Why do I have pimples in my ear? It is normal to have them, including on your earlobe, canal, cartilage or on the areas near your ears. Learn more about their causes such as hygiene, piercing, ingrown hair as well as ways to get rid of them (treatments and remedies).
If you always have pimples on your ears i.e. inside your canal, on top or under your ear, on the earlobe, cartilage, behind, anywhere or near your ears, you are not alone. I always have this problem too. However, not all are pimples, some are just bumps caused by other reasons, most of which we are going to discuss.
The answer to whether or not can you get them is YES. Although pimples, zits or acne is common on certain body parts, you can get them anywhere. Basically, they “occurs when the pores on your skin become blocked with oil, dead skin, or bacteria” [healthline.com].
Whether big or small, painful or painless, they are mainly harmless normal pimples that often appear on other parts of your body.
Ear zits formation
Every pore of your body has a follicle with a hair and an oil gland (sebaceous glands). These sebaceous glands release oil (sebum) that travels up your hair to the skin for lubrication.
Whenever there is too much sebum, dead skin cell accumulation or bacteria build up, you will end up with a pimple i.e. “overabundance of oil, a pore clogged by dead skin cells, and bacteria all contribute to the development of a simple” [healthline.com].
Let's look at what can encourage pimples formation i.e. factors that can influence or lead its formation.
1. Poor personal hygiene
The first possible cause is poor personal hygiene i.e. touching your ears with unwashed hands using dirty earphones or cellphones. Furthermore, unwashed hair, hair care products (gels and sprays) scratching them with nails, pin, toothpick or any other objects that are not clean enough can result in this problem.
These poor personal hygiene practices often introduce or gives bacteria good breeding grounds which would be responsible for your pimples. Dirt can also clog your pores leading to pimples.
To get rid of zits or acne due to hygiene, ensure you clean your ears (both the auricle and canal using special cleaning pads), wipe them after showering, and ensure your hair is clean since it can host a lot of microorganisms and bacteria. Always wipe your handsets and earphones and thwack your sleeping pillows regularly.
2. Winter and summer weather
Summer weather can lead to pimples anywhere including your ears. According to Dr. Jeannette Graf, Assistant Clinical Professor Dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, “Acne-prone skin is just like other skin, it’s a matter of our own microflora misbehaving,” [stylecaster.com]. Heat and high humidity often increase sebum production and thus can cause acne.
On the other hand, cold weather especially the one experienced during winter as well as indoor heating can cause skin dryness. When your skin becomes dry, you could end up with pimples, not just on your ears but also on other body parts.
3. Occlusive clothing and helmets
Wearing a helmet as well as clothing that trap moisture can trap moisture around your ears, giving bacteria conducive environment to grow. As we have seen, bacteria, when trapped in skin pores, can lead to this zits or acne. Avoid as much as possible wearing occlusive clothes as well as helmets.
4. Ingrown hair
If hair gets trapped beneath your ear skin, it will result in a painful zit especially if infected. When infected, such a zit is often pus-filled, painful and red in appearance. This problem is common to people who have much ear hair as well as those who do not know how to correctly remove such hairs.
To deal with this problem remove the ingrown hair and let the hair grow through the blockage. Furthermore, infected ingrown ones can be treated by topical antibiotic creams twice a day, use creams with hydrocortisone twice daily, adopt good shaving techniques, and “wash the affected area with an antibacterial soap or noncomedogenic cleanser twice a day” [livestrong.com].
5. Hormonal changes
Hormonal changes during pregnancy or puberty have been associated with acne not just on ears but also no other body parts. These hormonal changes often increase sebum production. As already mentioned, overproduction of sebum can cause pimples.
6. Localized otitis externa
Otitis externa, “a condition that causes inflammation (redness and swelling) of the external ear canal, which is the tube between the outer ear and eardrum” [www.nhs.uk] often caused by a bacterial infection (sometimes allergies, irritation or fungal infection), when localized can cause a pimple inside your canal
Localized otitis externa happens when a hair follicle gets infected and will be characterized by a number of symptoms that include pain as well as “A small red pimple located in the ear canal. This pimple may eventually become white and have yellow pus in the middle” [medicalnewstoday.com].
Localized otitis externa usually goes away on its own. Painkillers, placing a warm towel on the affected area or prescribed antibiotics might at times be recommended.
The various piercings including earlobe, tragus, antitragus, industrial or cartilage piercing can often lead to a pimple-like bumps or bubbles piercing hole (site) or near it especially if infected.
8. Other causes
Other possible causes include wearing woolen or fur huts, use of poor cosmetic products, beach sand, taking some medications especially corticosteroids and birth control pill, eating diets with too much-refined sugar, stress, boils or furuncle, allergic reactions (to medicines, foods, pet dander, etc.), some chronic illnesses, among others.
Where can they appear?
Pimples can appear anywhere on your ears. Let us see some possible places where you may end up with these zits:
1. On canal or one inside ear
Causes on this location are no different from the above causes we have listed. When you have very big canal zits, the hearing process might be hampered. Furthermore, they can be very painful radiating the pain to your jaw and neck areas.
Be careful if you want to pop zits inside your canal since it is a delicate part and you might damage delicate parts of your middle ear. Avoid sticking objects into your ears to try pop or pick them.
Our best advice is to see a doctor in case of severe symptoms and try safe remedies only as not every remedy can be used on your canal.
2. Behind ear
Those on this location can be caused by any of the above causes. They could be small or large, painless or painful (hurts) and be swollen, depending on what causes them and if they are infected or not. If they are on your scalp behind your ears, those are scalp bumps or pimples which could have many causes.
However, sometimes, you could be having lumps. Common causes of lumps behind ears include abscess, dermatitis, cancer, sebaceous cysts, lymphadenopathy, acne vulgaris, throat infection, mastoiditis, otitis media or lipoma.
3. On cartilage
Just like any other part of the body, the cartilage can also have pimples especially on the folds including tragus, antitragus, antihelix fold, scapha, helix, fossa, and concha. The concha is more often prone to pimples as well as the fossa parts.
4. On or behind earlobes
Besides the canal, you can also have pimples on your earlobes i.e. “the earlobes and conchal bowls (the round, concave parts of the outer ear) are filled with sebaceous glands” [refinery29.com] and this makes them a fertile place for acne or zits. Since the pores are smaller, they can easily be clogged and leading to acne on this part.
These pimples can be both on the front and back side or behind the earlobe might be big or small, painful or painless.
Treatment will depend on the cause and if you have to pop them, you must know how to do it correctly.
Besides the normal zits, one may end up with blind, painful or cystic ones. Let us look a little more into each of these types:
1. A blind ear pimple
Ears can also be affected by a blind pimple which is often swollen tender, inflamed and very painful without a head i.e. closed bump. It can be purple, pink, red or brown in color.
They are caused by face care products, diet, stress, hormonal changes, excess sebum production, among other causes.
If you have a blind pimple, avoid popping or picking them since they will be more painful, might crust and scar if they break and could increase chances of being infected.
Anti-acne creams with 1-2% salicylic acid, try applying “an anti-inflammatory topical antibiotic, like Eryacne or ClindaTech” [beautyheaven.com.au], use anti-acne face wash such as Olay Deep Cleansing Acne Control Face Wash, try benzoyl peroxide, steroid creams, topical antibiotics, among others.
Some of the home remedies to deal with a blind pimple try warm compresses since it “can be very helpful in drying out a pimple” [newhealthguide.org], icepack compresses (reduce inflammation and swelling), aloe vera, tea tree oil, apple and honey, witch hazel, clay masks, azelaic acid, among others.
2. Cystic acne type
The cause of cystic acne is not different from the above cause. The difference is that it “happens when this infection goes deep into your skin, creating a red, tender bump that's full of pus” [webmd.com.
Treatment is by oral antibiotics that lower inflammation and control bacteria, birth control pills for hormonal regulation, prescription strength gels, lotions or creams that contain retinoid, use of isotretinoin and spironolactone medications.
3 .Painful ear pimple
We have seen the various causes, some of which will cause painful ones while others will not be really painful. For instance, ingrown hair, localized otitis externa, blind pimples, and cystic acne can lead to bumps that hurt so much.
Due to the fact that ear skin is thinner, expect them to really or extremely hurt compared to pimples in other places. Furthermore, if the pimples deep, large or big, the pain might extend to your eyes, teeth, neck and jaw region.
For those that hurt, anti-inflammatory, painkillers, antibiotics, antibacterial agents and anti-acne products are often recommended.
Home remedies they hurt
To get rid of a painful zit on ears, especially if it really hurts bad, try these home remedies such as:
- Cold compresses - If is not only painful but also swollen, cold compresses will be important
- Tomato juice – Works as astringent and it has lots of antioxidants. Be careful when using it since it can cause skin dryness.
- Garlic – Has healing and antibacterial properties
- Aloe vera – helps in wound healing and reducing skin inflammation
- Honey + cinnamon - honey has antibacterial properties while cinnamon will do away with the effect of nitric oxide which is associated with painful acne.
- Yoghurt + oatmeal - oatmeal helps exfoliate while yogurt will soothe itchiness, pain, and inflammation.
Other home remedies for a sore ear pimple worthwhile trying include the use of apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, lemon juice, green tea, wipe it with alcohol, Epsom salt, milk, among others.
How to get rid of ear pimples
Having a pimple anywhere is unsightly and can be bothersome especially the big or very painful one. Although we have already looked at some ways to get rid of pimples in your ear, we are going to mention some general treatments which will be very important.
Always go for treatments that will not involve popping i.e. go for methods to get rid of them without popping them. So how to get rid of pimples?
- Over the counter acne medications that kill bacteria and/or dry skin with ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur and salicylic acid. Prescription strength benzoyl peroxide or retinoic acid containing tropical creams can at times be prescribed.
- Prescribed oral and topical antibiotics
- Birth control pills or spironolactone for women whose acne is due to hormonal changes
- Use isotretinoin, a medication based on vitamin A for severe cases when other treatments have not yielded results.
- If the pimples are very large and cystic in nature, cortisone injections might be recommended.
Other faster or overnight treatments include dermabrasion, use of chemical peels, or laser treatment if the pimples are on accessible areas especially on the earlobe, cartilage, or behind ears.
Besides above treatments, try the various home remedies discussed under dealing with a painful type of zit.
How to pop them
For those seeking for the answer whether or not can you pop any zit, the best answer is NO. It is highly advisable you do not pop or pick them. Dermatologists and cosmetologists often discourage popping zits and pimples since it leads to infection, bleeding (popped zits bleeding is common if popping is done wrongly or early), and spread of bacteria from the zits you just popped.
Furthermore, a disturbing pimple can make them more painful especially if it won’t pop, it might be bigger and scarring is more likely as you begin healing.
If you insist on zit popping, you must ensure the area is accessible. For instance, it will be easier popping pimple behind than one deep in your ear canal. In addition, ensure it has ripened before you pick it.
To pop a pimple in your ear, gently probe it with a warm washcloth, take a sterilized pin and gently begin pricking or probing it until it opens. Once open, gently squeeze it if possible or massage the area with a medicated solution until nothing comes from the area. Once done, apply an antiseptic lotion to avoid infections.
Our sources and references