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When someone mentions they have redness around the eyes, the first thing that comes to mind for me is rosacea. This condition is often classified as "acne," but it's not really a condition of clogged pores. There isn't a problem with using the wrong makeup or failure to keep the skin clean. It's more of a stress reaction in the capillaries. Something irritates the tiny blood vessels that serve the skin, and they either swell, causing little bumps, or become inflamed, creating red spots or purple blotches when they break.

Rosacea comes on quickly. Just coming into a warm room after being outside on a cold winter day can cause reddening of the skin, usually around the eyes, maybe across the temple, and on the nose. Rosacea can also be activated by drinking a hot beverage or eating foods that contain the hot pepper chemical capsaicin. The offending element is the capsaicin. It activates a nerve underlying the cheeks and activating the tear glands. The same action that makes you cry when you eat peppery foods also can activate the reaction that makes your skin break out, just in those locations.

Rosacea is multi-factorial. Diet can make a difference. Skin that is riboflavin-deprived is more prone to break outs. 

You don't need to overdose riboflavin, but if you are on a very natural, no refined foods flour-free diet, you may benefit from a supplement.

Riboflavin can also be aggravated by the presence of an almost invisible skin mite known as Demodex. Women who have golden skin tones are especially susceptible to this problem around the eyes. It makes the skin bumpy. There are anti-parasitic preparations any doctor can prescribe, and it also helps to change pillow cases daily so you don't reinfect your skin with last night's escaped skin mites every time you go to bed.

What else can cause inflammation around the eyes?

  • Allergies can cause redness and inflammation limited to the eyes and surrounding tissues. Treat the allergy, and you eliminate the redness. Cold compresses (ice wrapped in a damp cloth, never eye applied directly to the eye or the skin around the eye) can also help.
  • Certain eye cosmetics can cause redness and irritation. The offending ingredients are usually alcohol, detergents, and essential oils used as perfume. Anything that leaves your eyelids or the skin around your eyes feeling tingly can cause redness around the eyes.
  • Transferring bacteria from a contaminated container of "eye cream" can cause redness and inflammation.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis usually is not limited to the eyes, but it can be. This condition is caused by a fungus known as malassezia, and it tends to be worse in the spring and fall than in the summer and winter. It also causes redness in creases of skin all over the body, as well as flaky, often yellow dandruff. Some of the same medications that are used to treat yeast infections can also treat seborrheic dermatitis, and are available as easy-to-apply creams that don't get into your entire body. It usually helps to get about 30 minutes of unprotected sunlight exposure every day, to kill the microbes that cause the condition, and to get adequate intake of all the B vitamins. Again, megadoses aren't necessary (and don't do anything extra to help). The RDA is enough to make a difference when a vitamin is in deficient.

One other common cause of redness around the eyes is shampoos that contain the ingredient sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), in the United States, with an "f," also known in some parts of the English-speaking world as sodium dodecyl sulphate, with a "ph." This product causes skin inflammation and acne-like breakouts. The solution to this problem is simple. Get rid of shampoos that contain SLS. If you don't know whether your hair care products contain the offending ingredient, then at least be sure to rinse your hair from front to back when you shampoo.

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