Its one thing to have a hideous zit staring back at you when you catch a glimpse in the mirror. Its another to have a pimple in your ear where the only telltale sign is that its throbbing like hell.
"Your ears have a high concentration of oil glands, making them a common location for pimples to develop," says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. "When skin cells stick together within the pores, they can trap oil, promoting inflammation and leading to acne."
Zeichner says, like the ones on your face, these pimples may appear as red angry bumps, or "look like giant blackheads or whiteheads."
But do I treat ear pimples the same as facial acne?
Kind of. You definitely don't want to pop them, says Jeanine B. Downie, M.D, the director of New Jersey-based Image Dermatology. (For all the same reasons you don't want to pop a pimple on your face.)
With a pimple in your ear, Zeichner says you'll want to treat it with with traditional acne creams that contain ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid to help dry out the zit and reduce inflammation.
Don't use this stuff inside your ear canal itself though-keep the topical treatments limited to the skin you can see on your ear, since putting anything inside your ear can potentially damage your eardrum and increase your risk of infection.
So if you can't reach that bad boy (or it's really painful), it's worth paying a visit to your derm for some help. Zeichner says your dermatologist might try to pop it themselves using sterilized professional tools, or give the ear pimple "a pinch of cortisone" to calm inflammation.
However, if your ear pimple is also itchy and flaky, it might not be a real zit after all, says Zeichner. This type of blemish is caused by yeast on the skin similar to what leads to dandruff and scalp bumps, he adds. Zeichner says an anti-dandruff shampoo used as a cleanser on the ear might help nix this type of ear "pimple."
"Let it sit while you sing the alphabet to ensure enough contact time to do its job," he says.
How do I prevent ear pimples?
If you're prone to pimples in your ear, Downie says you can make it a habit to clean your ears more often.
However, it's not totally fool-proof, since bacteria and clogged pores are only part of the picture when it comes to acne causes (even in your ear). Stress, hormonal fluctuations, and family history can all be pimple-causing culprits, Downie says.
If your breakouts are getting out of control, no matter where they are, it's time to take a visit to the dermatologist.