Derm DMs: Why Do I Get Pimples in My Ears?
You’ve probably had your fair share of blemishes on your face and have dealt with body acne. You may have even had to deal with a breakout on your butt (yes, it’s a thing). Pimples can pop up pretty much anywhere, including in and around your ears. Yep, ear pimples are in fact a thing, and if you’ve had one, you know they can be pretty painful. Whether you have a little whitehead on your earlobe or a nasty cyst deep in the ear canal, knowing some of the causes of pimples forming in and around the ear can help you to manage them. Read on for what you need to know about ear pimples, including tips from a board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jennifer Chwalek from Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City.
What Can Cause Ear Pimples to Form?
Just as oil and dead skin cells mixing with debris and bacteria can cause pores to clog and lead to acne forming on your face, the same applies to the skin on and inside ears. “The ear canal and surrounding skin are rich in sebaceous glands that produce sebum, and the ear canal is laden with ceruminous glands, which produce cerumen, otherwise known as earwax,” says Dr. Chwalek. “If these glands produce too much oil or if the pores get clogged by oil, wax and dead skin cells, then you can get comedones or blackheads.” She explains that if the oil continues to build up, bacteria can cause inflammation and lead to a cyst.
While ear pimples aren’t different than the ones on your face, they can be much more painful. Unlike your cheeks or chin, the ear doesn’t have a lot of fat under the skin. “It is mostly made up of cartilage which is avascular, meaning the cartilage lacks a blood supply — it’s why ear piercings or injury involving the cartilage take so long to heal,” says Dr. Chwalek. “The sensory nerves are closer to the surface of the skin and can make any injury or pimple to the ear painful.”
You have an Ear Pimple, Now What?
Dr. Chwalek recommends cleaning in and around the ears regularly and making sure you rinse off any shampoo, conditioner or styling product that could leave a residue in or behind the ears. “Topical hair products can contain comedogenic ingredients such as petrolatum, silicone and mineral oil that can get behind your ears and cause acne,” she says. “If you use earbuds or headphones, make sure to clean them regularly, too.”
If ,despite your best efforts, you still develop an ear pimple, fear not. While we don’t recommend trying to pop or manipulate the pimple or cyst, using a hot compress or spot treatment, or a spot treatment like the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo, can help. “If the pimple is in the outer ear or behind the ear, you can apply a topical acne medication such as benzoyl peroxide, sulfur or salicylic acid,” says Dr. Chwalek. “You never want to apply anything deep in the ear though, because it may damage the inner ear.” If you can’t visibly see the pimple, the problem persists for a few days, or the pimple becomes more painful, oozes or bleeds, it’s time to consult with your doctor. They’ll be able to prescribe topical medications, drops, oral antibiotics or give you a steroid injection to help with the issue.
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