What causes ear pimples?

Several different conditions may contribute to the development of ear pimples. Bacteria accumulating on the surface of your ear is one such example. An inflamed hair follicle or an overly active sebaceous gland can also create an environment that encourages acne formation. Hormonal imbalance, lack of proper hygiene, medications, such as contraceptives, immunosuppressants, and steroids are also possible causative factors. Ear pimples are, in essence, no different than other types of acne you get elsewhere.

Whether the problem originates from a hair follicle, sebaceous gland, or hormone problems, once debris, dirt, or dead skin cells accumulate, bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, can quickly begin to thrive and result in one or more pus-filled bumps. In response to the bacterial growth, the body tries to deal with the offense by triggering an immune response, creating inflammation.  

What are the most common pimple types? 

The medical term for pimple is acne vulgaris. Many different acne types exist that can show up in your ear. Depending on the type you are dealing with, treatment may also differ. 


Comedones are one of the most prevalent forms of acne. A closed comedone is also known as a whitehead. An open comedone is called a blackhead. 

Inflammatory acne

If you have a whitehead or a blackhead and it does not heal, there is a chance that it can turn into inflammatory acne. Inflammatory acne is sometimes referred to as an "angry zit," which is usually red and tender to the touch. 

A papule is a type of inflammatory acne. It is an inflamed blemish that looks like a red bump on the skin. Papules occasionally form in the hair follicle due to dead skin and oil buildup. When pores become clogged with pus, sebum, and cell debris, papules often develop into bulging patches of skin (pustules.) 

Cystic acne

If your pimples do not heal and continue to worsen, they can turn into a larger, increasingly tender nodule. These large, deep and painful blemishes are called nodulocystic acne.

Acne cysts are the most severe kind of acne and comprise soft, fluid-filled lumps under the skin's surface, often leaving a scar. 

Is it a good idea to pop my ear pimple?

Although opinions may differ, in general, most experts will agree, it is never a good idea to stick anything - including your fingers - into your ear canal. Although it is tempting to grab a Q-tip or cotton swab in a desperate effort to pop that zit, doing so may cause damage to your ear and may rupture your eardrum. 

Considering the tight spaces inside your ear canal, using your fingers to squeeze the pus out may not work either. Instead, you may end up causing more harm by pushing the pus deeper inside the ear canal, causing inflammation and more intense pain. 

Based on the above, we recommend using other methods, such as gentle home remedies, to speed up the healing process. 

What are the best home remedies for pimples in the ear?

Instead of popping a zit, consider one or more of the following methods. But before using an over-the-counter ointment or cream on your ear, be sure to test the product on a small area of your skin to rule out a possible allergic reaction. 

Use a warm compress

One of the best ways to reduce ear pimple-related painful inflammation is to use a warm compress. Here are the steps to take:
  1. Start by wiping the pimple with alcohol. 
  2. Next, soak a washcloth in warm water.  
  3. Squeeze out the excess water. 
  4. Fold the cloth in half and place it over the blemish. 
  5. Leave the compress on for ten to fifteen minutes. 
  6. Do this three to four times a day.

Use benzoyl peroxide

Many anti-acne medications contain benzoyl peroxide in various concentrations. When using any product with this active ingredient, use the lowest dose to see how your skin reacts. This compound aims to help kill bacteria on the skin surface and help break up comedones. 

Try topical antibiotics   

If you decide to see a dermatologist, you may receive a prescription for a topical antibiotic. Erythromycin and clindamycin are two of the most commonly used antibiotics. However, be extra careful not to overuse these preparations because you may inadvertently create bacterial resistance. 

Explore tea tree oil         

Tea tree oil is one of the most researched essential oils to treat acne effectively. Thanks to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, tea tree oil is worth a try and should be part of everyone's natural medicine cabinet. Dab a drop or two of tea tree oil on the ear acne. Be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil (e.g., sweet almond oil). 

Use retinoid cream

Keep this option as a last resort. Thanks to its keratolytic properties, retinoid cream, or vitamin A, helps thin the skin around the pimple. But retinoid creams can have severe adverse effects, and not everyone can tolerate their use. For instance, due to their skin-thinning effect, you may become extra sensitive to sunlight, and your skin may begin to dry out and flake. If the pimple is on an ear area that is exposed to the sun (earlobe for example), you will need to apply sunscreen. 

If you cannot tolerate retinoid cream, you can try a salicylic acid-containing cream instead. 

What's the bottom line?

Yes, ear pimples can be painful and highly tempting to pop. But despite the temptation, it is best to resist popping them. Instead, we recommend using safer methods, such as a warm compress to bring down the inflammation and speed up healing. You can also try over-the-counter topical ointments and creams. If none of these methods work, your healthcare provider may be able to resolve the problem by extracting the blemish. 
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. You should not use the information as a substitute for, nor should it replace, professional medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.