have developed eyelid oil slicks out of nowhere, Dr Freeman says he'd be interested in looking at their stress levels.

"If you're trying to perform at a really high level in any sort of job, or you're stressed at home... you actually increase your male hormone, testosterone, which is why your acne starts to creep in a little bit, and that can certainly give you oily eyelids," he explains. (Post continues after gallery.)

What can I do about it?

Generally speaking, oily eyelids aren't a major cause for concern, particularly if they're the only area of skin affected. However, if the oil is appearing on the rest of your face — perhaps causing pimples — and this is unusual for you, you should consider getting it checked out.


If your oily skin issues are tied to seborrheic dermatitis, Dr Freeman says mild anti-fungal treatments can be effective, so explore that option with a dermatologist. Interestingly, he adds, some patients find reducing the wheat in their diet can help alleviate the effects of this kind of dermatitis; again, consult with an expert first.

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If stress is the most likely culprit, techniques and exercises that help you relax and calm your nerves could help the neutralise the impact on your skin.

Meditation might do the trick.

Dr Freeman says oily eyelids can be associated with disease processes; for instance, a heightened level of testosterone in a woman's body can also cause hair to grow in unusual places, so if this is something you're noticing book an appointment with your doctor.

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For some people over-cleansing can generate more oil, so in these cases Dr Freeman says a mild soap cleanser would be appropriate.

What about my makeup?

Can oily lids and smokey eyes get along?

If you experience oily eyelids, you'll be well-versed in the melty side-effect it can have on your makeup.

Even the most flawlessly-applied smokey eye or winged liner is no match for overly enthusiastic sebaceous glands. Poof! Just like that, all your colour shading mixes together, smudges, or simple slides away. Superstar makeup artist Liz Jones says there are some steps you can take to help your makeup and your eyelids get along.

RELATED: What to do with the silver in your eyeshadow palette.

First of all, remove the excess oil by patting a tissue over your eyelid, then apply foundation. Use a loose or compact powder to seal it, and also apply some loose powder underneath the eye. "I've found that oily eyelids actually make the eye makeup slide and it tends to end up underneath the eyes as well," Jones says. (Post continues after gallery.)

Sadly, excessively greasy lids and cream eye shadows are just not compatible; the most likely outcome is creasing and running. But don't worry — you still have options. Jones recommends using a dry or semi-dry shadow, like Armani's Eyes to Kill range; or an "eye gloss" that sets, meaning it won't run.

"These are ideal because when your eyelid is oily it is naturally shiny, so you can make the most of that and set it like that. It can also be a great look at night," she says.

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If you really can't make eyeshadow work for you, there's no reason why you can't skip it altogether. You can still achieve a killer eye by using other products.

"Eyeliner only can be a great look if someone has trouble making the eyeshadow hold. However, you would need to use a gel eyeliner that sets so it doesn’t run either. MAC do a great gel eyeliner that is easy to apply and sets completely dry," Jones says.

Do you have oily eyelids? Do you have any tricks for getting your eyeshadow to stay put?