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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Advice about Health > Dandruff



Eyelash ''dandruff''

August 2006

Hi. I've had itchy, eyelash ''dandruff'' for several years now and am searching for advice on how to treat it effectively (and to learn what it is!). The condition makes my eyelids itchy and red and I unconsciously rub my eyes a lot a night. I have lived all over the country/world during this time period, so the condition shouldn't be related to any kind of allergy. Years ago, a dermatologist said it was harmless and recommended simply putting over-the-counter strength hydrocortisone ointment on my eyelids for several weeks to clear it up. I tried this on several occasions and haven't had much luck. I am also concerned about about using hydrocortisone near my eyes. Recently, I read somewhere that perhaps this condition is related to rosacea, which I have had a mild case of for several years as well (although the dandruff appeared first). I am also breastfeeding. If anyone has experience/knowledge with this condition and can advise me, I'd appreciate it. Thanks
Itchy Eyelids


Your eyelash ''dandruff'' is most likely associated with your rosacea - I have the same thing, and have for years. The best thing to do is to scrub your eyelids along the lash line with baby shampoo everyday when you're in the shower. This will get rid of the flaking, and then prevent it from coming back. Then use hypo-allergenic tears to keep your eyes from becoming dry, which is usually what sets this off. Your eyes get dry...you rub your eyes....your eyes get worse...

I also have a couple of prescription ointments (meant for the eye only, not topicals!) that I've used when this has gotten particularly bad, but since using this wash/tears regime I haven't had an outbreak in over a year. Sometimes you need an opthamologist to prescribe something to break the cycle, and then this regime will work for you. Good luck! Paige


You should see an optometrist or ophthalmologist, but you are describing the symptoms of blepharitis (google it). You're going to get a bunch of messages saying this; it's pretty common. My opto gave me an eyelid scrub, and that helps a lot, although plain old soap works too. If it is an allergy issue at all, your opto may have you try Patanol eyedrops. Just see the appropriate professional and I think you'll quickly be on your way to having it solved. No more itchy eyes
My eye doctor told me to gently scrub my eyelashes and eyebrows with a washcloth and Baby Shampoo, once a day for a month. This cured it anon
All three of my sons had eyelash dandruff. The pediatrician and dermatologist suggested washing their hair with dandruff shampoo and then washing their eyebrows and eyelashes as well with the shampoo. This worked very well. Flakes from their hair were falling and landing in their eyebrows and lids. Keeping their hair away from their face also helped along with the shampoo-no bangs! Obviously, this isn't for for infants, and the kids didn't really develop the problem until they were about 7 years old. You can use a Q-tip on your eyelashes with the shampoo. Ovbiously, keep your eyes closed and rinse well with water. Try this two or three times a week Jan
I had/have something that sounds similar. It is called blepharitis, and it is caused by a number of things, but one of them can be a recurring bacterial infection. It seems that this is a bacteria that takes up residence in the skin right where your eyelashes emerge, and while it is always present, it flares up at periods of stress (I have had it for the past 6 months while I have been pregnant)-- maybe the breastfeeding is enough of a strain to cause a flare up.

In any case, I was diagnosed by an optometrist at Kaiser who told me the same thing that two advice nurses and my Nurse Practitioner told me: clean the eyelids twice a day with a mild baby shampoo. Put the shampoo in your hand and then adda drop or two of water and BRISKLY rub your finger across the base of your eyelashes. I tried this for about a week and didn't see any improvement, so that's when I went to the optometrist who said that I had not been doing it for long enough. I told him I needed more help, and he gave me a prescription antibiotic ointment that I used for a week until I had a terrible reaction (eyes swelled shut). I went back to the baby shampoo and washing my face whenever possible with plain water, and it cleared right up (like in 2-3 weeks).

Make sure the baby shampoo has no scent/colors etc. I'm all better now, but they say this will flare up throughout life. amy


You have blephoritis. You should see your optometrist so he/she can assess how bad it is and advise you what to do (which will most likely include hot compresses and cleaning with baby shampoo) good luck
If you've seen a doctor, you've likely been told this, but it sounds like you have blepharitis -- specifically seborrheic blepharitis. Have you tried warm compresses and careful, regular eyewashing with warm water? I get the same problem occasionally (though not as seriously as your post suggests), and this helps me.

Here's a good webpage to read up: http://www.agingeye.net/otheragingeye/blepharitis.php. David


This is a kind of seborrhia--that's why the hydrocortisone doesn't work. Hydrocortisone also thins the skin--not a good idea on thin eyelid skin. I had this condition with an allergy outbreak. Several weeks of treating it with diluted Johnson's baby shampoo (must be this brand!) and a q-tip did the trick.

Dilute a few drops of the shampoo with a little water, dip in a q-tip, and scrub your closed eyelid near the lash line. Rinse well, obviously. Do several times a day. This cleared it up for me and despite other problems like rosacea and eczema, it's never come back to haunt me Former sufferer


More from ''former sufferer:'' Here's a site with graphic photos to check and see what you have. http://www.agingeye.net/otheragingeye/blepharitis.php Former sufferer
This is/has been called granulated eyelids and is somewhat common. I had it many years ago and used vaseline on my eyelids/lashes when I went to bed and after a year or so it completely disappeared and has never returned in over 30 years. anon
My husband had the same problem for many years, it's called Blufferitis (sp?) and it is an allergy. His MD told him that it is related to dust mite allergy. He used a topical cream like Aquaphor to reduce the flakiness. Interestingly, when he stopped smoking pot, the condition disappeared anon
Hi there, I've had chronically infected eyelids my whole life. It mostly doesn't bother me, but my eye dr has recommended applying very diluted baby shampoo with a q-tip. Hope this helps! JL
Best to go to a ophthamologist. You may have blepharitis, which is not serious, but annoying. Try a warm water soaked washcloth for 5 minutes, then scrubbing gently with a q-tip using an eye cleaning solution (can get at drugstores - make sure it's eye cleaning scrub, not contact lens anything), then rinse. Can use baby shampoo instead - but it may sting a bit. But- i still recommend professional attention Michael
This may have nothing to do with your condition since my symptoms were different, but for what it's worth... I wear contact lenses and about five years ago I was having a terrible problem with gunk in my eyes so that my contacts were always filmed over. Basically, about two hours after putting on my contacts the problem would start, and I'd have to remove my contacts. I was seen at the contact lens clinic at UC Berkeley, and they told me that I was having an allergic reaction to the bacteria living in and around my eyelashes, a condition called blepharitis. They gave me some antibiotic ointment that I applied for however long I was supposed to. Then I was told to EVERY DAY for the rest of my life to wash my eyelashes with baby shampoo. I put just a tiny bit on my finger and gently rub it over my top and bottom eyelashes for about 30 s. Since I've been doing this, I haven't had the problem and can wear my contacts comfortably all day. Here is a link to an article on blepharitis: http://ohiolionseyeresearch.com/blepharitis.htm anonymous
It sounds like seborrheic dermatitis. It's a common and treatable condition but hydrocortisone won't help. you need a special prescription fellow sufferer
Not really sure about your situation, but I often get mucous in my eyes that gets hard. When this happens, I drink chrysanthemum (sp?) flower tea made pretty strong over the course of 1 or 2 days. I buy the flowers at Lhasa Karnak herbs on Shattuck (there's also one on Telegraph). I discovered this method for clearing up my eyes because what the doctor prescribed wasn't working and I wandered into a Chinese herb store about 20 years ago and showed them my eyes - they recommended the tea and it's worked wonders for me Bright Eyed (but not bushy tailed)
Hi, I have a minor case of rosacea and have had the same problem with my eyelids. After many years of dealing with the annoyance, I sought help at several different eye clinics before I finally found a solution that works for me. An eye doctor recommended that I (a) make sure I keep the rosacea under control, and (b) wash my eyelids daily with baby shampoo--and I mean really scrub, harder than you would think would be necessary. I use Metrogel for the rosacea, and keeping it under control elsewhere on my face definitely reduces it on my eyelids, even though I obviously don't apply the Metrogel directly to my lids. And as far as the baby shampoo, the doc's point was simply that the developing skin flakes on your lid can and should be scrubbed off with soap so that your pores/lashes will function properly--accumulated ''gunk'' can make the condition worse, even if it seems intuitive to leave the lids alone because they're so irritated. Anyhow, this regimen has worked for me very well, and the flakes have been gone now for several years. Hope that helps Eyelash-Dandruff Free
It sounds to me as though you might have a condition called seborrheic blepharitis. For more info, go to www.medlineplus.gov, click on ''Health Conditions'' and type in these terms. There can be many causes of this condition, including scalp dandruff, bacteria, acne or problems with the oil glands in the eyelid (Meibomian glands). To determine if the problem stems from an infection or the oil glands in the eye, you may want to consider seeing an eye doctor. In any case, regardless of the cause, treatment is focused on keeping the lids clean and crust-free. You can use warm compresses and a mixture of tear-free baby shampoo diluted with water (1:4 ratio) to gently cleanse your eyelids. In some cases, drug-free ocular lubricants may be of help too. It's generally not a good idea to use steroids long-term on the face, unless you've been told to do so by a doctor and are being closely followed by a doctor a pharmacist
That sounds like rosacea to me. My husband has it, and struggled with eyes that eventually were not just flaky, but also goopy. It was misdiagnosed, and then only gently treated, to the point where he now has a scar on his cornea from uncontrolled rosacea on his eyelids (at the eyelashes, and underneath the lid).

I'd recommend seeing an opthamologist, and pick one who will aggressively treat the rosacea (not just try to ''keep it down a bit''). My husband was on systemic antibiotics for a while (tetracycline), and also washed his eyes with a special solution every day, for several years.

Stress and alcohol exaggerated the rosacea outbursts for my husband. Avoiding those triggers for a while also helped things clear up with his eyes.

I believe he still has the condition (it's chronic), but has been symptom-free for a long time, even though he is not taking tetracycline anymore, and only washes his face normally. He does use a lot of eyedrops (the lubricating kind), as his eyes tend to dry--that also appears to be related to the rosacea.

Good Luck
He doesn't have to treat it as aggressively anymore. Donna


The optometrist would be another person to consult about this. Mine told me something about your topic, but it is not much of a problem for me and I can't remember any details anon
Hi- You most likely have ocular rosacea, in which your facial rosacea has spread to your eyelids. Get to a new dermatologist! You need to have it evaluated and treated with prescription medication, not OTC hydrocortisone. I also have had mild rosacea for years, and one thing about the condition is that if you don't treat it, it eventually gets worse. Look it up on the Web-- there is a site called rosacea.org. Here is some basic info: ''Ocular rosacea can affect both the eye surface and eyelid. Symptoms can include redness, dry eyes, foreign body sensations, sensitivity of the eye surface, burning sensations and eyelid symptoms such as styes, redness, crusting and loss of eyelashes. Ocular rosacea can leave the eyes feeling irritated and ''gritty''.

Many who have rosacea mistakenly think they have allergies.

Use of prescription steroid based eye drops will usually help improve this condition. More severe cases may require oral tetracycline or minocin. Rosacea is more common in individuals with fair complexions, with women affected at a higher rate than men. Patients who are from ethnic backgrounds such as Great Britain (including Ireland, Scotland and Wales), Germany and Scandinavia tend to be more likely candidates, although anyone can develop rosacea. This disease typically develops anywhere between the ages of 30-50. What causes rosacea is still unknown. We do know that the skin form of rosacea is more common in patients who had significant acne earlier in life or have a family history of rosacea.''

Good luck! Also red


I had something like this too and was told several years back by an opthomologist that it's called Blepharitis and to clean my eyelids/lash area with ''lid scrub'' pads (available at drug stores - Ocuscrub is the brand I got.) I was chronically getting eye infections at the time and it seemed to help. Kat
Hi- I tend to have dry eyes and the UC optometry school said it was because of a mild version of something like what you describe. They instructed me to wash my eyelashes gently but thoroughly each night with a drop of baby shampoo.

Later, a friend showed me an article from (the Harvard Health Letter? The UC Berkeley Wellness letter??) where an opthomologist reported on his findings that more effective was a daily 15 minute warm wet compress on the eyes, followed by a gentle washing with a wash cloth (no shampoo) to loosen the problem debris. His findings showed that the shampoo actually increased irritation, and the warm compress had fantastic results for people whose eyes had been irritated for years.

I tried both, but not regularly enough to say for sure what the results were, though it did seem that even baby shampoo was a little irritating. And believe me - lying down with a warm compress on my eyes for 15 minutes did wonders for my entire self, including my eyes. Now if I could only incorporate that into my lifestyle I'm sure I'd add years to my life *and* my eyes would feel better!

Your problem sounds more extreme so I'm not sure this will help, but it might be worth a try - Good luck!


I have developed very itchy dandruff

Nov 2004

I have developed very itchy dandruff; it seems head and shoulders isn't strong enough. I see different products at the store (selsun blue, coal tar) and don't really know what would work best. I am also wondering if there are alternative treatments, as well. please help...


Try Nizoral, an over the counter shampoo, for about a month. If it doesn't work, see your doctor. This was recommended for my husband by his primary care MD and it really seems to do the trick. After the dandruff goes away, use it in place of regular shampoo about once a week. Good Luck
I've had dandruff my entire life, and nothing has ever helped it at all - EXCEPT tea tree oil shampoo. It is the only thing which has ever gotten completely rid of flakes. It also feels really wonderful and soothing if your scalp gets itchy or irritated. I HIGHLY recommend it. You can also buy tea tree oil and spray it directly onto your scalp if it's irritated. Works wonders though it's a bit stinkier than the shampoo. ;) anon

12-year-old's dandruff

Jan 2003

My 12 year old son has quite a bit of dandruff. We've tried a few different dandruff shampoos but they don't work. I've read that Listerine rinsed through the hair is good for getting rid of dandruff. Has anyone tried this? Any other recommendations? He wears a baseball hat a lot of the day, washes his hair a few times per week.He has thick longish hair. Any suggestions? Thanks.


Try Head and Shoulders Intensive formula (in the dark blue bottle) and their conditioner (in white bottle). I have been using this combination for about a year now once a week, using Pert in between, and it ''cured'' my dandruff. I have become sensitized to many shampoos, (including those with tea tree oil, which makes me itch like crazy) so I am glad to have found something that works. Good luck!
My husband had dandruff for a very long time -- and I believe it was due to an allergy to some substance in shampoo. Unfortunately, I don't know what that substance is, but when we changed shampoos, his dandruff went away completely, and hasn't come back. I'd recommend the shampoo we now use, but unfortunately it's been discontinued by the company that makes it, and we'll have to hunt for another one. At any rate, you might try to find a shampoo that has minimal coloring and fragrances. Also, don't necessarily use shampoos that have lots of ''natural'' ingredients (e.g. citrus oils), because often these are very irritating, and can cause reactions. Karen
My son who is almost 7 also has tough dandruff. After trying lots of anti-dandruff shampoos ( including prescription ones) I am also convinced that these don't work really well. Now we use an oil called Dabur Vatika ( it is coconut oil with lemon and a few other herbal extracts) on his hair before shampooing and sometimes a little bit just after shampooing . It works like a miracle it has cured his dandruff.The product is available at Indian grocery stores. And we use very gentle baby shampoos with the oil. The oil freezes in winter so you will have to dip the bottle in hot water 5 minutes before use. Bipasha
A year or so ago my now 13 year old had a horrible rash on his neck, chest and back. He was very self-conscience about it and it was very itchy. It was diagnosed as dandruff and he was prescribed something that was not on our co-pay list and was very expensive. The pharmasist recommended an over-the-counter called something like Nextoral (?). It was in a dark blue bottle in the dandruff shampoo section at Longs. It was about $10 and worked like magic. The dandruff rash was gone in about two weeks, washing with it every other day. anon
I really feel for your son, because I have had this same embarrassing problem for the last 5 years or so (although it mysteriously disappeared while I was pregnant and then breastfeeding, so I have always suspected it has a hormonal cause). I finally fessed up to my doctor about it, who prescribed Nizoral shampoo and Elocon lotion, which helped some. Nizoral is now available OTC. The doctor said it's probably just chronic, and to just get used to it. Tea Tree Oil shampoo also may help--it mitigates it in my case, but doesn't make it completely go away. It also may be due to dry scalp, which is a sign of dehydration (so drinking lots of water may help). It also may be related to yeast growth (check his diet for the balance of yeast; i.e., bread products, vinegars, etc.) I found wearing hats made it worse (which kind of makes sense if it's yeast related, since the dark moist environment is what yeast will love) and other than getting pregnant again (ok, not a solution for your son) cutting my very long hair very short helped quite a bit. fellow flake
My 13-year-old daughter and 9-year-old long-haired son have had good luck with Nature's Gate Organics ''Tea-Tree Oil & Blue Cypress non-medicated dandruff sahmpoo''. Not super cheap (cheapest at Trader Joe's and Longs), but thick, so you don't have to use much. R.K.
After years of searching for a shampoo that worked on dandruff without wrecking my hair, a hair stylist recommended Kenra dandruff shampoo (carried in beauty supply stores). For me it has been fantastic--much better than tea tree shampoo, which wasn't helpful. If other shampoos haven't worked on your son, this might not either, but if you're desperate it's worth a try. Good luck! Kathy

5 1/2 year-old has dandruff

July 2001

My 5 1/2 yr old boy has several pathes of thick scaly dandruff in his hair, it looks almost like cradle cap. Is this something to be concerned about and what exactly causes this? Anyone sharing the same experience would help.


My son had cradle cap until he was almost a year old. My pediatrician had the best solution: Buy some oil (you could use olive, but we used some cold-pressed apricot baby massage oil) and a soft toothbrush. Gently massage the oil in with the toothbrush. This really works! sheryl
My 7 year old son had the same problem- very thick patches of dandruff near his hairline in the front, back of the ear and at the top of this head, that looked like cradle cap, greasy and scaly. He also had patches on his body. Turned out it was psoriasis, a genetic disease that affects millions of people. The skin cells reproduce faster than normal, causing the buildup that looks like dandruff. You can try various tar shampoos like Neutrogena's T-Gel, put baby oil on it overnight and then try to comb it out. We ended up going to a dermatologist who gave us some prescription strength shampoo and creams. Sunlight is good for it so keep child's hair short (also easier to manage combing and using creams in the hair.

It is episodic for my son and has gone away this summer. It can be debilitating for some people if it spreads all over the body, particularly if it gets on the hands and soles of the feet. the main problem for my son was that it was a bit unsightly, especially in places where it could be seen by others. This is more of a problem when the child is a teenager and looks are so important.


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