Pimple in ear: causes and prevention tips for this skin condition

Hand indicating the ear of a woman

Acne is a broad term encompassing various skin conditions, from the familiar ear pimples and blackheads to the more bothersome cysts and nodules. Typically, acne occurs when pores become clogged with oil (sebum), dead skin cells, or bacteria, leading to an array of skin blemishes. What might come as a surprise is that acne can rear its head in unexpected places, including the ears. Whether it's on the outer ear (auricle) or within the external ear canal, ear acne is a unique concern. The skin in these areas is distinct, covering cartilage, housing oil-producing glands and earwax-producing glands. When these glands become overactive or when debris accumulates in the ear's pores, acne can develop.

Do you have a deep understanding of ear pimples and why they occur? Ever wondered if certain habits lead to the formation of pimples in peculiar places like your ear?

Why do I get pimples in my ear?

Ear pimples can indeed become a source of irritation and discomfort, especially among teenagers undergoing puberty. Often, the associated pain is heightened when these skin conditions develop in tricky spots such as inside or around the ear. Complications such as hearing impairment and jaw pain could arise in severe cases. Predominantly, the causal factor of ear pimples is excessive wax in the ear canal coupled with low hygiene standards. When the pores are clogged with excess sebum, dead skin cells, or bacteria, pimples subsequently form in various ear sections. Thus, improper hygiene significantly contributes to the creation of a conducive environment for the growth and proliferation of pimples.

Other factors include:

  • Overproduction of sebum
  • Accumulation of dead skin cells
  • Clogged skin pores
  • Presence of bacteria
  • Fungal infections
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Types and locations of ear pimples

At times, pimples in the ear can take several forms and locations. Understanding these different types and their associated concerns will help in determining the appropriate treatment regimen.

1.Pimples on the earlobe & ear cartilage

The formation of pimples on the earlobe and ear cartilage follows the same pattern as other parts: an accumulation of dirt, sweat, and dead skin cells inside earlobe pores. Excessive use of headphones can lead to the accumulation of air underneath the headphone and prompt bacterial build-up around/on the ear cartilage— another common cause for earlobe pimples. Also, dirty piercing equipment, reaction to metal, or an infected earring could lead to an infected ear piercing, which might trigger pimples.

Ear boils against pimples

While both boils and pimples present as red lumps on the ear skin, noticeable differences exist between the two. Boils are typically larger and pus-filled lumps prompted by bacterial infection. Ear boil symptoms include pain, pus drainage, occasionally, and fever. Pimples, on the other hand, are generally smaller and they result from clogged pores in the skin.

Difference between ear pimples and blackheads

Like other body parts, the sebaceous glands in the ear skin can overproduce sebum, leading to the formation of whiteheads if the excess sebum remains unexposed. However, blackheads form when this sebum gets oxidized upon exposure to air, thereby causing the typical dark color associated with blackheads. Pertinently, the sebum trapped inside the blackheads can facilitate the growth of bacteria naturally present on the skin surface, intensifying the problem until it eventually leads to the formation of pimples.

2.Pimples in ear (auricle and ear canal)

Ear pimples can indeed lead to excruciating pain and potential earaches. They emerge due to various reasons within the ear canal and the auricle, areas lined with skin containing hair cells and sebaceous glands responsible for the production of oily earwax

When these glands go overdrive, producing copious amounts of sebum, pimples subsequently appear inside the ear. Also, the clogging of pores by dead skin cells or bacteria can trigger pimple formation—the bacteria causing the overgrowth and pore blockage are usually transferred through contact with dirty smartphones, unclean headphones, or even our hands.

3.Pimples behind the ear

Believe it or not, the straightforward everyday mistake of inadequate hygiene could be causing your pimples to appear behind your ears. By adjusting this, such as by including areas behind your ears as part of your daily face cleaning routine, you can avoid a lot of discomfort. 

The build-up of remaining soap, sweat, or sebum can lead to dirt accumulation, in turn triggering pimple formation. Thus, a regular, non-aggressive cleaning of the area behind your ears can help prevent pimples. Additionally, thoroughly drying your earlobes after a shower could help eliminate water or soap residue, stifling the formation of pimples.

Home remedy for pimple in ear

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The use of warm compresses can help diminish tissue inflammation and improve blood circulation, thus easing the symptoms of pimples inside the ear. The heat can help draw the pus to the surface, promoting its self-draining. Should the pimple begin to drain, ensure to clean up the discharge gently yet quickly to prevent any irritation or spreading of bacteria. 

Please remember, home remedies such as warm compresses are essential, but painful pimples deep in the ear canal should always be treated professionally by an ENT physician.

Additionally, using tea tree essential oil can enhance the efficacy of the warm compress in pimple treatment. Apply it by adding a small amount to a cotton swab and delicately swab the pimple. You can also use jojoba oil, which helps eliminate bacteria responsible for causing pimples— add a small amount to a Q-tip and apply to the pimple.

Still, if persistent or painful breakouts linger, a prompt consultation with your doctor or local physician is necessary.

How to get rid of pimples in ear without popping

Even though pimples in the ear tend to heal by themselves, certain treatments can hasten the process. A careful look at the following remedies could help you tackle ear pimples more effectively.

It's widely believed that pimples— including those in the ear— will heal naturally after a couple of days, as long as it's cleaned gently and often. However, constantly fiddling, squeezing, or touching it could delay its disappearance and might even last for over a month.

More alarmingly, ear pimples should never be popped due to the associated risks— beyond causing pain, it could trigger severe irritation, inflammation, or even infection. Plus, ear pimple popping could spread bacteria and pus deeper into the pores, exacerbating the situation. Possible symptoms of an infection include:

  • Fever
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Pain
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How to prevent ear pimples and blackheads in ears

Prevention is key when it comes to the development of ear pimples and blackheads in your ear. Here are some effective preventive measures:

  • Ensure you always wash your hands, as they frequently come into contact with the ears and can potentially cause infection
  • Make ear cleaning a daily routine
  • Always clean and dry your ears carefully after a shower, or a swim in the sea or pool
  • Make a habit of sanitizing your phone regularly, especially if shared among several people
  • Maintain a standard personal hygiene routine with detergents recommended by a dermatologist
  • Use creams and cosmetics that do not encourage pimples
  • Keep your hair clean to avoid bacteria accumulation
  • A healthy diet can go a long way in preventing the appearance of pimples, hence, avoid junk food.

By taking these preventive steps, you significantly reduce the chances of pimples appearing in your ears because you prevent the spread of dirt and bacteria in the ear area. Always remember, should a pimple form in your ear, refrain from squeezing or touching it.

What causes blackheads in ears?

Blackheads in ears could indicate your skin's dehydration. However, they are usually due to the overproduction of sebum, especially among individuals with oily skin. Other contributing factors include poor hygiene, hormonal changes, genetics, or frequent use of dirty earphones. Blackheads in the ear are generally not painful, however, infected blackheads in the ear may occur with symptoms such as swelling, redness, and pain in the surrounding area. These symptoms indicate that the blackhead has become inflamed and may require medical attention. In some instances, the infection can progress and lead to an abscess, which is a collection of pus. If you suspect an infected blackhead in your ear, it's important to consult a doctor or dermatologist for a proper evaluation and treatment. To avert these occurrences, ensure to clean your ears and devices, such as headphones and hearing aids, regularly.

How to get blackheads out of children's ears

When it comes to safely removing a child's ear blackheads, it's essential to take a cautious and gentle approach. To do this safely, you can follow these steps:

  • Gentle ear cleaning: Use a mild cleanser or warm water to clean the outer part of the ear gently. Avoid inserting anything into the ear canal, as it can be harmful.
  • Exfoliation: Use an exfoliator suitable for sensitive skin to help remove dead skin cells that can contribute to blackheads. Be gentle during this process.
  • Professional help: If the blackheads persist or are causing discomfort, consult a dermatologist. They can provide safe and effective treatments, such as extraction, to remove blackheads from the ears.
  • Prevention: To prevent future blackheads, encourage good hygiene practices and ensure the child keeps their ears clean. Avoid using cotton swabs or other sharp objects inside the ear, as they can push debris deeper and potentially cause injury.

However, always prioritize safety, and refrain from inserting anything into the ear canal, as this can be harmful. If blackheads persist or cause discomfort, seeking professional help from a dermatologist is advisable.


Why do I have a bump in my ear?

Painful ear bumps can be a cause for concern and curiosity, but they are not always as straightforward as they seem. While some ear bumps may resemble pimples, various other conditions can be responsible for these bothersome protrusions.

Bumps can arise in different parts of the ear, such as: on the earlobe, inside the ear canal, and on the cartilage of the ear. Regardless of the position, it's advisable to consult a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Remember that some ear conditions may go unnoticed until they become problematic due to the inability to see our ears.

Common causes of bumps in the ear:

Sebaceous cyst bumps in or out the ear canal

Sebaceous cysts are common, noncancerous growths that develop beneath the skin. They are characterized by their slow growth, typically appearing as white bumps inside or outside the ears. They form when a hair follicle's opening becomes blocked, leading to the accumulation of sebum, an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands, beneath the skin. Consequently, ear bumps can emerge. These ear bumps are typically painless and benign therefore, immediate medical intervention may not be required but it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation and guidance on managing sebaceous cysts. 

Plus, they can develop in various parts of the ear, specifically:

  • White bumps on the ear cartilage: Sebaceous cysts can form on the auricle, the outer cartilaginous part of the ear. While they are often painless, they can cause aesthetic concerns or, in rare cases, become infected.
  • White bumps in the ear canal: Sebaceous cysts may appear in the ear canal, the passage that connects the auricle to the eardrum. When they develop in this location, they can lead to partial or complete blockages of the ear canal, resulting in symptoms like hearing loss, ear pain, and occasionally earwax discharge. Avoid popping a cyst in the ear because it can be risky and should only be done by a trained medical professional to avoid damaging the eardrum or the ear. Sebaceous cysts in ear canal treatment might include antibiotics, ear drops, incision, and surgery only in case of large and recurrent cysts. 
  • White bumps on the ears: Some sebaceous cysts may appear on the skin around the ear but outside the ear canal. While they are usually painless, they can cause cosmetic concerns. Also in this case removal may be considered for aesthetic reasons.

Regardless the position of the sebaceous cysts, treatment is often unnecessary but they may be removed if they become infected, grow significantly, or cause discomfort. Medical procedures such as drainage, excision, or laser therapy can be employed for their removal. 

Ear boil vs pimple: how to treat a boil in the ear

When you encounter a bump in your ear, distinguishing between a boil and a pimple can be crucial to determining the treatment. Ear boils are often characterized by redness and swelling and can be quite uncomfortable. While pimples are usually not a cause for major concern, ear boils may necessitate treatment. Boils on the earlobe are generally less concerning than boils that develop in the ear canal. Boils in the ear canal can be more challenging to manage because of their location and the potential for the infection to spread deeper into the ear. They often require medical attention for appropriate diagnosis, the treatment for boils in the ears may include antibiotics, antifungal medications, and ear drops. That's why home remedies for boils located in the ear are highly discouraged. In general, to effectively manage ear boils, several steps can be taken. Treatment often involves warm compresses to reduce pain and promote drainage, the use of topical antibiotics to prevent secondary infections, and over-the-counter pain relievers. It's crucial not to attempt squeezing or popping the boil, as this can worsen the infection. Moreover, once the ear boil has naturally popped and begun to drain, it's important to maintain proper hygiene and keep the area clean to prevent further infection. For more substantial or recurrent ear boils, consulting a healthcare professional is advisable to ensure proper evaluation and guidance. 

Keloid scars

Sometimes, that unexpected bump in your ear might be a keloid scar. Keloids are raised, thickened areas of scar tissue that can form after an injury or surgical procedure. They tend to grow beyond the boundaries of the original wound, potentially causing discomfort or cosmetic concerns. While keloids are typically benign, they can be bothersome. If you suspect a keloid is responsible for the bump in your ear, consulting a healthcare professional is advised. Early intervention and various treatment options can help manage and reduce the appearance of keloid scars.

Seborrheic keratosis

Seborrheic keratosis is another possible cause for the appearance of a bump in your ear. These common, non-cancerous skin growths often appear as raised, waxy, and brownish-black lesions. While they are generally harmless, seborrheic keratoses can be mistaken for something more concerning due to their appearance. If you find a bump in your ear that matches this description, there's no need for immediate alarm. However, consulting a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation is advisable to ensure accurate identification and rule out any other potential issues.

Acanthoma fissuratum

Acanthoma fissuratum, a less common but possible explanation for a bump in your ear, is a benign skin condition characterized by the formation of skin creases and fissures. These growths can sometimes appear in or around the ear, potentially causing discomfort or concern due to their unusual appearance. This condition results from constant friction and pressure, often due to eyeglass frames. Typically benign, these skin reactions can be mistaken for more concerning conditions. Acanthoma fissuratum home remedy is to adjust the eyeglasses and maintain good hygiene by gently cleaning the affected area. In some cases, minor surgical procedures may be needed to remove the affected tissue. 

Basal cell carcinoma

One potential reason for discovering an unexplained bump in your ear may be connected with basal cell carcinoma. This type of skin cancer can manifest as a painless bump or sore within or around the ear. Basal cell carcinoma is typically slow-growing and rarely metastasizes, but it should not be overlooked. If you suspect this may be the cause of your ear bump, seeking prompt medical evaluation is crucial. Early detection and treatment can effectively manage this condition and prevent any potential complications.

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