How to treat and prevent ear acne

  • Ear pimples can be caused by using headphones, sharing headphones, and too much earwax.
  • To treat them, use an antibacterial ointment and make sure to clean your ears regularly.
  • Be very gentle when treating an ear pimple, as too much pressure can injure your inner ear.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference Library for more tips.

Pimples can appear almost anywhere on your body, including the inside of your ear. There are many reasons why you might get an ear pimple, such as sharing headphones or not cleaning the earwax.

The good news is that you can often treat an ear pimple at home using antibacterial products. But for some pimples, you may need to see a doctor.

What causes ear pimples?

Like any acne, ear pimples can be triggered by clogged hair follicles or invading bacteria. Here are some of the common ways to get ear pimples:

  • Use of headphones. The headphones go inside your ear and press against the skin of your ear canal. This can clog the hair follicles in your ear and trap dirt and bacteria. Since the inside of the ear is a hot and humid environment, the bacteria that cause acne thrive there, says Lauren Levy, MD, certified dermatologist and acne specialist in private practice.
  • Headphones sharing. When you share headphones, you can also be exposed to more and more new types of bacteria, which can increase outbreaks, says Robert Anolik, MD, certified dermatologist and member of the American Academy of Dermatology. “If you must use shared headphones, consider wiping them down with an alcohol swab or antibacterial wipe,” advises Levy.
  • Having too much earwax. Earwax can also clog the pores in your ears, Anolik explains. If you don’t clean your earwax every time it builds up, it can lead to ear pimple breakouts.

How to treat an ear pimple

  • Prescription drug: “Sometimes a prescription antibiotic ointment or even an oral antibiotic may be needed for large, painful pimples,” says Levy. Some antibiotics that a dermatologist might prescribe include ofloxacin.
  • Steroids: Your dermatologist may also inject an anti-inflammatory steroid like cortisone into the pimple to eliminate the inflammation. “It usually resolves the pimple and pain in about 24 hours,” says Levy.

Pay special attention to ear pimples

Because your ear canal leads directly to your sensitive inner ear, it’s important to treat your ear pimples carefully.

“Don’t be too aggressive with acne in the ear. If they break out and become infected, it could lead to external and internal ear infections,” says Anolik. That means you don’t have to prick the pimple with household tools, says Levy.

If your ear pimple gets bigger and more painful over time, you should see a certified dermatologist as soon as possible. It could be a sign of a bacterial skin infection or a buildup of pus, Levy says.

Insider takeaways

Ear pimples are an uncomfortable form of acne that can be triggered by using headphones, sharing headphones, or not cleaning the oil and wax from your ear.

There are ways to treat ear pimples at home, such as using antibacterial products or a warm compress. But in some cases, you may need to see a doctor to treat ear pimples with antibiotics.

If an ear pimple is extremely painful or continues to worsen, see a dermatologist as soon as possible.

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