You can get spots in some pretty interesting places. Case in point? Please see back acne and vaginal acne as exhibits A and B. But those aren’t even the oddest spots for blemishes. You can also get ear pimples, as in acne in your ears.
What are ear spots?
Ear spots typically take one of two forms, says Alan Parks, a board-certified dermatologist in Ohio and founder of DermWarehouse. “People can get blackheads on the inside of their ears, or they can get pimples or larger, more inflamed cysts,” he tells Allure. The latter types — the red angry ones you fear getting anywhere on your body — typically appear on or around the earlobe, he says, though they can also pop up in the “conchal bowl,” aka the hollow part of your outer ear.
So, how do ear spots happen in the first place?
“Ear pimples are usually closed comedones [aka whiteheads] or milia, which are both types of clogged pores,” Lily Talakoub, a board-certified dermatologist in Virginia, tells Allure. Turns out, your ears (and the area behind and around them) actually contain oil glands, which produce sebum — the oily stuff that causes clogged pores and sebaceous cysts.
Unfortunately, you can’t really do anything special to prevent ear pimples. Oil glands, no matter where there are on your body, are subject to clogging, says Parks. “Some people are just predisposed to getting these, although washing the area with acne cleansers can help,” he says.
How do you get rid of them?
Ear acne can be tricky to treat, according to the experts. First step, try to clear the blemishes on your own with a topical acne treatment cream. “Blackheads can be treated with topical prescription medications, called retinoids, such as Retin-A or Epiduo,” Parks says. (You can also pick up an over-the-counter retinol like Differin Gel.)
Topical solutions might not always cut it, however, cautions Talakoub. “These are different than facial blemishes of acne — they don’t usually go away with topical treatments,” she says. “Ear blemishes [often] need to be extracted by a dermatologist or licensed aesthetician” à la Dr. Pimple Popper, she says. If you’re prone to them, your dermatologist might also prescribe an oral acne medication.
One very important PSA: Do not try to squeeze the clogged pores on your own. This is the rule with any blemish — you can up your risk of the pimple getting infected — but it’s especially important for ear acne since the spot is more prone to infections, Talakoub explains. (Just picture rubbing your grimy earbud up against an improperly popped pimple — recipe for disaster.)
“The best way to prevent inflammation is by not touching the blemish and keeping the area clean,” Talakoub says.
If your ear acne does get inflamed (or emerges as an angry cystic blemish to begin with), go straight to your dermatologist. “If an ear pimple flares up and gets acutely inflamed, it can be injected with cortisone medication,” says Parks. This will help zap the inflammation, he says.
Consider this your official reminder to wash behind (and all around) your ears.
Here’s GLAMOUR’s pick of the best acne treatments to say farewell to those pesky pimples: